Thursday, 27 January 2022 | PNS | New Delhi
Students accuse Rly of ‘cheating’ by altering selection process midway
Massive protests have erupted in several parts of the country against the Railways’ decision to hold the exams for non-technical posts in Indian Railways in two stages, claiming that the second stage for final selection tantamount to “cheating” those who appeared and cleared the first stage of the RRB-NTPC for computer-based test (CBT).
With protest shaping up in large-scale violence, the Ministry of Railways decided to suspend its Non-Technical Popular Categories (NTPC) and Level 1 tests conducted by the Railway Recruitment Board.
The Railways formed a high-level committee to examine the grievances of those who have passed the exams under different railway recruitment boards (RRBs) and those who have failed the same.
The job aspirants set a train on fire in Gaya in Bihar, engaged in stone pelting, and resorted to violence at several places in Bihar, Jharkhand, UP prompting the Centre to promise to address their grievances within three weeks.
The protest reached Prayagraj in the poll-bound Uttar Pradesh late in the evening and the Centre’s appeal for calm did not douse the angry candidates. Several students were injured in lathi-charge. The Yogi Adityanath Government immediately suspended six police personnel and ordered an enquiry into police action on the protesting job aspirants.
Several protesters squatted on rail tracks in various cities, which has led to the hampering of train movement.
Protesters claimed only one examination was mentioned in a notification issued in 2019 and accused the government of “playing with their future”. The Railways Ministry had earlier clarified that the second stage exam was clearly mentioned in the notification.
The immediate provocation for the aspirants on Republic Day came after the Ministry of Railways issued a warning notice for the general public that whosoever indulges in damaging rail property will forever be banned from taking the exams conducted by Indian Railways.
A passenger train was set on fire and another was attacked with stones in Gaya in violent protests by students against the railway jobs exam on a day when the country was celebrating Republic Day.
Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw appealed to the students to not break the law and assured them that their grievances would be addressed. Vaishnaw said the Railways is in touch with Chief Ministers and the issue is being handled “sensitively”.
“I request students not to take the law into their hands. We will seriously address the grievances and concerns raised by them,” the Minister said and added that all RRB chairmen have been asked to listen to the concerns of students, compile them and send them to the committee.
“An email address has been set up for this purpose. The committee will go to different parts of the country and listen to grievances,” he said at a hurriedly called Press conference.
“I am telling the aspirants that this is their own property. Why are they destroying something that is their own? However, authorities will follow due process if public property is damaged,” the Minister said.
Around 1.25 crore candidates had applied for the exams that had advertised over 35,000 posts from level 2 to level 6, with starting pay ranging from Rs 19,900 to Rs 35,400 per month. Around 60 lakh people appeared for the exam.
“Railway constitutes High Power Committee to look into Concerns of Candidates over NTPC CBT-1 Result. Candidates may submit their Grievances to Committee till 16th February 2022,” the Railway Ministry tweeted.
In Bihar’s Jehanabad town, angry students burned an effigy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on railway tracks and raised slogans against the Government. In another city, Sitamarhi, the police fired in the air to disperse angry demonstrators at the railway station.
Protests were also reported from Patna, Nawada, Buxar, Ranchi, Dhanbad, and Bhojpur districts of Bihar and Jharkhand. The protesting students posted videos and messages on social media platforms addressing job aspirants from other States as well to protest against the anomalies in the conduct of examinations. Refuting the allegations, the Ministry of Railways also has issued a clarification in which it said that the second stage exam was clearly mentioned in the notification.
The issue came to the fore when the results were declared on January 15. Many candidates also claim that the screening process is designed to favour those with a higher qualification, even in jobs that require lesser qualifications.
The railways had earlier said that it was looking to fill 35,281 posts. Of these, 24,281 posts in 13 categories were open to graduates and 11,000 posts in six categories were for undergraduates. These thirteen categories were segregated into five groups based on the Seventh Central Pay Commission pay-scale levels (Levels 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6).
These posts included that of train assistant, guard, junior clerk, time keeper and station master across its various zones.
While to get a Level 2 job, where the starting pay is about Rs 19,000, one requires to be a Class 12 pass, for a level 6 post like station master, who gets a starting pay of about Rs 35,000, being a graduate is mandatory.
Aspirants have alleged that during the Computer Based Test -1 which was held last year, candidates with higher qualification have sat for exams meant for Level 2 jobs.
The problem, officials said, is that the railways cannot stop an aspirant with a higher qualification from sitting for an exam with lower qualification requirements.
In a clarification, the railways said short-listing of candidates has been done separately for each level based on educational qualifications and options exercised by the candidates.
For the second stage computer-based test (CBT) of each level, the number of candidates called was 20 times the community-wise vacancies notified against each RRB, it has stated.
Based on merit obtained in second stage CBT, the candidates will be short-listed for the third stage exam in which eight times the number of vacancies will be called.
Earlier, the short-listing was done 10 times the vacancy, however, this time it is 20 times the vacancy for the second stage, officials said.
Meanwhile, amid rising protests, the Ministry of Railways on Tuesday issued a statement, warning candidates of being “Debarred for Life” from obtaining a railway job.
“RRB NTPC Protest videos will now be examined by the Ministry with the help of specialised agencies. Upon proper examination, those found in indulging in any of the mentioned activities will be penalised accordingly. They will be liable to both police action as well as lifetime debarment from a Railway job,” said the statement.
According to the RRB NTPC exam dates, the CBT 2 exam, for which seven lakh candidates have been short-listed, is scheduled to be held on February 14 and 18.