Thousands of highly educated Indians — many with business or engineering degrees — interviewed for a handful of menial government jobs in central Madhya Pradesh state at the weekend, amid a worsening unemployment crisis in the country.
More than 11,000 hopefuls gathered outside Gwalior district court to compete for 15 positions as security guards, drivers, street sweepers and office helpers.
The minimum level of education required for the positions was high school level.
But officials were shocked by graduates and postgraduates crowding outside the court complex to appear for the preliminary interview for the vacancies, which offered monthly salaries of between 5,000 rupees ($66) and 10,000 rupees ($122).
Jitendra Maurya, a law graduate, said he had applied to become a driver.
“I am also preparing for the judge’s exam but the situation is such that sometimes there is no money to buy books,” he told a local news channel.
Applicants for the roles came from as far away as neighbouring Uttar Pradesh.
Officials said dozens of applicants were shortlisted for the 15 vacancies, with the final selection taking place after the second round of interviews.
Jobs in the country’s sprawling government sector are considered extremely secure when compared with the private sector.
Even the lowest-ranking government jobs are highly sought after, with regular reports of thousands of overqualified candidates applying for menial jobs and some even paying hefty bribes to secure them.
In recent years, the government has cut back on its expenditure and reduced the number of employment opportunities in the public sector.
In 2018, about 93,000 people — including hundreds with doctorates from top universities — applied for 3,700 jobs as unskilled office helpers in Uttar Pradesh.
And about 100 qualified engineers and 500 post graduates were among 8,000 applicants for six positions at a morgue in Kolkata in July.
With its struggling economy hampered further by the coronavirus pandemic, India’s unemployment rate has risen sharply in recent years.
Unemployment hit 9.4 per cent in the first quarter of this year, India’s National Statistical Office said, and reached 20 per cent between April and June of last year.
There are more than 3.2 million people registered as unemployed in Madhya Pradesh state alone.