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Pipe Dream

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In what world do persons who set fire to trains and damage public property believe they are ‘aspirants’ for recruitment to the Armed Forces? But that is how protestors against the newly introduced Agnipath scheme are being described by sections of the media. While protests are being held in several states, the more violent are being witnessed in Bihar, indicating the level to which the ‘government job’ orientation has reached.

For too long, caste based politics has determined the nature of public aspirations in that state. The latest demand for a ‘caste census’ is also based on the premise that its results would become the basis for ‘proportional representation’ in government jobs over and above the fifty percent bar set by the Supreme Court. There is little thought given to the fact that the jobs are limited and only a very small percentage would actually qualify. It is just a dream that inspires youth through their entire 20s and 30s, as they rush from one selection test to another, particularly if one belongs to the ‘reserved’ category. This compulsion is fueled by innumerable coaching institutes that promise to turn them into IAS officers, run mostly by those who couldn’t make it themselves. In fact, ‘IAS aspirant’ is, in itself, a social identity used to describe this class. Some of this culture is also witnessed in neighbouring states like UP and Jharkhand.

Leaders of the caste based parties are only too happy to continue down this path because, thus far, it has brought in the votes. There is absolutely no incentive to break through into a post-Lohiaite world that would provide breakthroughs to the economy. The harsh reality is that these states provide much of India’s migrant labour, a horde of people lacking the diplomas and degrees necessary to vie for government jobs. Sadly, it is the remittances from these people that provide the money that turns the rusting wheels, particularly of Bihar. No effort at all is made to attract industry, capital, or to build necessary infrastructure for development. Having little else to do, the mobs turn out for every protest to vent their frustration and hopelessness. They know they are getting nowhere and just need the dream of the government job to keep going. It is loved because it provides life-long ‘security’ and the comfort of not having to make an effort at anything. Once the exam has been passed, it is just a cruise into a pensionable future. What more can one want?