Why do Indian parents give primacy to the conventional and lucrative career options (engineers, doctors or investment bankers) not politics?

It is career-choosing time in India. The CBSE results were out a few days ago, and state boards are releasing theirs as well. Children – and much more, their parents – will anxiously go through these numbers, these percentages that seem so important in deciding the future, and make decisions that will have a far-reaching on their own lives.


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There are three factors that generally affect the decision – the parent’s choice, the marks obtained by the student and sometimes, the child’s own wishes. When it is all over, however, we invariably find that one of the following careers has been laid out:

  1. MBA / CA followed by a career in Investment banking
  2. Engineering followed by overseas migration or a software job
  3. Medical studies

In a way, these are obvious choices. The ardent wish of the typical middle-class Indian family is for their child to be financially secure, which is why an ambition to be a poet or an artist is crushed rather quickly and ruthlessly. In terms of safety and financial scope, the traditional occupations mentioned above have a comforting certainty about them, an assurance that come what may, the future will be full of money.

Strangely, a career in politics is never considered, except by those whose parents are already involved with a political party. This is immensely counter-intuitive. Statistics released of the wealth of politicians – drawn from their own declarations in election affidavits – show that as a class of people, they are immensely wealthy. Not only that, the growth of their wealth from election year to election year has often been exponential, beating the returns that one would get in a stock market investment or in terms of increments at a corporate job. It is also not too much of a stretch of the imagination to say that these declarations capture only a part of the total wealth of the said politicians, which are often distributed among a circle of family and friends and stay well out of the eagle eye of the taxman.

What explains this reticence to engage in a profession whose outcome – the accumulation of wealth – is so desirable to so many Indian families? After all, the youth of India is not without ideals, or a desire to change the world, and in order to change the world, one must be a part of the power structure of the country, which means entering politics. And yet, we find that politics is infested with dynasties, goons, goons from dynasties, and religious fanatics.

Firstly, unlike other professions, there is no defined career path to politics. While those who are from political families seem to ease into it, those who are not rarely find an easy way towards it.

Secondly, for those who want to enter politics, entering a college and participating in campus politics is the best way to come to the notice of mainstream political parties. However, studying for engineering, medicine or MBA is too stressful to permit such distractions, which ends up alienating them from the world of politics.

Thirdly, for all the wealth associated with it, politics is associated with ‘dirt’, with wrongdoing and bending of rules, with money earned in underhand ways and risks taken that could be dangerous to life and limb. Ideals have been proven to be injurious to health.

So perhaps one should not blame the Indian parents too much for their choices. But if we want a brighter future, it is important that the politicians of today work to change these perceptions.


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