PATNA – Graduate Suman Kumar, 26, has taken one competitive exam for government jobs every two months on average for the last four years. These jobs range from a police sub-inspector to a railway clerk.

So far all his attempts have been unsuccessful, given how the odds are not exactly stacked in his favour.

Every government job attracts hundreds of thousands of applicants.

In the last eight years, the federal government has hired 722,311 candidates out of 220 million applications through competitive nationwide exams.

Mr Kumar, who comes from modest means from a farming family in Bihar state, does not let himself lose hope as he does not see any other avenue of quality employment.

Bihar, which has a weak private sector with industry contributing just 15 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), had the second highest unemployment rate among graduates at 34.2 per cent between January and April 2022, following Rajasthan at 54.2 per cent, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE).

Mr Kumar is just one among hundreds of thousands of government job seekers in one of India’s poorest states.

“Every day, I do self-study in the library from 10am to 6pm. I then go for coaching in the evenings. And at home, I take online classes,” said Mr Kumar, who spends 4,000 rupees (S$70) a month living and studying in Musallahpur Haat in Patna, the capital city of Bihar and a magnet for those seeking affordable coaching.

“I will get a positive result soon. I feel it.”

Musallahpur Haat is a congested locality where an entire ecosystem exists with at least 100 coaching centres offering courses at cut-throat rates. Tuition starts at 100 rupees for a three-month course to 10,000 rupees for an eight-month course.

Billboards line the streets to woo students. “Utter in English with utter fluency”, says one advertisement promising fluency within three months.

Bihar has the highest proportion of young people in the country, with over 58 per cent of the population under the age of 25.

But employment opportunities are limited in this eastern state, where many have traditionally migrated to other parts of the country or overseas in search of employment and education.