Centre Ignores Fast-Unto-Death Against Delay in Recruitment for Paramilitary Constables
Keshav Yadav is one of the 100 candidates who had taken the
exam for the recruitment of Staff Selection Commission General Duty (SSC GD) constables in the paramilitary forces and is on a fast-unto-death against the inordinate delay in filling the posts at Samvidhan Chowk, in Nagpur, Maharashtra, for the last 27 days. The protest, first held in Maharashtra, was joined by candidates from across the country.
“We started with protests, wrote letters to the government, met with the authorities and even conducted a large-scale social media campaign—but it was in vain. After four years of pleading and protesting, we were left with no choice but to begin a fast-unto-death,” said Yadav. The recent Twitter campaign of the aspirants trended on top with 157K tweets.
In a notification issued in 2018, the Centre had announced recruitment for 60,201 SSC GD constable posts in the 18-23 age group. Contrary to the rule of completing any government recruitment within nine months, the recruitment for constables—in NIA, SSF, CISF, CRPF, BSF, ITBP, SSB, and Assam Rifles—dragged on for three years. The written exam and physical endurance tests were conducted in February and August 2019 respectively and the medical examination in 2020. The government took another year to release the merit list.
Due to the excessive delay in recruitment, 30% of the qualified candidates did not join either after clearing other exams or joining somewhere else. Moreover, several of the candidates who waited for the merit list are now overaged. On February 9, around 1,200 SSC GD constable exam candidates from across the country protested in the national capital.
The protesting candidates have demanded that the ones who are medically fit should be recruited for the vacant posts. Nityanand Rai, minister of state for home affairs, had even questioned the Centre in Parliament regarding 1,27,000 vacancies in the paramilitary. Balubhau Narayanrao Dhanorkar, the Congress Lok Sabha member from Chandrapur, too had raised the issue in Parliament.
In one of the letters written to the home ministry, the candidates alleged that the government initially cited COVID-19 as the reason for the delay and then came up with further excuses to ignore them. According to the candidates, they had been protesting on the streets of Delhi for 11 months but received either vague assurances or were lathi-charged by the police.
Some of the protesters in Nagpur who had not eaten for 24 days were twice hospitalised. “I have been surviving only on fluids—mostly water. We tried contacting several officials but it was futile. We had no option but to start a fast-unto-death after protesting on the streets for 14 months and facing police brutality,” said Krishna, a candidate from Agra who reached Nagpur a week ago.
When asked whether the government would consider their demand, Krishna said, “I do not know what to do next if this does not move the government. A fast-unto-death is the last resort.”
Arti, who is from Maharashtra and had been fasting for 26 days, was twice hospitalised. “My father is a farmer and does not earn much. I was hoping for a job to serve the nation. But it seems unlikely considering the government’s attitude. Only if some of the protesters die, the others could get jobs. My parents are unaware of my deteriorating health,” she said.
Despite the heat and their deteriorating health, the protesters are unfazed. Vishal Langde, from Gondia, Maharashtra, has been leading the protest from the beginning. “I am surviving somehow. We have been on a fast-unto-death since March 4. The government, the media and the public know who is at fault but are silent,” a pale Langde said when asked about his health.
Expressing disappointment with the Centre, Langde said, “We are fasting unto death to serve the country. Several government representatives asked us to protest without fasting unto death. The government’s attitude is inexplicable—when we protest, the government ignores us or merely gives us verbal assurances; if we start a fast-unto-death, it asks us to protest. It never provides a written assurance or, at least, a brief timeline as to when the vacancies will be filled.”
Explaining how the candidates are managing to continue the protest, Langde said, “Initially, we begged people to help fund our protest. Subsequently, we sold tea and bananas and worked as daily wagers to continue the protest and meet the medical expenses. The government says it respects soldiers, who defend the country. We too are willing to serve the country but have not been recruited for the vacant posts. Why this double standard?”
In December 2021, when the candidates were protesting at Jantar Mantar, the Centre assured them that the home ministry would come up with a solution in 45 days. When no action was taken, they marched from Rajiv Chowk metro station to Jantar Mantar.
When the candidates protested in front of the house of roads and transport minister Nitin Gadkari in Nagpur, his personal assistant (PA) asked them to end the fast-unto-death, one of the protesters Sachin Langde said. “When we asked for concrete solutions, he turned us down,” Langde said alleging that he even threatened the candidates.
When the protesters asked the PA for his contact details so that this writer could get his quote, he allegedly said that he won’t do anything for them if they talked to the media. The writer tried to contact Gadkari’s Delhi and Nagpur offices but received no response.
Hrishi Raj Anand is a freelance journalist from Jharkhand working on the country’s rural, tribal and policy issues
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