New Delhi - Overwhelmed Indian officials have cancelled plans to fill a handful of menial government jobs after being flooded with 75,000 applications - some from university graduates.
The Chhattisgarh state government's directorate of economics and statistics was left stunned after the wave of applications for 30 "peon" or servant jobs whose duties include fetching tea for 14,000 rupees ($220) a month in wages.
Directorate head Amitabh Panda said he has cancelled an exam planned for candidates after receiving 70,000 online applications and 5,000 in person, including from qualified engineers and management graduates.
"This is surreal," Panda told AFP on Tuesday, saying the entire process was being reexamined.
"We had made arrangements for 2,000 to 3,000 aspirants," he said.
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India's vast bureaucracies, a legacy of British colonial rule, are seen as an extremely secure place of employment compared with the private sector.
Government jobs, even the lowest ones, are highly sought after, with regular reports of candidates paying thousands of rupees in bribes to try to clinch one.
Zubair Meenai, a sociologist at Jamia Millia Islamia university in New Delhi, said bureaucrats were also seen as having more power and social status in class-conscious India.
"No matter if a person gets paid a million rupees in a private company, still a government employee gets more respect and social recognition," Meenai told AFP.
"The economic change has not permeated fully, people still see risk in private sector," he added.
India's unemployment rate was 3.6 percent in 2013, according to the World Bank. But underemployment remains a critical issue in a country where 23 percent of the population lives on $1.25 a day.