“We either need to move to full automation, where we need to drastically reduce our manpower, or look at doing business with fewer people,” said Jayakumar Ramdass, the joint managing director of Mahendra Pumps, another thriving industrial concern in Coimbatore.
In Bihar, India’s youngest, poorest and fastest-growing state, home to more than 120 million people, a feudal social structure and low urbanization are old chicken-or-egg puzzles that ask what makes a poor place poor.
Here, entrepreneurship looks like another name for self-employment, and self-employment looks like a euphemism for unemployment. More than half of the Indian labor force is technically self-employed. That work is often patchy: imagine a train station with 10 rickshaw drivers waiting for passengers, but there are only enough fares for two or three.
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So in India, many young people are aiming not for the stars, but for stability. In Bihar, that means a government job, no matter how low. For example, even a position as a sub-registrant in the Prohibition Bureau is a coveted prize.
But the competition is fierce. About half a million young people took the annual preliminary test Bihar Public Services Commission in February, for a total of 281 jobs. For every batch of 2,000 hopefuls, 1,999 will walk away with nothing.
At the national level, the odds are almost as bad. From 2014 to 2022, Indians submitted more than 220 million applications to the central government. Of those, only 720,000 — less than a third of 1 percent — were successful, a minister told parliament.
Yet Patna, the capital city of Bihar, attracts thousands of students from the densely populated countryside every year, who write notes every year on calculus, geology and anything else they might face in state exams.