If not the cruelest of pranks, it may be the worst of programme management. Rumours of the lucrative election promises being fulfilled have driven an army of jobless young people to invade the employment generation and training offices in Bathinda and Fazilka.
People with top degrees, believing a massive recruitment drive was about to open at Guru Gobind Singh Oil Refinery, thronged the office here, pushing a lone clerk to his limits of shock. Young people from all over the Jalalabad home constituency of deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal also seek unemployment allowance of Rs 1,000 a month each.
It was a busy last month for the two officials at the Fazilka employment generation and training office. Nearly 3,500 young people, mostly from Jalalabad, landed at the place in April, all applying to register for unemployment benefit. They had gathered from the rumour mill that the government was about to distribute the money.
"Since the formation of the new government, rumour is agog in Jalalabad and the areas around that the regime will begin the payment of unemployment allowance," said Kewal Krishna, clerk at the Fazilka employment generation and training office. "Since April 2, nearly 3,500 unemployed people have registered with us."
Public announcements about the benefit coming might have been made in some villages of Jalalabad, said the clerk. "We did our best to convince people that we have no orders to the effect but there's no stopping the queues."
Some parents sent even underage children to the office for registration. Most applicants in the last month at Fazilka were less qualified and in the age group 18 to 20. "They all come in the hope of getting the unemployment allowance," said Krishna.
Even the best of the qualified young crowd is swayed by the rumours. "Since the gossip that hiring at the new-commissioned oil refinery was about to begin, young people with top degrees have joined the beelines at the employment office," said Paramjit Kaur, clerk, who claims to be doing the work of six people at the Bathinda job office.
On April 28, HT had reported that the official communication between the employment office and the oil refinery was dead for more than the past two years.
The employment offices are short of staff, and rumours have made the life of the likes of Paramjit Kaur a lot more hectic.