The predominantly agrarian state of Haryana voted to elect its fourteenth legislative assembly on 21 October. As voting ended at 6 pm, the state had registered a voter turnout of 61.92 percent, a sharp drop compared to the previous state elections in 2014, which saw 76.54 percent of the electorate exercise their franchise. According to Munfaid, a 26-year-old from the Nuh tehsil in the eponymously named district at the southern-most tip of the state, these elections were “just a gimmick.” When I asked him why, he said, “The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party government under Manohar Lal Khattar has neither created jobs nor has a concrete plan for us, the youth of Nuh.” Over the past week, I travelled through the three southern districts of the state—Rewari, Mahendragarh and Mewat, which was renamed Nuh three years ago. In the run-up to the elections, the lack of employment was a constant refrain across the region.
Munfaid said that the scale of unemployment in Nuh was so pervasive that “even the option for daily-wage labour is not available here.” Munfaid has a vocational degree—he trained as a multi-purpose health worker—but he works as a driver as he could not find a job. “Where are the jobs anyway?” He had applied for several government jobs but, according to him, “the officials give priority only to those who can buy the posts by paying a hefty amount.”
Nuh, with a population of 10.89 lakh, has a literacy rate of 54.08 percent, the lowest among all the districts in Haryana. But even with such a small pool of educated youth, jobs are hard to find. The state itself is currently facing an unemployment crisis. According to a report by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, a business-intelligence firm, between May and August 2019, the unemployment rate in the state was the second highest in the country, at 21.38 percent. Mansoor Ali, a 30-year-old shop owner in Nuh, told me that “the youth of Nuh at best get the jobs of drivers or as computer operators in the few shops here and earn a meagre income.” Ali pursued a bachelor’s degree in science from a college in Chandigarh, the state capital, but came back to his hometown to open up an electronics shop “so that I can expand my business in this neglected region and create some jobs here.”