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New Delhi: Vishal Langde has not visited his home in Gondia district of Maharashtra in the past 500 days. He is one amongst the several young men and women peacefully protesting against the SSC GD 2018 recruitment for constables in the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF).
“Diwali, Holi, aur sab tyohaar bhi sadko par hi nikal gaye, sir. Ghar se paisa nahi le rahe. Haath mein koi India ka flag dekhkar khaana khila deta hai. Aise hi chal raha hai. (Holi, Diwali and all other festivals went by on the streets. I am not taking money from my family. Some people give us food after seeing the Indian flag in our hands. That’s how we’re surviving),” Langade told The Wire.
In September 2020, Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai, while answering a question regarding vacant posts in the CAPF in the Rajya Sabha, had said that the Border Security Force (BSF) has the highest number of vacancies (28,926), followed by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) (26,506), the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) (23906), the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) (18,643), the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) (5,784) and the Assam Rifles (7,328).
In total, there are over one lakh vacant posts in the CAPF and the majority of these vacancies are in the grade of constable.
However, this time around, the SSC GD notification 2021 was released for just 25,271 vacancies (22,424 vacancies for male candidates and 2,847 for females) in the CAPF which is less than half the number of jobs offered in 2018 (60,210). Moreover, the selected candidates from 2018 who have not been offered an appointment letter questioned why they are not recruiting 4,295 candidates who had already qualified the exam. They also asked why it is only offering 25,000 jobs when over one lakh posts are vacant.
The SSC GD exam happens to be one of the largest recruitment schemes for constables in the paramilitary forces. According to SSC’s 2018-19 annual report, over 52 lakh candidates across India had applied for the exam.
Yadav also questioned the government offering reservation to the would-be retired Agniveers in the CAPF. “Whose employment will be affected if this is implemented? Ours. If there are over one lakh vacancies, then why is the government just hiring 25,000 people in the CAPF this time? As per the minister’s own reply, it is because of COVID-19 that the recruitment process was stalled. It also mentions that “majority of these vacancies are in the grade of constable,” said Yadav.
He is staying with 15 candidates at Delhi’s Gurudwara Sheeshganj. Everyday, they run from one politician to the other to raise their issue in the parliament. According to the students, it has been flagged in the parliament at least three times.
“I could not join the march [from Nagpur to Delhi] because of personal constraints but I am trying to raise this issue as much as I can on social media,” says Hitesh Kumar Rathod, a Dalit candidate who recently surpassed the age limit. “This dream will now remain a dream. I always dreamt of joining the army but I could not clear it. So, I prepared for CAPF but due to COVID-19, we got no relief. Now I get taunts from friends and relatives,” Hitesh lamented.
The year-long protest continues
Students from multiple states sat on a hunger strike for over 72 days at Samvidhan Chowk in Nagpur leading to several students getting hospitalised. Langde shared videos with The Wire of students carrying their sick comrades for tens of kilometres. They claim to have called off the Samvidhan Chowk protest after meetings and assurance from MP Ramdas Athawale and Nitin Gadkari who reportedly wrote to the Union home ministry to resolve the issue soon. However, the home ministry is yet to respond.
Some students alleged violence and threats by the police at Jantar Mantar last year to stop their peaceful protests. Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi had shared pictures of the protestors being allegedly manhandled by the police and called out the Centre for not giving them jobs.
छात्र-छात्राएं परीक्षा पास कर चुके हैं। पद खाली पड़े हैं।
लेकिन रोजगार मांगने पर SSC-GD के अभ्यर्थी छात्र-छात्राओं को लाठियां मिल रही हैं।
युवाओं को लाठियां मारने से नहीं, रोजगार देने से मजबूत भारत बनेगा। pic.twitter.com/RgnOUSTnHI
— Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (@priyankagandhi) August 19, 2021
Amit, a candidate from Chhattisgarh, says this job was his only shot to come out of abject poverty. “My father passed away due to brain haemorrhage the day my results came. We have mortgaged our land to survive the family.” When asked about his studies, Amit smiled and said, “Either I can study or my siblings. If I stop working who’ll feed the family?…My mother works in the fields.”
Seema Dhruv, another candidate from Chhattisgarh, explained how difficult it is for young women like her to be a part of this protest. She is amongst the several protestors who have been hospitalised twice because of the unhygienic living conditions. “Women don’t get proper washrooms on the way. We can’t just bathe anywhere. Periods make it even more difficult. Initially my family wanted me to come back and stop protesting but I can’t give up. Now they support my decision. “
In an order dated August 21, 2021, the Calcutta high court noted, “Be that as it may, at this stage, there is prima facie evidence that the names of the petitioners figured in a list prepared for consideration for the vacancies arising against the said advertisement dated 21st July…some protection is required to be given to the petitioners who have produced at least some evidence that a list published by the respondents contained their names.”
On behalf of the Government of India, it was submitted that none of the petitioners have secured the qualifying marks for which their names can be finally considered for giving appointment. The order by Justice Arindam Mukherjee further added that unless the petitioners are given protection, the writ petition may become redundant when it reaches the stage of final hearing after completion of affidavits, as by that time the vacancies declared against the advertisement dated July 21, 2018 may be filled up. The workers could not pursue the case because of lack of resources.
After over an year of protest, and the students are yet to hear back from the Ministry of Home affairs while in April 2022, the shortlist for SSC GD 2021 was announced. The matter was raised several times in the parliament regarding this examination.
Minister of state for home, Nityanand Rai, reportedly informed on April 25 that the remaining vacancies in SSC’s Constable GD exam (SSC GD Constable Recruitment 2018) have been merged with the 2021 examination.
आसमान आग बरसा रहा है और #SSCGD2018 के अभ्यर्थी नागपुर से दिल्ली पैदल चल कर आ रहे हैं।
इन कर्मठ युवाओं की जगह सड़क पर नहीं, केन्द्रीय सशस्त्र पुलिस बलों के दफ्तर में हैं।
कोई उपकार मत करिए, इन्हें बस इनका हक, इनका रोजगार दे दीजिए।
इनके त्याग और तपस्या की अब और परीक्षा मत लीजिए। pic.twitter.com/lt5885K4UC
— Varun Gandhi (@varungandhi80) June 10, 2022
Many students complain that they have crossed the age limit and so they couldn’t reapply for any of these exams. With support from many politicians, the hopeful candidates plan to keep the protests going.