January 28, 2022
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we figure out what prompted candidates appearing for Railways’ recruitment process to burn a train. We also look at the establishment of a new ‘Cow Centre’ in Delhi University, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Protests over the Railways’ Recruitment Process
There’s nothing quite as universally stress-inducing as the existential dread attached to a job search and the prospect of change. According to the internet’s favourite fearmonger WebMD, losing a job and moving are two of the most stressful things a person can experience. And that’s only coming after death, illness and divorce. So, you would think that this readily available fact would generally lead to more candidate friendly recruitment processes, right?
Well, the candidates applying for vacancies at the Indian Railways thought so too. What they expected to be a straightforward and efficient process quickly disintegrated into a pool of wishful thinking. The aspirants have now begun protesting for better treatment. The Railways, on the other hand, believe that every change made was done so legally and transparently. So what’s actually going on?
The past couple of days has been quite eventful for our officials. While New Delhi’s Rajpath was full of dignitaries and Republic Day tableaux, the state of Bihar was left to deal with a burning train. After three days of protests, agitated protesters stormed Gaya Junction and set fire to the Bhabhua-Patna InterCity Express. Fortunately, nobody was hurt.
Uttar Pradesh had its own set of problems to deal with as well. The UP police managed to arrest two protesters. They even filed FIRs against 1,000 unidentifiable people for rioting and blocking train tracks. While clashes between the police and protesters in both states have turned violent, six police personnel from UP were suspended for their unnecessary use of force on Tuesday.
So what’s with the protests anyway? The whole thing comes down to the Railways’ recruitment exam. Before, the initial Computer-Based Test (CBT) for their Non-Technical Popular Categories (NTPC) happened in one go. This time, the CBT has been split into two phases – the CBT-1 and CBT-2 to accommodate more people. Thus, the number of shortlisted candidates for the CBT-1 has been increased to around 7 lakh.
The CBT-1 was already subject to online protests from candidates before this. The test was taken from December 2020 to July 2021, and test-takers were urging the government to expedite the recruitment process. But after the results of the CBT-1 were released on 14 January 2022, the actual number of applicants shortlisted amounted to 3.84 lakh. Not 7 lakh as promised. This discrepancy is what pushed aspirants over their limits.
As of now, the Railways has constituted a five-member committee, the Inquiry Committee, that will look into the results of the first phase and clear out any discrepancies. The CBT-2 was supposed to happen in February, but that too has been postponed. The students involved in the vandalism and alleged rioting will also be disqualified and barred from the exam for life.
A long and unfair process
For a while now, recruitment exams in India have been under fire for their unnecessarily laborious processes. Considering that these exams happen in more competitive environments, the slightest mismanagement can uproot several years worth of work on the aspiring candidates’ end. For the Railways, the whole exam process has been in progress since 2019. This was when the announcement for the CBT exams was made. After a delayed exam and delayed results, a significant drop in the number of candidates selected for the second phase is the last thing anyone expected.
Coming to the CBT, this test is used to sift through applicants for NTPC. This includes the posts of clerks, typists, timekeepers, goods guards, etc. This year, the Indian Railways said that the number of shortlisted candidates will be 20 times that of the vacancies available. Given there are 35,281 vacancies that the CBT tests for, the total number of shortlisted candidates should have been over 7 lakh. Now, the protesters claim that the same names appear in several categories. This means that despite this attempt at inclusivity, only 3.84 lakh applicants passed the CBT-1.
Another point the angry aspirants bring up is that this new system tends to favour those with higher qualifications, even for posts that don’t require it. Since the CBT tests for vacancies are available across six pay grades, i.e. Level 1 to Level 6. While the minimum qualification for a Level 2 post is a high school diploma, a Level 6 post needs a graduation degree. Consider this, a person with a college degree applies for both Level 2 and Level 6 jobs. The chances of them getting both jobs is higher than a person with just a high school diploma. Thus, becoming a problem for candidates applying for lower-level vacancies.
Both legal and transparent
Considering the Indian Railways is one of the world’s largest employers with over 12 lakh people employed, they take recruitment seriously. Addressing the delays, they have mentioned that the CBT-1 was supposed to take place in September 2019 instead of December 2020. But, like most other things that got pushed around in the past two years, the pandemic heavily affected its planned schedule.
About the two phases of the CBT, representatives from the Railways have already explained their side of the story. In 2019, when the 35,000 posts were advertised, they received more than 12.5 lakh applications for the test. In fact, the lower-level posts received more applications. So, to give everyone a fair shot, the only viable option was to split the CBT into 2 phases.
