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New Delhi: Protests continue in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar against the Railway Recruitment Boards’ Non-Technical Popular Categories exam of 2021.
On January 26, the Railways announced that it would suspend the exam, a day after issuing an ultimatum to protesting aspirants and threatening them with a lifetime ban on employment with the Railways.
The candidates are opposing the Railways’ decision to hold the exam in two stages, claiming the second stage for final selection tantamount to “cheating” those who appeared and cleared the first stage of the Railways’ Non-Technical Popular Categories (NTPC) for computer-based test released on January 15.
Around 1.25 crore candidates had applied for the exams that had advertised over 35,000 posts from levels 2 to 6. It is being alleged that the exam is designed to favour those with a higher qualification, even for jobs that require lesser qualification.
“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,” Union railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said at a press conference.
The Uttar Pradesh Police arrested two people, Pradeep Yadav and Mukesh Yadav, and lodged a case against around 1,000 unidentified persons under 13 sections of the Indian Penal Code.
Six policemen in Allahabad were also suspended with immediate effect for using excessive force during protests on January 25.
Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Ajay Kumar said a video of the incident had surfaced on social media, in which some policemen were seen using unnecessary force. Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had condemned the use of force against job aspirants.
गिरफ्तार किए गए छात्रों को रिहा किया जाए।
विरोध प्रदर्शन करने के चलते उनको नौकरी से प्रतिबंधित करने वाला आदेश वापस लिया जाए।
प्रदर्शन करने वाले छात्र-छात्राओं से मेरी अपील है कि सत्याग्रह में बहुत ताकत होती है। शांतिपूर्ण ढंग से सत्याग्रह के मार्ग पर चलते रहिए। 2/2
— Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (@priyankagandhi) January 26, 2022
The Samajwadi Party also took to Twitter over this.
भाजपा सरकार में जब-जब युवाओं ने मांगी नौकरी, तब-तब मिली लाठियों की बौछार !
प्रयागराज में रेलवे भर्ती परीक्षा के अभ्यर्थियों पर लाठीचार्ज की खबर, तस्वीरों से पटा पड़ा अखबार।
युवाओं का इंकलाब होगा, यूपी में बदलाव होगा। pic.twitter.com/wUEPeXhFYx
— Samajwadi Party (@samajwadiparty) January 26, 2022
A large number of students had gathered to protest on the railway track but were chased down by police. During this, some students allegedly pelted policemen with stones. In retaliation, as has been caught on video, police allegedly stormed a nearby hostel and meted out brutal treatment to the residents there.
“They entered our rooms after breaking the doors. Innocent students were beaten up and abused,” a student told Indian Express.
Watch how the future of India ie students being beaten up by the UP Police brutally inside hostel at Allahabad. Actually the crime is that they were in solidarity with the students of Bihar protesting against the faulty & biased RRB NTPC exams.#JusticeForStudents #RRBNTPC_Scam pic.twitter.com/lNvLrvya7W
— Sumit (@sumitktr2) January 25, 2022
The policemen have been identified as Rakesh Bharti, sub-inspectors Shailendra Yadav and Kapil Kumar Chahal and constables Mohammad Arif, Achhe Lal and Durvesh Kumar.
Police are also searching for one Rajesh Sachin who they have claimed made “provocative remarks” on social media. PTI quoted a senior police official as having said that he took “money from some political parties” to create unrest.
The Prayagraj police will not take action against any innocent person, the SSP reportedly told PTI.
Meanwhile, Congress candidate from Allahabad, Anugrah Narayan Singh, condemned police action against students.
Singh said unemployed youth are demanding their rights and that is not a crime.
“Around 1.24 lakh students had applied for railway jobs under Group D since March, 2019, he said. The government suspended recruitment for three years and in such a situation, their anger is justified,” the Congress leader said.
Bihar, home to a majority of the job aspirants, saw protests for the third day in a row. A crowd stormed the Gaya Junction and set on fire the Bhabhua-Patna InterCity Express. Nobody was injured.
East Central Railway CPRO Rajesh Kumar told PTI, “The rakes were empty and parked inside the yard when miscreants set a coach on fire. It has not resulted in disruption of rail traffic.”
In Sitamarhi, police fired in the air to disperse the demonstrators at the railway station. Protests were also reported from Patna, Nawada, Muzaffarpur, Buxar and Bhojpur districts.
In an attempt to placate the candidates, railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said his ministry is in touch with chief ministers and the issue is being handled “sensitively”.
“I urge the candidates to put forth their grievances formally. Our intention is to resolve this issue quickly. A committee has been formed and it will examine representations by the candidates,” he said.
Vaishnaw said all Railway Recruitment Board chairpersons have been asked to listen to the concerns of candidates and send them to the panel.
“The employment notification has legal sanctity. For those with grievances, we have to find a solution and deal with sensitivity. We cannot legally bar graduates from applying to posts which require 10+2 qualification,” he added.
Of the total vacancies, 24,281 are open to graduates and 11,000 for under-graduates. These posts, segregated in groups based on 7th CPC pay-scale levels from two to six, include that of train assistants, guards, junior clerks, timekeepers and station masters.
For a Level 2 job, the starting pay is about Rs 19,000 and one requires to be a Class 12 pass, while for a level six post like station master, with a starting pay of about Rs 35,000, graduation is a must.
Railways said shortlisting of candidates has been done separately for each level based on options exercised and educational qualification.
“For second stage computer-based test of each level, candidates have been called 20 times the community-wise vacancies notified against each RRB,” the minister said.
Based on merit obtained in the second stage CBT, candidates will be shortlisted for the third stage in which eight times the number of vacancies will be called. The final result will contain a unique list of 35,281 notified vacancies and no one will be appointed against more than one post.
The CBT 2 exam, for which 7 lakh candidates have been shortlisted, was scheduled for February 14 and 18. The tests now stand suspended.
(With PTI inputs)