Pune: Govinda Bokare, a 27-year-old student who is preparing for the Maharashtra Public Service Commission (MPSC) examinations, has been waiting two years for the exam for the post of police sub-inspector (PSI). The state did not conduct the exam in 2015 and 2016.
Bokare, who graduated from a college in Marathwada in 2009 and won a gold medal in history in his post graduation, has appeared for the MPSC exams seven times without any luck. His parents, working on their five-acre farm in a drought-affected village, still make sure to send him Rs 7,000-8,000 per month to study at Pune.
He said, “I cannot be a farmer like my parents as it does not offer a secure future. The government has not filled vacancies for teachers and hence I began to study for the civil services. But even here there is the same problem – the government does not fill vacancies.”
He, along with 500 other students, participated in a rally at the collector’s office in Pune on February 8. The protestors had various demands, including that exams be conducted regularly. Rallies are being held till February 13 by students in over 13 cities, including Mumbai, Pune, Nashik, Aurangabad, Latur and Nagpur. Across the state, students have ten major demands, including that over 45,000 posts for Class I and II be filled, transparency in the examination process and so on.
The MPSC, an independent body, conducts state services exam to fill Class I and II gazetted posts (deputy collector, deputy superintendent of police and so on), as well as exams to fill PSI, sales tax inspector (STI) and assistant section officer (ASO) posts, among others. Every year, more than two lakh students appear for each exam. However, the number of posts for 2015 was 377, for 2016 it was 135, for 2017, 377 and for 2018, 69.
There is also no fixed timetable for when MPSC announces that they going to conduct exams, so students have no choice but to wait around and keep studying. In the last two years, no PSI exams have been announced. The state has also not opened up applications for the post of talathi (village accountant) in the last two years. Students are now demanding that the MPSC follow the Tamil Nadu pattern and announce exams six months in advance, and that the timetable for all exams, interviews and details on joining dates are announced in the same advertisements.
Vikas Neharkar, a student, said, “We keep waiting for the exams to be announced. We are always under unnecessary stress, [we don’t know] whether to concentrate on the state services exam or the PSI/STI/ASO exams and so on. When they don’t conduct exams, we lose years. Our age keeps increasing and thus our chances for appearing for the exams goes down.”
They also demanded that the MPSC’s civil services aptitude test follow the UPSC model. Sharad Chavan, a student, said, “Both MPSC and UPSC have two papers in entrance tests – civil services aptitude tests and general studies. The first questions based on comprehension, logical reasoning and mathematics, and the latter paper has questions on all subjects like history, geography and so on. But UPSC considers the general studies marks for the final selection, while CSAT marks are only used for qualification. But the MPSC selects candidates based on marks of both CSAT and general studies.”
He added, “Students like us with an arts background find it difficult to get good marks in the CSAT, as it requires maths, while students with engineering and science backgrounds get good marks. They have a better chance of getting selected, through no fault of our own. Once you have minimum 60% marks in CSAT, then your selection is based on only general studies in the UPSC exam. MPSC should follow this UPSC pattern.”
Vilas Kapade, who is from a small village in Nanded district, finished his BA in 2009 and has been in Pune for the last four years preparing for the MPSC exams. “When we don’t get posts after appearing for the exam, it is interpreted that we don’t study. But nobody knows the technical aspects, like the extremely poor ratio of posts to applicants, difficulties students from villages face while studying and so on. People from my village, including my parents, hope that I will become an officer. They keep asking me about my exams. A few think I don’t work hard. I avoid going home, or sometimes I go home but don’t roam around in the village as people keep asking. I feel ashamed to take money from home. But I don’t have an option. I worked as a security guard at an ATM centre but that is a distracton.”
The protestors also want the government to talathi posts through the MPSC. Sharad Chavan, participating in the rally, said, “Currently, district boards of each district, with direction from the respective collectors, conduct their own exams to fill posts. Due to the lack of transparency, posts are sold. So these posts should be filled through an MPSC exam conducted across the state.”
Students also point to an increasing number cases in which dummy candidates appear for exams. Therefore, student say that people should be allowed into an exam centre only after biometric attendance, and mobile jammers should be placed during the exam.
Avinash Dharmadhikari, a former IAS officer who offers guidance to MPSC students, said, “This is a serious issue and the government needs to look into this. Over 2.5-3 lakh students from across the state fill the forms for various exams conducted by the MPSC. This year, 69 posts are available and three lakh students have filled forms.”
He added, “Pune has become the centre where students come to prepare for civil service exams, and Pune must have over one lakh students. Can you imagine what they go through when exams are not conducted or posts are too little to have hopes?”
Despite several calls and messages, V.N. More, chairman, MPSC, did not respond. When this reporter called Pradip Kumar, secretary, MPSC, his personal assistant said he was in a long meeting.
Varsha Torgalkar is an independent journalist based in Pune.