Mamata Banerjee’s bid to create an “employment bank” to solve a problem she accuses the Left Front of saddling her with has evoked little interest among Calcutta youth.
Mamata had launched a job portal — www.employmentbankwb.gov.in — on July 26 to increase employment avenues for jobless people above 18 years of age. She urged those looking for employment to sign up with the portal, mentioning their skills and academic qualifications so that the government could help them find jobs.
Over the past three-and-a-half months, only around 700 job-seekers, mostly from Calcutta, have enrolled with the Regional Employment Exchange (REE) in Salt Lake. “Till November 14, we have had 727 applicants registering with the REE,” A. Bardhan, joint director (employment) at the exchange, told Metro.
“We have no idea why the response has been below par in the city. We are trying our best,” he said.
The lack of enthusiasm about the initiative is an embarrassment for the chief minister, who doesn’t lose any opportunity to crow about the scheme to address the problem of joblessness.
According to the employment exchange sources, around 70 lakh people are registered as unemployed in 71 employment exchanges in Bengal.
“The actual number is much more, but there are no estimates,” added an official.
Earlier this month, addressing the representatives of Bengal Inc during a state-sponsored Bijoya Sammilani, Mamata had mentioned the employment bank as a possible bridge between HR heads of companies and job seekers.
“If you are looking for skilled people, please get in touch with our labour minister Purnendu Basu. We have created an employment bank from where you can get the required manpower,” she said.
While it could not be independently verified whether any company had since contacted the labour minister, sources in the employment exchanges confirmed a general lack of interest among job seekers in signing up with the portal.
Another talked-about Mamata initiative, a land bank to address the prime requirement of industry, has yet to take off because around 90 per cent of the vested (government-owned) land in Bengal are scattered, small or both. Companies looking to set up base or expand need large parcels of land in the districts with proper infrastructure.
Mamata and her cabinet colleagues keep talking about the land bank but labour minister Basu has admitted that the employment bank has not generated much interest.
“We will shortly pep up the portal to increase traffic. There will be buttons to locate odd jobs in various zones, something that most people still don’t know where and how to look for. Besides, we are planning to launch a massive campaign to generate awareness about the scheme among the youth,” he said.
The lack of interest among Calcutta youth in comparison to the rest of Bengal — around 58,000 people outside the city have already signed up with the portal — has come as a surprise to officials of the labour department.
After all, joblessness is a bigger problem in the city than the districts because of migration from the rural belt in search of jobs.
But will just encouraging urban youth to sign up for the employment bank be enough given the history of employment exchanges in the state?
“It’s been years since I registered with the employment exchange but it has made no difference. So a new initiative doesn’t excite me,” said 58-year-old Manindra Bhowmick, who has waited all his life for a job to come along.