Raju Adivasi is young, a postgraduate in Hindi literature and is, without doubt, the most qualified among the ancient Saharia tribespeople of Sheopur.
They, as tribe, are entitled to walk in and walk out with any government job matching their qualification without interview.
But he has been jobless for the past 10 months after the Centre stopped funds to a scheme that had gave him job in a government school as a teacher.
Under the scheme, people of his Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group, who had passed Class 12, were eligible to be appointed as regional language teachers in schools.
"I was recruited as a regional language teacher in a government school in Panwada village four years ago. When I started working I used to get Rs 1,500 per month. Later, I also completed diploma in education and my salary was raised to Rs 5,000 per month. But now I am jobless for the past 10 months as government stopped paying us," said Raju.
Raju now goes scrounging in the forest to gather wood, mahua and other forest produce – sliding back to his tribe’s ancient livelihood habits from where the scheme envisioned to pull them out.
Saharias are classified as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group, a drop-down group under the category of Scheduled Tribes. The features of the tribe include hunting and gathering, and extremely low level of literacy.
They are one among 7 such tribes in Madhya Pradesh, including Chhattisgarh. And there are around 13,303 Saharias in Sheopur.
The death of the scheme pushes many educated youths of the tribe back into poverty, and ties their hand in pulling their younger generation out of ignorance.
Raju is not alone in distress. "There are around 40 young Saharias of Karahal tribal block, who were appointed as regional language teachers in government schools four years back,” said Bhagchandra, a leader of the Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe Employees Union of Sheopur district. They were now jobless, he said.
Sheopur collector Dhananjay Singh Bhadoria said these teachers were appointed under a welfare scheme of the Centre, which was later discontinued. The teachers had filed a petition in this regard in court and the hearing was on, he added.
The central government every year launches new schemes, kills and modifies some. The government discontinues a scheme if they find it unfruitful or think the funds are being wasted, according to the collector.
But the government’s flip has put Raju in a quandary. Now he might have to move out of his village, his comfort zone, if he wants a government job. His former work gave him the chance to live in his village, with his family.
If Raju has to stay put, he will have to get his hands dirty. Dressed nattily in trousers, T-shirt and shoes, Raju thinks it is waste of talent to go ploughing in fields.
"My parents, especially my father Motilal Adivasi, who is former Sarpanch of Ranipura village, encouraged me to go for higher education and invested a large amount of money on my education. He sent me to Government PG College of Sheopur for completing MA in Hindi literature," said Raju.
"Despite being well-educated I am compelled to work in fields like other uneducated Saharias of my village," he said.