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Jobs’ aplenty, Jobless too

Sanjeev Chakravarty likes kerala,the southern state of India, for one reason he can earn
enough money for his family back in West Bangal, northern state. This 25 year old with
auburn hair and freckled face is working with a construction company here. However not
a skilled labourer he earns Rs 200 per day ($4), more than what he could earn elsewhere.
Muthu, Rajkumar, and Renga, are a few names among the labour force from north
Indian states employed in the traditional as well as other labour sectors of kerala. They
are ready to do all jobs, be it cabling works under the scorching sun, or lavatory cleaning.
The exodus of labours from other states over the past decade and half is a boon to the
Kerala, many say. There are employment opportunities for more such people as the
natives are going for high flown white collars jobs. Yet the cry for jobs by the natives has
no let up.
Perhaps, no other Indian state is half noisy as kerala is in matters unemployment.
Political parties find it a ploy for elections. They promise big jobs to a smug educated
class, is indeed, a ballot box game.
So every other person you rub shoulder is a graduate hunting jobs on internet or
queuing up for Visa at travel agencies .It is like there is no job out there. But the ground
realities may tell a different story with every traditional sector suffers acute labor
shortage. Areas like agriculture, handloom, Coir and allied works, Inland river fishing,
auto mobile mechanical works and tilling are on the brink of extinction.
The whole situation would long have scuttled the normal life here, if it had not been
for people from other states to pluck coconuts, whitewash homes, run public lavatory, dig
cable networks, tilling, and construction works. Even in the villages too situation is grim.
The official estimate of unemployment rate based on 1990 study pegs at 23% of the
population.
The change in the mindset of people here has adversely affected the state. “The
educated children of today develop special dislike for indigenous jobs, unless jobs prop
up their social egos is the flipside of our education system” says MT Muhammed Ali,
national award winning Teacher from Calicut.
The pent up applications at the travel agencies are double as much the registration at
the employment Exchange, a governmental agencies suppose to provide jobs to the
educated, says an official. Acute labour shortage makes entrepreneurs to seek people
from other states, though there are issues like language barriers. In villages spade work
and tilling is not happening as it once used to for the shortage of labourers. So, arable
lands are almost becoming wastelands. Those still doing these works are a vanishing
specious aged above fifty and are not able to undertake huge job demands.
The dislike for unskilled and traditional jobs is so apparent only a few new entrants are
in unskilled job sector. Whereas boys and girls prefer jobs at glassy outlet shops how ever
for a low wage that can hardly support them. Most of the traditional jobs are better paid
than such jobs.
For the wages that a carpenter draws is good enough to support family of five, says
Mahesh a carpenter. He also has taken some offshore labourers at his carpentry unit. He
could not find enough new hands here. Same is the case with masons. Mr.Chitran who
recruits labourers to Gulf says, “most of the people reach Gulf are ready for all jobs that
pay them enough, back home all such jobs are too repulsive to imagine” .Recently, labour
shortage during the time of harvest at kuttanadu, the famous harvesting grounds of kerala,
caused huge crop loss.
Kerala is named after coconut but number of coconut climbers affected a sharp decline.
In urban locales those engaged in this work gets huge wage and they are highly sought
after labourers.
The situation has reached to new levels : Mr.Enasu proprietor of Thatha Engineering
in Thrissur wanted some skilled laborers for his unit there. There is nobody around to
find. He recounts how difficult is it for an entrepreneur to find skilled or unskilled
laborers from kerala.
Same is the story of several of the semi- industrial units. The cotton industry in kannur,
the main foreign money earner is badly in need of skilled laborers in key areas. Mr. TK
Suresh of Cannanor Exports says, “The situation is getting grim, and we too have some
workers from other states”. The non-native laborers are a hard working lot, says an
employer. There is no organized bargaining as most laborers do, so employers find it
blessing.
The worst hit is the automobile workshops. Those presently employed are above forty
years of age. “There is no new hand coming and even their children doesn’t like this job”,
says Bargavan who runs ramshackle workshop here in Tellicherry, a city on Malabar
Coast. So in future motor companies will have to open their service centers in every street
corner, unless new labors come up to hold candle, says a proprietor. Once those migrated
to Mumbai from kerela had only a skill to flaunt , their help-hand experience in
automobile workshop.
Now kerala is in the great need of mechanics from north India to get its motors
repaired. While unskilled laborers from kerala flow to the emerging labore markets like
Itali, Germany and Israel . It appears to be a welcome sign but deep down there are
problems that can cripple the state.

The tell tale flipside:


“It appears that mostly people here loath indigenous job opportunities however
rewarding they are” says Mr. James Oseland, editor of Saveur magazine USA, and author
of the book “Cradle of Flavours”, who frequented India several times and interacted with
media in his visit a year ago. Talking to this writer he recounted the conditions of some
unlucky migrating ones back in US, “even medical graduates from Kerala, if they reach
US not through proper channel will end up as bill distributors in the street. There are
scores them distributing advertisements for a few bucks. Mostly they are too aggressive
to detect pitfalls” Back home youths are not even ready for any manual labour.