Sarkari Babu: India's Obsession With the Government Jobs

Sarkari Babu: India's Obsession With the Government Jobs/Image Credit: Pxhere
Last week, a cousin of mine landed a job in one of the highest Indian government institutions and consequently, he was flooded with congratulatory messages and long tiresome queries about how he was able to get it -- as clearing a government job exam in this country is deemed as a gargantuan task. He was flooded with questions about under the table monetary benefits, dowry prospective and his choice of not choosing a juicy department when options were available. In a week time, the poor soul has faced each and every kind of question regarding the job. He tried to answer them all, best to his abilities, however he was not able to answer a simple question he asked himself: why we (Indian Society) are obsessed with the Sarkari Naukri? So when he threw the question on me, I realized, there is no single and particular explanation for this obsession. It has several layers and each layer requires a unique solution.

Indian Middle Class Tryst With the Repute and Financial Security
If we look into the economic history of India, the rise of Indian middle class is analogous with the rise of the British Empire and the secure tenured jobs. These jobs were open to all. In spite of the caste, creed and religion, the sole criteria for these jobs was the academics. Because of this, a new class of young and qualified men and women emerged. They had the talent and with these job in their hands, they acquired money.

The money was never enough for them. They wanted to imitate their rich reference affluent class. And as a Quora User, Vijayendra Mohanty, puts, "Add to this a long list of social and cultural obligations — marriage, parenthood — and you have the perfect recipe for what might be called an obsession with stability."[1]

Social currency also came into play, as they were the ones who represented the Government in real spaces. They acted as the sole channel between the populace and the Colonials. Henceforth they commanded the authority in both public and private spaces. They were apparently nicknamed "Sarkar", "Babu",  or "Nawabs" by many.

Even after India got its independence and opened up its market in 1990's, the charm for the government sector job never faded. Moreover, recently, when recession hit India, the number of applicants applying for a government job has grown significantly. Now and then, there is a news of Masters and Doctorates applying for a small peon job in a government enterprise.

Indian Education System
Indian education system and its inability to reform itself with the changing times also played a major role in this obsession. It is still focused toward churning labor class and entry level managers. There is no real focus toward developing the scientific and entrepreneurial mindset. If you analyze the courseware of some of the most popular professional courses in Indian universities such as B. Tech, MBBS and MBA are not revised to keep up with modern changes. 

Poor Labor Laws
An average Indian job seeker is not only marred by its rotten education system, but government's inability to reform its labor laws. A blue collar private sector employee is grossly underpaid, subject to unrealistic pressure, and no security of tenure. They are also subjected to work in poor and unhealthy conditions. Though, pay is better for a white collar employee, but they are also subjected to unrealistic targets and mental harassment. There is no proper mechanism for enforcing the labor laws and there is no quick redresal mechanism in case of penalty.

Patriarchy Zindabad
Women in India faces a different kind of challenge. Though things are changing in terms of female higher education in India, but they are still not allowed to opt for a career of their own choice. They are only allowed to work, if they are working in certain sectors such as information technology, banking, insurance, education and medicine. More than that, they are only allowed if they are working in a government enterprise. This can be attributed to negative connotations attached with private sector due to poor labor laws, unfair wages, unreasonable working hours, unequal opportunity to growth, no maternity benefits and fear of sexual misconduct. Among all given reasons, it is sexual misconduct which haunts Indian minds. It is a general perception among Indians that government offices are much safer places for women than private enterprises.

Future of the Sarkari Naukri
With the security of tenure, fixed source of income, social currency and other benefits among a growing population, poor educational infrastructure and poor labor laws, you cannot see the demand of a government job to fade away. Moreover, you are likely to see the demand for a government job to intensify in coming years due to growth of Artificial Intelligence and Automation in different industries. Governments, not only in India but in South Asia, need to look at their educational and labor policy as whole. They need to develop them in tandem to release pressure on governments to provide jobs and be future ready.

1. Vijayendra Mohanty, Quora


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