New Delhi: On Wednesday, student protests flared up in Bihar, and a passenger train was set on fire in Gaya. Meanwhile, six police officers were suspended in Prayagraj after videos of them thrashing job aspirants in Uttar Pradesh went viral.
The developments came as thousands of students across these two states burnt effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, vandalised trains, and gathered in protest to show dissatisfaction with the Railway Recruitment Board (RRB)’s Non-Technical Popular Categories (RRB-NTPC) exam conducted a few months ago.
ThePrint explains what this exam is, and why students are unhappy.
Also read: Don’t destroy ‘own property’, will resolve grievances: Rail minister on violence by job aspirants
What is NTPC, and protests over 2019 exam
The RRB conducts the NTPC exam to recruit commercial apprentices like goods guard, traffic assistant etc. for the Indian Railways.
The NTPC 2019 exam was conducted between 28 December 2020 and 31 July 2021. Around 1.25 crore applicants had applied for just over 35,000 posts from level 2 to level 6, with starting pay ranging from Rs 19,900 to Rs 35,400 per month. Nearly 60 lakh candidates appeared for the exam.
The results for the first part of the two-part exam were announced on 15 January this year, and over 7 lakh applicants cleared the first stage.
However, applicants claim that the recruitment process was rigged in favour of those with higher qualifications. Students also argue that while each candidate could qualify from one region only, the result list shows that one candidate has been declared qualified from two to three different regions.
Following the protests, the RRB has postponed the second stage of the exam and threatened that students involved in destroying government property will be barred from the services.
The RRB notice said: “…the 2nd Stage CBT of CEN 01/2019 (NTPC) beginning 15th February 2022 and 1st Stage CBT of CEN RRC 01/2019 beginning 23rd February stands postponed.”
However, following the protests, the Ministry of Railways has created a high-powered committee to look into the grievances of the candidates. The ministry has given the candidates time up to 16 February to submit their concerns. The committee will submit its recommendations by 4 March.
This isn’t the first time that students have protested against the process. In September 2020 too, students had taken to Twitter after the RRB failed to provide admit cards for the registered candidates.
Issue takes political turn over unemployment
According to Ashwini Deshpande, professor of economics at Ashoka University, the protests are a sign of rising unemployment.
1.25 crore applications for 35,281 #IndianRailway jobs. That’s 354 applicants per job. For every person selected, 353 will not be. Not because of reservations but because there aren’t enough jobs. Even after short listing 7 lakhs, there’s 1 job/20 people #unemployment #createjobs
— Ashwini_Deshpande (@AshwDeshpande) January 27, 2022
Ashok Sinha, spokesperson for the Bihar unit of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), reportedly said that the delay in exams due to the lockdown led to an increase in the number of applicants. However, a job aspirant told NDTV that the government has been “winning elections” by claiming that 1.4 lakh jobs have been given.
#TrendingTonight | Railways job aspirant Shashi Bhushan on recent protests against railway board exams. pic.twitter.com/gN3mB2JXv1
— NDTV (@ndtv) January 26, 2022
In poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, the issue has now become political, with Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Akhiliesh Yadav tweeting in support of the students. He highlighted the alleged police brutality against students in Prayagraj, saying that this will become the cause for the BJP government’s “historic fall”.
इलाहाबाद में अपने रोज़गार के लिए हक़ की आवाज़ बुलंद करने वाले बेगुनाह छात्रों पर पुलिस द्वारा हिंसक प्रहार… शर्मनाक एवं घोर निंदनीय है।
भाजपा सरकार में छात्रों के साथ जो दुर्व्यवहार हुआ है, वो भाजपा के ऐतिहासिक पतन का कारण बनेगा।
सपा संघर्षशील छात्रों के साथ है! pic.twitter.com/ii7QyIXd3b
— Akhilesh Yadav (@yadavakhilesh) January 26, 2022
The Congress has also attacked the BJP government, with Rahul Gandhi expressing his support for the students. He claimed that the government’s policies are hurting the interests of the students. However, he added that he won’t stand for violent agitation.
#Students, आप देश की व अपने परिवार की उम्मीद हैं।
भाजपा सरकार की नीतियों के ख़िलाफ़, सत्य के पक्ष में मैं आपके साथ हूँ और रहूँगा लेकिन हिंसा हमारा रास्ता नहीं है।
अहिंसक विरोध से स्वतंत्रता ले सकते हैं तो अपना अधिकार क्यों नहीं? #NoFear #NoViolence
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) January 26, 2022
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)
Also read: Priyanka Gandhi Vadra condemns ‘repression’ of candidates for Rail NTPC, Level 1 exams