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Ground Report: In West Bengal’s Murshidabad, Young Boys Are Quitting School Because What’s The Point

As there are no jobs for the educated, more and more boys from poorer households are dropping out.

“In Kerala, I used to make ends meet and was still able to send Rs 9000 home every month. Now, on good days I make 300 bucks. Some days I make nothing at all.” 

Rabiul Sheikh, 35 now drives an e-rickshaw in his native village — Murshidabad, West Bengal. He dropped out of school after seventh grade.  “Most of the boys in my village don’t study after a certain age and go out to work.” 

Former CPI(M) MP Abul Hasnat Khan (L) with Rabiul Sheikh (2nd from left)

Rabiul is back home after working in Kerala as a mason for ten years. His two elder brothers, who have studied only till the fifth grade, work in Jammu and Kashmir as masons. Hit by abject poverty, at least one person from every household in Ahiran and other villages like Harua, Gosaipur, Karimpur, and Lalgolla has migrated outside West Bengal for employment. While Muslims end up working as masons and labourers, Hindus usually get employed in bakeries and restaurants.

People who don’t want to leave the state, even educated folk, end up working as drivers, masons or opening small shops. Rabiul’s cousin sister teaches in a private school and earns just Rs 3,000 per month. “The Mamata Banerjee government has stopped recruiting teachers for government schools,” he laments. 

Also Read: Ground Report: Narendra Modi’s Supporters in Ahmedabad Explain Why BJP Won’t Get a Majority in Lok Sabha Polls 

The West Bengal government has not recruited candidates who have qualified the School Service Commission (SSC) examinations between 2013 and 2017 despite the numerous vacant seats across schools in the state. SSC candidates from across the state even sat on a relay hunger strike in Kolkata. After 28 days of the strike, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee visited the protestors and assured them that their demands will be met after the polls as the model code of conduct had kicked into force. 

After failing to get a job despite running from pillar to post, Gokul Sheikh, a graduate, runs a small pan shop. “I don’t have the money and the system is corrupt. Without any connections, getting jobs isn’t possible,” he says. 

Gokul Sheikh in his paan shop.

Gokul became a graduate while his brothers dropped out after fifth grade. All three of them earn more or less the same amount of money. 

Murshidabad district is divided into three constituencies — Jangipur, Behrampore and Murshidabad. Congress MP Abhijeet Mukherjee represents the Jangipur Lok Sabha constituency. The main contenders against Mukherjee are Trinamool nominee Khalilur Rahaman and CPI(M) nominee Md. Zulfikar Ali. BJP has fielded Mafuja Khatun.

 In 2014 polls, Mukherjee had won against CPI (M)’s Muzaffar Hossain by a slim margin of 8,161 votes. 

In Behrampore constituency, four-time MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has a very strong support base. He is contesting against recent Congress defector and Trinamool nominee and MLA Apurba Sarkar. Chowdhury will most likely retain his seat comfortably though many Congress members in the constituency have switched to Mamata Banerjee’s party along with MLA Sarkar.

CPI(M) MP Badaruddoza Khan is facing a tough battle in Murshidabad constituency as the seat is traditionally considered a Congress bastion and Trinamool is also eyeing to open its account here. TMC has fielded MLA Abu Taher Khan who recently quit the grand old party, and Lalgola MLA Abu Hena is the Congress’ candidate. 

According to leaked NSSO data, unemployment in the country increased to a 45-year high of 6.1 per cent in 2017-18. The data reflects the experiences of people in Murshidabad — unemployment among the educated and skilled is much higher than the national average.  For rural educated men, the rate was 10.5 per cent and for urban educated men, this was 9.2 per cent in 2017-18.

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