Kumar grew up in the poverty-ridden eastern state of Bihar. Like countless others he moved to the Indian capital in search of employment.
"In Bihar, there was no hope of getting a job. It was a choice of migrating to Delhi or starving. It wasn't a choice, really," he said, at once dispirited and hopeful that the latest visit to the employment exchange will yield results.
The employment agency in the New Delhi suburb of Shahdara operates from one corner of a large unswept hall in a government building. Broken furniture lies at one end. A tangle of electrical wires and cobwebs hang from the ceiling. The walls are covered in dust. A slow moving ceiling fan whirls the dust in slow eddies.
Job applicants sit on a row of metal benches, shifting sideways till it's their turn at the single desk where a clerk with a computer and printer registers them to apply for openings. The jobs on offer are at the very lowest rung as clerks or office boys â¿¿ but as applicants say, it's a job.Each day a couple of hundred applicants pass through the office. Fresh-faced young graduates registering for the first time. Older applicants, renewing their applications, are dejected and bitter at the futility of the exercise. Rajinder Singh, the clerk, shrugs helplessly. "We post all the jobs there are. The problem is, there are too few openings and too many applicants," he said. India's economy, the 10th largest in the world, is fast growing even considering its recent slowdown. Businesses want workers, the young especially. But unlike in the economically struggling U.S. and Europe, where many highly skilled applicants are fighting over few jobs, only a minority of working-age Indians are qualified for skilled occupations. The poor quality of education in India is partly to blame. Millions of job seekers have impressive sounding diplomas but many don't have the skills promised by those certificates from substandard colleges and technical institutes.