Between Aspiration & Despair

Government Jobs & the Predicament of the Educated Unemployed

Usman Jawed Siddiqi & Anirban Bhattacharya


As researchers in the Centre for Equity Studies, we have been grappling with the question of the lack of job creation in the India economy over the last few years. The crisis in the job market is no secret anymore. Despite the present government’s efforts to withhold or distort official data, a recent ‘leaked’ report from the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) claimed that the unemployment rate in India has touched a 45-year high of 6.1 per cent in 2017-18. The Centre for Monitoring of Indian Economy (CMIE) estimated that the Indian economy lost 11 million jobs during 2018, and pegs the unemployment rate at 7.5% as on 25th April 2019. From the 5th Labour Bureau Employment Unemployment Survey (2015-16), we know that the unemployment rate among those with qualification of graduation and above was at an alarming 28.2% (as per usual status). 2 Among youth at large (15-29 year olds), it told a story of double digit unemployment.




A Study of Internal Migrants
To Vulnerable Occupations in Delhi

Harsh Mander and Gayatri Sahgal

Millions of footloose and impoverished men, women and children in India, migrate from the countryside each year to cities – in crowded trains, buses, trucks and sometimes on foot – their modest belongings bundled over their heads, in search of the opportunities and means to survive. Some arrive alone; some are accompanied by family or friends. Some stay for a season, some several years, some permanently. Many tend to drift quickly to low-end, low paid, vulnerable occupations – picking waste, pulling rickshaws, constructing buildings and roads, or working in people’s homes. They service a city which does not welcome them. Forever treated as intruders and somehow illegitimate citizens, they live in under-served makeshift shanties, under plastic sheets, or on streets and in night shelters. Police and municipal authorities notoriously harass and drive them away. Laws protect them in theory, but rarely in practice. Their wage rates tend to be exploitative, illegal and uncertain, works hours long, and conditions of employment unhealthy and unsafe. They are often unable to easily access even elementary citizenship rights in the city, like the right to vote, a ration card, supplementary feeding for their children, and school admissions. Their numbers are substantial; their economic contributions enormous; yet internal migrants tend to remain in the periphery of public policy.

Denied the Right to Have Rights
The Social and Political Exclusion of Circular Labour Migrants in India

Indrajit Roy

On December 16, 2012, a 23-year old physiotherapy student was gangraped in Delhi, India’s nationalcapital. Even as the country reeled from the detailsof the ghastly crime, its perpetrators quickly transformed into objects of hatred and contempt. Leading the charge was Raj Thackeray, chief of a Mumbai-based political party who had this to say:



Labour Markets: Exclusion from ‘Decent Work’

Coen Kompier, Archana Prasad, Sajjad Hassan, Smita Premchander, Sudhir Katyar ● Dada Saheb, Divya Verma,Neha Saigal, Ruchika Chaudhary, Sameer Taware

India Exclusion Report, 2015

The classic theories of economic production teach us that three ingredients are imperative to achieve the ideals of value addition, economic growth and profits: land, capital and labour. These ingredients are interdependent—one cannot do without the other. In reality, however, the ownership of land and capital has traditionally been concentrated in the hands of relatively few people. Vast majorities are left without land or capital and selling off their labour is the only option for survival.



Bonded Labourers
The Changing Nature of Bonded Labour in India

Shikha Sethia

Jagir Singh is the second of four siblings, all of whom work as siris, or bonded labourers, in the village of Poonian in Punjab. His father, Gajjan Singh, now dead, was also a bonded labourer. Jagir was a child when he started working as a siri, and has worked for multiple employers in his lifetime, against advances taken from them to meet his daily expenses. Raises would usually come in the form of another landlord offering to pay a higher price for his labour. The new employer would buy Jagir’s debt from his current employer, paying Jagir the difference. Jagir is illiterate; his employers would keep records of the amount owed to them, and Jagir never questioned them. Ignorance about the amount that was owed to the employers and taking on further credit to meet emergencies, such as funeral expenses for his father’s death, meant that Jagir has never been able to fully discharge the debt owed to his employers, even though he was bonded to one of them for close to 25 years.



What Keeps Musahars Entrapped in Poverty?

Sajjad Hassan

Dinesh Manjhi’s life has run in fast motion—at
19, he is brother to two sisters and a younger brother, son to his 55-year-old mother, and breadwinner to all. His father died a year ago, due to a sudden illness that the family is still unclear about—but it is not uncommon for men in this labouring community of Musahars to drop down dead, unable to bear the burden of back-breaking manual work on an under nourished body any further. But Dinesh’s early tryst with adulthood began much before his father’s demise. It was at least seven years ago that—forced by extreme poverty at home—his father first took Dinesh along to Gurdaspur, i Punjab, to help with errands on the farm that he himself worked on as a seasonal worker. Work was hard, but it added a valuable extra amount to what his father saved to bring back home every season.