dreams dashed: The Birhor youths at the Bokaro deputy commissioner’s office on Friday. Picture by Pankaj Singh
Nine Birhor boys, who became matriculates in 2012 from the primitive tribal community and were immediately promised government jobs, are not entitled to the largesse anymore after a recent amendment rendered them ineligible.
The first matriculates from this primitive community in Bokaro in recent memory, they collected their secondary school certificates 18 years after Jagdish Birhor (39) became the first boy of their tribe to do so in 1994.
But on Friday, when the nine Birhor boys of Tulbul, Gomia, 70km from Bokaro, met Bokaro deputy commissioner Uma Shankar Singh to remind him of the government’s promise of a job, they were shocked.
DC Singh said that altered government guidelines made the Birhor boys — four with first division and the rest with second division marks among them — ineligible for the grade IV jobs under welfare department.
According to a Jharkhand state government policy of 2008, any Birhor who had passed Class VIII till that year was eligible for the government job. In 2014, this policy was modified, increasing the educational qualification to matriculation. In effect, according to the recent amendment, a Birhor needs to have matriculated by 2008 to be eligible for a job.
Since these boys passed secondary schooling in 2012, four years later, their shot at a government job has been arbitrarily snatched away.
Explaining this to the bunch of dejected youths, DC Singh said: “I myself feel sad for the Birhors. I will write to the state government, explaining the situation, and I hope the guidelines will change. But right now, as a government servant, I am helpless before the law.”
Two years ago, the Birhor families of Santosh, Ganesh, Mantu, Suresh, Chandolal, Tobolal, Sahdeo, Sunderlal and Sawan were celebrating Diwali. Never before had so many Birhor boys appeared for a mainstream exam and done so well in it too.
The promise of government jobs served the perfect icing on the unfamiliar yet precious cake for this literally famished tribe.
But in the next two years, as the state jobs did not materialise despite some token correspondence between them and the administration, the youths, now between 17 and 21 years of age, started working as daily wagers. Some even lifted sand.
Some months ago, Bokaro Steel Limited, as a part of its corporate social responsibility wing, enrolled the youths for ITI training at the plant itself, offering them a stipend of Rs 2,500 a month.
Once this ends, if lucky, they will land jobs. Else, they won’t. The lure of a safe government job will no doubt propel many to make petitions before the government.
Undernourished, ignored and living on the margins, Birhors are some of Jharkhand’s poorest communities. So poor are health indicators, that none of these boys have seen their grandfathers, who died in their fifties. Role models for the community, these boys have leapt over many generations by dint of their schooling. Now, they just feel cheated.
“We were promised jobs and our names were cleared by the welfare department. And now, this amendment. It’s cheating,” said one tearful boy outside the district collectorate.