The Fixations of Working for the Government - G Plus

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The Fixations of Working for the Government

Nibir Deka | March 16, 2019 18:18 hrs

The author writes on the continued fascination that the general Assamese society has for government jobs and why it is time that this mindset should change.

“Sir, mok ata sakri lage” (“Sir, I need a job” in lower Assamese accent). This comment was posted on Assam finance minister, Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma’s Facebook by some user. The comment might be from a fake account but it became a meme and created social media hysteria. This made me rethink the whole situation as to the fixations associated with working for the government because, at some point in life, our parents/relatives have asked us to opt for some government-based exams - be it civil services, GATE, NET-JRF, Bank PO or anything. You know the types and they know their form dates.

Students from all over India including the northeast migrate to Delhi for coaching to prepare for entrance exams. The coaching business has become an established economy in various pockets of Delhi and is not limited to tuition classes.

Along with it come accommodation, student libraries, photocopy centers, book shops, education fairs and counseling. Anyone, who has ever been to places like Ber Sarai, Rajendra Nagar in Delhi would understand the market economy of these coaching centers. Another new market that has evolved is the Over the top (OTT) educative platforms like Unacademy, BYJU's and such apps.

The misconception

The set of beliefs that have ignited market forces for these exams are contradictory to the ethos for which the bureaucracy and the state machinery runs. We have created rhetoric that trivializes the very nature of the public sector - less workload and fixed salary, stability is primary, prestige, social acceptability and so on.

Year

Applications

Appeared

Mains Selected

Interview

Selected

2014

9.47 lakh

4.46 lakh

16,256

3308

1236

2015

9.45 lakh

4.65 lakh

15008

2797

1078

2016

11 lakh

5 lakh

15452

2961

1099

2017

10 lakh

5 lakh

13366

2568

980

(Figures are approximate)

The set of beliefs that have ignited market forces for these exams are contradictory to the ethos for which the bureaucracy and the state machinery runs. We have created rhetoric that trivializes the very nature of the public sector - less workload and fixed salary, stability is primary, prestige, social acceptability and so on.

Take a look at the stats; there are people who fill in the form without appearing for UPSC prelims. There might be genuine reasons like accidents, disease etc but the real concern is the continuous pattern. These are archetypes that pursue government jobs only for the euphoria associated with it. According to Mrunal Patel, a health educator in UPSC and Bank PO exams, he divides aspirants into two types. Serious and JBPS. He calls JBPS as “just because papa said.”

These people are not limited to UPSC exams and are in other entrances as well. Even among prelims takers, not all are serious. Some are attempting out of cluelessness, following everyone and worse “parental pressure.”

Why today’s youth, the rebel in every aspect of lifestyle becomes so clueless when it comes to choosing a field to find employment? There are various reasons, including the big gap between industry and education, the unfair working hours in the market-based industries and so on.
 
Why do we finally opt at the only prospect left for us – sitting for a government exam? 

At school, we used to welcome dignitaries who were big shots serving as secretaries. That has imbibed in us a sense of aspiration from a tender age. We can also see it as a quest for the ambition in all of us to do big in our immediate environment. The idea of a government job gives us that validation because conventional societal acceptance grows parallel to the achievements of higher positions in the government machinery. We sort of agreed to this idea of greater community approval which getting accepted in a reputed government job will bring us. It's what Marxist Antonio Gramsci calls cultural hegemony, where we agree to understand without understanding what to agree to. He famously quoted, "People don’t control ideas, and ideas control people".

I would fall prey to an elite bias if I don't mention the lower middle-income stratum because for them a job in a particular public sector offers immediate economic security - especially in small towns, which are not driven by any corporate or market growth. A railway notification for job openings means much more to them than some made-up passion story of a topper circulating on YouTube.

When aspirations turn into dust

As a kid born in relative comfort zone, there was no urgency to feel the void of necessity which our previous generations were compelled to. This led to us pursuing so-called “authentic experiences” not limited to just government services but in all spheres of life. We are bestowed with the idea that we are special and we have a unique identity. 

This is the reason we find many disillusioned officers working for the government who thought that they were chasing some authentic dream only to be crushed by the homogeneity and monotony every job offers. Ironically, Roman Saini, who is currently the poster boy of government services entrance exams, left his job as an assistant collector to be an entrepreneur himself.

Why many of our parents are fixated over government/public sector jobs? 

Most parents of the millennial were born at a time when government was the main recruiter in pre-liberalisation days. The dependency decreased as the economy opened up in the 1990s and the job scenario diversified with the emergence of the IT and corresponding sectors.

Therein created a gap between us and our parents; you might be doing well for a corporate firm; they would find it hard to relate to your work. It all boils down to the over specialisation of labour in corporate spaces. In short, what you do makes little sense to your parents. If Karl Marx would have been alive, he would have said: “The alienation you suffer from your work has been transcended to your parents.” If you find this analogy tough, let me explain to you simply. When you tell your parents you are a peon/stenographer/chief engineer of PWD, they can understand. Try telling them that you are a chief analyst in operations of automobile software developing solutions for 3rd party vehicle vendor!

Why Assamese parents are hell-bent on government/public sector jobs?

When I say parents, I am not singling out mother, father or any associated relatives. I actually mean societal beliefs. The Assamese people have a deeper connection to state machinery. A postcolonial hangover, one can say.

As published in the essay Ethnic Identities and Middle Class in North-East India by Apurba Kr Baruah, the introduction of western education, liberal constitutional democracy and the capitalist path of development by the British created a situation in which the traditional elites lost power. Thus, a new educated middle class emerged in Assam as a result of changes introduced by the colonial administration.

But, this new emerging middle class had neither the economic resources of the capitalist nor the numbers of the proletariat to be able to exercise political power. They also had another competition as the pre-British Assam had hardly any formal schooling and Bengalis were exposed to western education. The Bengalis had an advantage over many occupations that began with the introduction of colonial administration, which ultimately came to a situation where they came to dominate the bureaucracy. It is only when the local population began to develop competence as education spread that they started competing in the area of professions and bureaucracy. However, the lack of capital the new Asomiya middle class had made them fail to make a significant dent in other areas like trade and business. With small capital in hand, they could not hope to seriously challenge big businesses but education and this created aspirations of becoming dominant in the non-capital intensive sector. Therein created paranoia where we developed the consciousness in our psyche that representation in government services will maintain the status quo of the Assamese.

So what can we do about it?

Alladin had to give up the genie as it was the genie that was in control of Aladdin’s behaviour and not his true self.

We have to let go of our genie - that is this naive hope that government jobs are easy and stable and we are all entitled to one. This demeans the actual hard work the people associated in the state machinery do from top to bottom.
 
We also have to embrace the demands of the corporate industry, its work culture. Parents have to also ease up on the pressure and understand that there are various things one can pursue if one has the right skills and adequate pre-requisite for the industry he/she is about to enter.

With the new market economy and digital revolution coming up, we have to utilise the tools to grow our businesses and take part in the contemporary happenings. We have already seen positive growth in the businesses especially in Guwahati and other towns in Assam with the advent of internet service. Initiatives like North East Skill Centre (NESC) might help to provide better skill training to thousands of unemployed youth of the state. 

Sadly, who has a better chance of using these emerging technologies to grow businesses? The establishment of the middle-class hegemony or the underprivileged which still drives his scooter risking his life to deliver us our junk food. 

(The author is a former sub-editor at Business Standard, part-time writer and freelance blogger at anonsenicalwriter.com) 
 

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