A singular tragedy of the Indian republic in the 21st century is the cult of careerism that is affecting its youth today. Despite all the hyperbole and expectations unleashed by the liberalisation and globalisation of the Indian economy and polity, the nation can ill-afford careerists with fancy foreign degrees and fancier credentials often obtained at staggering cost. Careerism only compounds the malaise already present in the Indian educational system that is largely academic-oriented and not at all application-specific.
Most of the higher degrees obtained today by students are largely based on learning by rote and memorisation; as a consequence, no one benefits from the regurgitation of learned knowledge (if it is knowledge at all!). The educational system is simply producing too many MAs and PhDs, too many doctors, lawyers and chartered accountants who have no worthwhile employment prospect in sight. Even these MAs and PhDs could well be accommodated in junior posts if they did not have such enormous monetary expectations that make their employment without any value to any prospective employer.
Given the current mindset obtaining in the country, more and more public monies are being channelled into higher education of the elitist variety with its emphasis on filling in slots in the fragile national economy. This means that the system may be producing individuals with glamorous qualifications but with no practical housekeeping skills to survive without a salaried job for any extended period of time. And because there is a glut of MAs and PhDs, employers are hiking entry-level requirements for all categories of jobs. A baneful consequence of this trend is that people with no access to higher education are being shunted out of jobs that they are truly qualified for and their places taken over by fancy MAs and PhD holders with no real aptitude or skill for such work.
Another feature of the same mindset is that more and more youths are only too ready to spend on obtaining higher degrees so that they can land a post or position of authority where by virtue of having a higher degree they will not have to do any real work. This mindset is percolating down to ordinary people also. This kind of careerism creates an artificial, high-cost economy that increasingly has to be financed by borrowed funds and recourse to black money. Here people do no work of any value but use their authority to tyrannise subordinates and underlings. Moreover, many offences committed by careerists against the public order are overlooked, especially in the defense services, on the grounds that the offender has a ?valuable?? career and future that cannot be sacrificed for the sake of a ?trivial? offence.
Now, with the glamorisation of the Jet Set style of living, careerists who hold important posts in government, industry and academia are beginning to form clans and influence networks that defy the rules of working and the work culture ordinary people must live with. Because careerists don'thave to earn their pay, they often get free hospitality in five-star hotels and restaurants as well as on board airlines. This trend signifies that idle people are more disproportionately rewarded in our culture than practical and useful working folk. It is almost as if a kind of neo-Brahmanism is resurfacing in our polity whose only claim to fame lies with its idleness and obsession with consumption.
Among careerists, projection of personality is more important than working; consequently, they are attired in fancy designer clothes, drive fancy cars and charge fancy fees. Whatever work they get is routed down to subordinates who work long hours and get low wages. Knowing good English is a prerequisite for entry into the careerist culture. Since many gullible youths are tempted to join this charmed circle, this trend could deal a severe body blow to the economy and polity at large. In the new paradigm sweeping across urban India, young people don'tcare to explore their true skills and aptitudes, but merely latch on to higher degrees to secure a post with privileges attached so that they will be spared painstaking labor or work.
India needs to inculcate basic skills amongst its manpower and personnel, preferably undertaken at the school level itself. There is a shortage of paralegals, barefoot doctors, nurses and veterinarians. Because there are serious lacunae and flaws in national planning, no one is prepared to work in the rural areas. This has resulted in migration of rural folk into the cities and urban centers of the country thereby creating congestion and unbearable loads on the urban infrastructure.
Reservation of jobs for the backward castes and classes is no solution at all; it merely compounds the disease. The ability to do a job should ideally be the criterion for obtaining that job. As a matter of fact, most of the factories, workshops and offices in the nation can be run by well-educated matriculates, making even BAs superfluous! There is simply no space in the economy for pedagogues whose knowledge is summarily used to abuse their posts of power and authority.
(The writer is an Honors graduate of the University of Chicago with a degree in the Humanities. He has also studied economic development and public administration at the University of Pittsburgh.)