What happens when an economy bottoms out? People lose their jobs, and competition for employment stiffens.
Rogue elements take advantage of these situations and thrive.
That’s exactly what’s happening in India.
India’s economic woes
Just a few years ago, India, with a population of 1.3 billion people, was one of the world’s fastest-growing large economies, clocking a growth of 8% or more.
But even before the pandemic, the economy had begun to slow down. For example, car sales plunged 32% in August 2019, the largest drop in two decades.
Trade, hotel, and transport also dipped 47% while India’s once-mighty manufacturing industry shrank 39%.
India’s unemployment rate in April 2019 shot up to 7.6%, the highest since October 2016.
India’s economy contracted 24 % in Q2 2020, as lockdown restrictions meant to contain the spread of the coronavirus wiped out jobs and businesses.
But between April and August last year, 21 million salaried workers became unemployed, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), a Mumbai-based research firm.
According to CMIE, by the end of December 2020, nearly 15 million fewer people were employed than at the start of the first lockdown.
The International Monetary Fund projected a 10.3% decline in India’s economy in the 2020–21 fiscal year.
Entering India’s professional class isn’t easy. The barriers to entering India’s professional class are diverse—caste, family background, gender, language, and religion, to name a few and deep-rooted.
On July 1, a few days after a woman in India registered for an account on the careers site Naukri.com and uploaded a resume, a recruiter called her with the news that ‘one of the country’s leading real-estate companies was hiring for a senior position, and more details would follow soon.’
Later that week, a human-resources manager at the real-estate company called, as promised. The job was hers if she wanted it.
All that was required was a show of commitment in the form of a security fee, which would be refunded once she started in her new role. The initial sum was $9,200 and later the company asked for another deposit, to professionally verify her credentials and arrange for top-grade work equipment, this time for nearly $30,000.
Then the calls stopped.
Calls from the purported HR manager had been made over the internet, using a virtual private network to disguise their original source. The scammers had been impersonating executives at Naukri.com.
Reported scams ensnaring reaches about 30,000 Indians in a single year and that is just the number found in English-language media.
Nonexistent jobs are being advertised across the Indian internet on websites, messaging apps, social media, and even e-commerce portals.
Many of them stress “mass openings” and require “immediate joining,” offer lavish salaries and quick incentives, provide sketchy contact information, and contain no verifiable details.
Some can be cleared up once a phone call is made, while others require a physical visit to an actual office where an applicant is faced with serious interviewers. But again, they can’t show up to work until they have paid a security deposit. Of course, once they send the money, everything vanishes: people, phone numbers, physical addresses.
Students fresh out of college, from one of the thousands of engineering colleges in small towns, are easily trapped. Their parents have invested Rs 4-5 lakh (around $7,500) and wish for their kids to earn the big bucks.
In November 2020, Delhi Police busted a gang that created a fake government website under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to dupe job seekers.
The gang defrauded over 27,000 job seekers in the name of job registration and siphoned off over Rs 1.09 crore (about $140,000).
Over 13,000 fake jobs were offered on these two fake sites www.sajks.org and www.sajks.com which were so convincing that even mainstream media reported the news of the 13,000 job openings. Victims were prompted to submit their bio-data with a prescribed fee.