Creating steeper climbs for the paralyzed

"Bhaiya, I got through the written round for CRPF", my cousin who lives in my native informed me in chaste Bhojpuri. From his voice, I could gather that he was more relived and less ecstatic. I was feeling neither of those feelings. Instead I was sad – I already knew what he had to do to get through the written exam. But before I get to that let me give you a background on my cousin and his quest for the holy grail of most youth from rural backgrounds intending to get a government job – a rank of jawan in the armed forces or allied forces like CRPF/BSF.

Let us call my cousin Baboo. Baboo has been desperately trying for a job in the armed forces for more than 2 years now. There is a reason for such an obsession for being a jawan. For Baboo and many thousands like him, the minimum entry qualification of tenth standard makes this job one of the most reachable for youth like him who strayed away from studies after passing tenth. The reasons could be many – lack of guidance, lack of financial resources, lack of interest (which in a way relates to the first one). Once they pass the age of getting back on the academic track, the need for a stable job is felt. The fact that they are young and hence physically quite capable propels them towards these jobs. I remember my cousin describing how he used to run long distances every morning and evening - barefoot or in hawai chappals – to prepare for the first round of selection. Baboo also told me how he faced a particular predicament – a handful of chana – and not knowing whether to eat it before the run or before the chest measuring test. Both tests are important and both require him to eat it especially since he had not eaten for a day.

Earlier he could not even clear the initial runs meant to filter a large part of the candidates. With enough practice he started clearing the runs every time. Once the run is cleared, comes the written test. He started preparing for them too but it seems like he hit a stone wall with the written rounds. Even after much trying he was not able to clear the written exams for any of the umpteen tests he wrote over a period of two years.

Finally, he got through the written time this time. But this success came with a rider. He had to pay around 1.5 lakh rupees to ensure that he passed the exam. In fact this is how it was happening in most of the recruitments, he told me once. I had heard the same thing from many other people about recruitment for the posts of clerks and TT in railways. That Baboo had to sell off a good part of his land to arrange for this kind of money makes the situation even more poignant. Despite his hard work for 2 years, Baboo could not get his break until he submitted to the demon of corruption. I am sure if things were cleaner he would have been recruited earlier.

Now contrast this with another cousin of mine. Being born to urban upper middle class parents, the problems he faced in life were different. Finishing school and completing engineering was something that he did with relative ease. Once he graduated he already had an offer from Infosys – one of the most revered companies (when it comes to freshers). At the same the Indian Navy came to his college for recruitment. He was able to clear the interviews, group discussions and written exams with ease. Now he is already on his way to a settled life living the life of a Navy officer and riding the Bullet that he bought with his own money.

If you analyze the situation, it is not hard to see that the way our society functions even in something as undesirable as corruption – the odds are stacked heavily against the one who did not have the headstart. And many of the activists (including me) would venture to point out a finger at the former and say “See, this is how meritorious candidates lose out. Because the non-deserving ones pay money and get their way through”. That is wrong. Almost every time you have to pay your way through – deserving or otherwise. The one with an urban upbringing and good communication skills did not have to tread a treacherous path to becoming an officer who would ultimately lead men similar to the former. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

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