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In Indian Metropolis, Millions Have Applied for Just 368 Open ‘Office Boy’ Positions

Jobs are scarce in the Indian city of Lucknow, as millions apply for the same few hundred positions.

Indian lambadi tribespeople queue to cast their ballots at a polling station at Rangareddy on the outskirts of Hyderabad on April 30, 2014. India's 814-million-strong electorate is voting in the world's biggest election which is set to sweep the Hindu nationalist opposition to power at a time of low growth, anger about corruption and warnings about religious unrest.  AFP PHOTO / Noah SEELAM        (Photo credit should read NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian lambadi tribespeople queue to cast their ballots at a polling station at Rangareddy on the outskirts of Hyderabad on April 30, 2014. India's 814-million-strong electorate is voting in the world's biggest election which is set to sweep the Hindu nationalist opposition to power at a time of low growth, anger about corruption and warnings about religious unrest. AFP PHOTO / Noah SEELAM (Photo credit should read NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)

More than 2.3 million Indians have rushed in applications for 368 job openings in the northern city of Lucknow. Their goal? Not to be named India’s next top minister, or gain celebrity status as a cricket player or Bollywood superstar, but to serve instead in the lowest ranks of the Indian bureaucracy.

The humble government positions, known locally as office boy or peon, require only a fifth grade education, literacy in Hindi, and the ability to ride a bicycle, according to the online job posting.

But that hasn’t stopped highly-educated applicants from trying their shot at getting hired: 255 of the candidates reportedly have PhDs, and 25,000 have master’s degrees. That’s despite the fact the few hundred lucky enough to be chosen from the massive pool of applicants will be relegated to fetching water and brewing tea for office visitors, as well as blazing through bustling Lucknow traffic to run errands on bikes.

With 6,250 applications for every open position, it could take years for the secretariat administration to settle on final choices. Government officials said just interviewing the slew of applicants could take up to four years, Indian news channel NDTV reported Wednesday.

The open jobs may seem like nothing more than glorified secretarial positions, but for the one in three college graduates who are unemployed in India, the compensation could be worth it. The new hires will receive an average salary of $27 a month — a pittance by Western standards, but decent wages for a country where the minimum wage is $22 a month.

One Indian official told the Times of India he was “shocked to see the response.” If that’s the case, it might be time to take down the job listing before another million hopefuls apply. As of Wednesday, the applications were still open.

NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images

Henry Johnson is a fellow at Foreign Policy. He graduated from Claremont McKenna College with a degree in history and previously wrote for LobeLog. @HenryJohnsoon

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