‘Lok Aayog or Leak Aayog?’, Protesting Students in Uttarakhand Remain Irate
The applicants of Uttarakhand civil service examinations – who were protesting against paper leaks and the alleged involvement of government authorities – were lathi-charged on Wednesday. Thirteen protesters were named in the FIR and have been arrested under non-bailable offences.
The UKPSC and UKSSSC applicants were protesting at Gandhi Park in Dehradun where the police reportedly arrived late at night and asked the former to vacate the place.
At around 11.30 pm, when the students did not leave, the authorities reportedly forced them to leave the park. Girls were allegedly pulled and manhandled by male constables. One of the girls spoke with NewsClick and said, “We had assembled to discuss our way forward. There were not even many people. The policemen who came to drag us out were drunk.”
The girls allege that the police did not stop there. When the students asked them to get a female constable and questioned why they were being detained so late in the night, the policemen misbehaved even more. “When I confronted them for being drunk, one of them came really close to my face and said who was to decide if he was drunk or not?” she added.
The protesters, including girls, were taken to the faraway Ekta Vihar where students protesting against the irrigation vacancies were also taken last year. The students said that the space did not even have washrooms or basic necessities and was covered in dirt.
A day later, however, students assembled near the same Gandhi Park to continue their protest A protest was underway at Ghanta Ghar in Dehradun as well
Uttarakhand has recently witnessed many incidents of paper leaks.
In the past year, the question papers for exams conducted by UKPSC and UKSSSC were leaked; this was the case also for the recruitment of Pravakta, Junior Engineer, Assistant Engineer, Lekhpal, and Patwari. In view of the consistent paper leaks and fraudulent practices within the recruitment process, the Uttarakhand government in October 2022 had designated a committee to find solutions.
The responsibility to hold the exam for the posts of junior and assistant engineers (JEs and AEs respectively) among others was transferred from UKSSC and given to UKPSC. However, this year in January, the paper was again leaked. And once again, it was found that a Section Officer of the Aayog was responsible for the leak. When the Special Task Force (STF) caught the accused, Sanjeev Chaturvedi, he reportedly narrated that this was not the first time he had been involved in a paper leak, but it had been a four-year-long affair.
As per the STF, for the JE exam, three students had bought the paper and appeared for the exam. For the AE exam, five applicants had done the same. For the other exams, there is no specific number quoted yet, but the investigation is purportedly underway. This was the second time that a Section Officer – one of the most important posts when it comes to recruitment – was involved in a paper leak.
Against this backdrop, Chief Minister Pushkar Dhami announced the Anti-Copy Ordinance, which would mean life imprisonment and also a fine of up to Rs 10 crores for those involved in the paper leaks.
“It is our future that they are playing with. We prepare with all our hearts. These are the vacancies that are released after a long wait of six-seven years. The last time a UKPSC vacancy came out was in 2015. And now, the paper is leaked,” said Shanu, a protester and an applicant.
The protesters said that they could see the number of police personnel at the protest site increase. Hundreds of protesters had blocked the roads between the Clock Tower and Rajpur Road. When the students did not leave and clear the road, the police allegedly started to lathi-charge them, and several students were reportedly injured. “One of the boys whose head was bleeding was not even a part of the protest. He had gone there for some other work and fell prey to the police’s violent actions,” claimed Shanu.
NewsClick spoke with Himanshu, the state general secretary of the Students’ Federation of India. He said, “We were all peacefully protesting under the banner of Berozgar Yuva Sangh. Many people’s movements and other parties had extended their support to them. But it was not just us who were there. Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) people were also walking the same path, and we think they were the ones who pelted stones at the police and the blame fell upon us.”
One of the protesters who were present at the site, however, refuted this claim. He said that those who stood for the cause were also the ones who pelted stones. The students did not pay heed to the appeals to remain non-violent.
The students who have been protesting have three demands: the release of all the leaders and fellow protesters who were arrested, a CBI Enquiry into the paper leaks and halting exams until the government authorities gain the trust of students.
Around 100 students have continued the protest at Shaheed Park after the arrests while the arrested students were not released by the time this report was published.
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