The silence of an early winter morning in this vast labourers’ colony, Bhuli breaks with the cell phones’ alarm bells emanating from almost every house that has an unemployed youngster.
It’s barely 4.30am, the streets still pitch dark, but you feel the hustle and bustle of a crowd of youngsters moving towards a large playground called ‘Crowned Field’ on Jharkhand’s Dhanbad by-pass road.
Morari Singh, 35, always the first to hit the field, has already taken a couple of laps on the track. Around 100 youngsters greeting each other ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ join him in the physical training that includes running, long-jump and high-jump.
This is no mere early morning exercise for the boys. It’s part of the rigorous training they are undergoing for selection in the defence forces. Year after year dozens of boys from this colony into this daily practice crack the SSC examination and get selected for the various wings, especially CRPF, CISF and BSF. Those who fail in their first, second or third attempt take up menial jobs of contract workers, start small businesses or migrate in hordes to metros for livelihood.
Ask the youngsters and they would say there is no other option for them. Having studied upto Plus-2, many of them even graduates, they get blank on deciding the careers as their families cannot afford their higher studies/ technical education. Most of the parents have retired.
“I started as an aspirant but failed to clear the merit list on at least six occasions,” said Morari Singh, who has hence turned a physical trainer for the scores of job seekers.
In this labourers colony, around 5km from Dhanbad main city, defense is the only hope for the younger generation that has no alternative job avenues.
Set up in 1951 by ex-union labour minister late Jagjivan Ram and dedicated in the name of his mother Bhulia Devi, Bhuli was once home to more than 60% of the 1.80 lakh coal mine workers of Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL) in Dhanbad and surrounding areas, thereby making it the biggest labourers’ colony in Asia.
Post liberalisation, the company started outsourcing and mechanising the mining works reducing the workforce to 55,000 today. Post retirement and retrenchment while a few families returned to the native places. Every election brings alive the issue of jobs to the educated unemployed Bhuli youths but it dies down after elections.
“Nobody cares for us as we are still considered outsiders and illegal occupants,” said Raju Singh, a diploma holder in civil engineering, who runs a betel shop for a living.
Most of these residents face eviction as they are illegally holding on to the BCCL quarters or have constructed their own houses on the company land.
Congress legislator Mannan Mallick was rewarded by the locals when he served 45 days’ jail term during last election for preventing their eviction. The young voters this time seem more influenced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP as he has promised a slew of schemes to empower youth.