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ODD JOB

An IIT post-graduate has turned down high-paying jobs to become a railway track maintainer

By Manavi Kapur

A graduate of India’s elite Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) has done the unthinkable.

Shrawan Kumar, a master’s degree holder in metallurgical engineering and material science from IIT Bombay, has reportedly opted to work for the government-run Indian Railways as a track maintainer, a position that requires a candidate to pass only the 10th grade, the Hindustan Times newspaper reported yesterday (Aug. 26).

For starters, here’s why Kumar’s decision stands out: The average annual corporate salary offered to an IIT Bombay graduate in 2018 was Rs14 lakh ($19,500). In his current posting at Dhanbad railway station in the state of Jharkhand, he will be paid Rs2.16 lakh per annum, besides allowances, annually.

What makes Kumar’s decision seem even more drastic is the difficulty in gaining admission to the IITs. Students in India begin preparations years before they appear for the joint entrance exam (JEE), which they must pass for admissions. For instance, in 2019, some 1.1 million students appeared for the qualifying JEE exams, vying for a mere 11,279 seats across the 17 IITs in the country .

Gloomy jobs scene?

At first glance, Kumar’s choice may seem to reflect India’s gloomy jobs scene. After all, in January 2019, the Business Standard newspaper reported that at 6.7%, the unemployment rate in the country stood at a 45-year-high in 2017-2018.

However, the 2015 alumnus of IIT Bombay, chose to be a track maintainer only because of the “job security” it offers, news channel Times Now reported today (Aug. 27).

Graduates from IITs usually have multiple job offers to choose from. Regular recruiters include bigwigs such as Microsoft, Infosys, and Wipro, besides startups that promise hypergrowth. Kumar, however, chose not to take up the jobs he was offered during campus placements as they were all in “non-core sectors,” a News18 Hindi report said.

This is not the first time that highly qualified individuals have hankered after low-paying jobs in India. Last year, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, 3,700 Phd holders, 50,000 graduates, and 28,000 PGs, applied for 62 sundry police jobs.