When it comes to claims about the process favouring candidates with higher qualifications, Railways has made it clear that the recruitment process is not as simple as it seems. A person shortlisted in different categories in the CBT results still has to perform well in the later rounds to secure their job. In fact, the final selection round called “document verification” starts with the higher-level posts first. So, a person included in the list for a Level 6 post will automatically not be eligible for a Level 5 or lower post. Of course, a person can opt for a lower-level job, but that seems highly unlikely.
Even when it comes to these protests, the Railways are ready to hear dissenters. They aren’t trying to squash negative feedback. They have consistently used social media to explain all their rules and conditions regarding screening and employment. They even post answered papers from the exams for an added level of transparency. Right now, the Inquiry Committee will also remain open to objections and suggestions from candidates till 16 February.
What’s your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) The protests over the Indian Railways’ recruitment process is justified.
b) The protests over the Indian Railways’ recruitment process is not justified.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
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🏴 STATE OF THE STATES
DU sets up Cow Centre (Delhi) – The Students’ Federation of India (SFI) has alleged that Delhi University’s Hansraj College has set up cow protection and research centre. It further said the centre has been set up at a site allotted for the women’s hostel. Meanwhile, the college principal rejected the allegation and said that the land experts who examined the land have certified that the site is not fit for any building construction.
Why it matters: Hansraj is a DAV Trust College that has Arya Samaj as its base. Accordingly, the college conducts a havan on the first day of the month for teaching and non-teaching staff members and students. Also, this act of installing a cow shed inside the college premises might disrupt religious harmony. The SFI also stated, “We find it disgusting that our college administration prioritises the ‘protection and promotion’ of cows instead of struggling female students whose interests are being sidelined for such an absurd decision.”
Andhra to get 13 new districts (Andhra Pradesh) – Governor Biswabhusan Harichandan in his recent Republic-day address announced that the State Government has decided to carve 13 more districts. Of which, 2 districts are exclusively for the tribal population. These new districts, along with the existing 13 districts, together will make 26 districts in the state. The draft notifications and other procedures are being fast-tracked. The Governor further said the new districts will come into place by Ugadi (Telugu New Year).
Why it matters: The YSR government had made an election promise during the 2019 polls on re-organising the districts. But since there was a census operation underway and the centre’s ban on redrawing the geographical boundaries in place, the process was delayed. Also, since the state government employees are protesting against the government’s order on the pay revision, this move might affect the employees further. Meanwhile, two days ago, hundreds of employees and teachers marched on streets across the state, agitating against the revised pay.
Miram Taron returns home (Arunachal Pradesh) – On January 9th, two teens were allegedly captured by the PLA (People’s Liberation Army), when they tried to cross the Tsangpo river. While one managed to escape, another teen, named Miram Taron was captured by the PLA. The Indian Army contacted the PLA through a hotline and they responded to return the teen after a week, citing bad weather conditions. The missing teen was handed over to the Indian Army yesterday.
Why it matters: This is not the first time the PLA has abducted Indian teens. Earlier, in September 2020, the PLA troops had abducted five youths from near the McMohan Line in Arunachal Pradesh. They were released a week later. In March 2020, a 21-year-old man was abducted and was released a month later. With reports of China establishing villages near the Indian borders and military level talks on stand-off still ongoing, these abduction episodes are to be interrogated.
Maoists trigger blast on railway track (Jharkhand) – The Maoists had called for a 24-hour bandh in Jharkhand. Following this, the rail track near Giridih district was damaged by a blast that was executed by the Maoists. Several train services including Howrah-New Delhi were delayed by more than 6 hours. The services were hit during the wee hours and were restored only in the morning.
Why it matters: The Bandh was called to protest against the arrest of their leader Prashant Bose alias Kishan Da. Prashant Bose and his wife were arrested last year. He was a wanted criminal in many cases and carried a reward of ₹1 crore on his head, during the time of his arrest.
Kidney scam (Gujarat) – The kidney scam that shook the entire nation five years ago, has gone in vain after the court acquitted the accused due to lack of evidence. The scam came to light when one Amirmiya Malek of Petlad approached the police claiming that he and a few other fellow villagers were coerced or lured and their kidneys were removed without their consent. During the investigation, nearly 39 witnesses and 10 victims were produced against 5 accused, in the court. However, due to lack of evidence and many victims turning hostile, the accused were acquitted 2 weeks ago.
Why it matters: Organ stealing has been prevalent in the country. The sleuths have successfully unearthed many illegal organ scandals. The recent one is the cybercrime sleuths arresting a Nigerian national, in Faridabad. He lured people to sell their kidneys for four crores, through online advertisements. He along with his accomplices designed fake hospital websites and managed to get ₹14.78 lakh from a businessman. The Nigerian was arrested last September.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
₹275 – Covaxin and Covishield will now be available in the regular market as the Drug Controller General of India has given conditional market approval to these two Covid vaccines on Thursday. The Centre is planning to cap the price of Covishield and Covaxin at ₹275 per dose.