Several aluminum-roofed shanties cower beneath a huge hoarding rising from the middle of Rajgurunagar village.
Near the hoarding’s base, children have marked out a temporary wicket for their evening cricket match.
The hoarding advertises Eifel City, a posh-looking township with two- and three-bedroom flats costing upwards of Rs 30 lakh.
‘The future is here,’ the tagline says, and a bright red arrow points to a destination three kilometres ahead.
On the verge of grabbing this future is Suman Manipava (19), who, much to her parents’ distress, travels 14 kilometres by bus to reach her Industrial Training Institute (ITI) in Rajgurunagar.
“The Honda i20,” she replies, when asked what her first gift to her parents will be when she starts working, immediately correcting the make to “Hyundai.”
“In any case, it will be an automatic car because I don’t think my father will understand gears,” she adds in Hindi.
Manipava gave up helping her farmer father on his soybean farm in order to train as an electronics mechanic and then work in a company where she will get a monthly starting pay of Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000.
Her father, a school dropout, earns Rs 2,000 a month after two decades of hard work.
Across villages in the Talagoan-Chankan belt in Pune district, youngsters are giving up their ancestral occupation of farming for specialised industrial trades. More than 150 industrial units located in this belt are waiting to lap them up.
Even though it has the largest number of ITIs in the country, with 400 government-run and 350 private ones, Maharashtra faces a huge shortage of skilled manpower, a category that does not include software professionals, engineers and chartered accountants.
The Confederation of Indian Industry estimates that the state will need 40 lakh such skilled workers a year by 2010 to maintain its current economic growth rate. The state’s ITIs now train barely 6 lakh youngsters a year.
In an attempt to reduce this shortfall, the government has allowed companies to tie up with individual ITIs to upgrade their infrastructure and train their faculty. The ITI in Rajgurunagar is an example of one such alliance.
Bharat Forge, one of India’s largest auto-component makers, has upgraded this institute’s conference hall, library and computer lab, where Suman did her research before honing in on the Hyundai i20. This education sparks aspirations among students that considerably narrow the huge chasm between rural and urban that existed in their parents’ generation.
What does this urbanising generation want from the government?
“Baba kehte hain ki government khyal nahi karti, but it is not the government, apne gaon ke log hi kharab hain,” says Nilesh Danvi (19), who is studying the mechanics of refrigeration and air-conditioning, inserting as many English phrases as he can.
“The government has schemes, par scheme chalane wale, like the panchayat, is corrupt,” he continues. “Jab road cave in hota hai, pura gaon adjust karte hain, but no more adjustment. Mumbai mein sab fast hota hai, ab here also, we want the same.”
Danvi’s father, Rajendra, a cook with a monthly salary of Rs 1,500, interrupts. His needs are more concrete.
“We have nothing to do with the government. I just want my son to get a good job and buy an inverter for the house,” he says in Hindi, patting his son’s back.
But these youngsters are influencing their parents. For Rupali Daphal’s parents, a good rishta (marriage) was all they once wanted for their three daughters. But that worked only for the first two.
A rebellious Rupali first took up a B.Com via distance education. “But distance education meant sitting at home and waiting for a good rishta, so I took up fashion technology at the ITI,” says the 18-year-old, a class trendsetter who designs her own sequined jholas.
“When my parents saw my work, they finally understood my dreams,” she says. “I will not marry anyone who will not allow me to fulfil my dream.”
And what is that? To work for Manish Malhotra and design for Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.