It was in February this year that 33-year-old Adil read the notification regarding scrapping of the age relaxation clause for applicants taking the civil services examination 2020. He was shattered. Since then, he has been running from pillar to post along with other aspirants to raise his voice against what he terms as “grave injustice” meted out to the youth of Jammu and Kashmir.
Adil says that the age relaxation clause was meant to integrate into the mainstream and engage the youth who bore the brunt of conflict in the region for years. “They want us to join the mainstream but are closing the mainstream options for us,” he says. Adil hails from Srinagar and had two attempts left to crack the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), but now, he can’t. In absence of the age relaxation clause, Adil has crossed the age to appear in the examination.
The age relaxation clause, which was notified to have been scrapped in February 2020, was incorporated in 1995 for the domiciles of Jammu and Kashmir born between January 1, 1980 and December 31, 1989. The clause relaxed the upper age limit for such candidates from 32 to 37 years within which they can make six attempts to pass.
The special provision of age relaxation was meant to compensate for the years of insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir that resulted in migration, violence and turmoil across the state.
Notably, the age relaxation clause would have rescinded by default on December 31, 2026 as soon as the students born between 1980 and ‘89 crossed the age limit of 37 years.
In Jammu, Sakshi (name changed) has been actively raising her voice for the students affected by the withdrawal of the clause. In pre-Corona times, she was the one among several other students who protested against the notification. But now, protesting seems impossible to her.
“Corona has changed the dynamics. People are fearful to gather,” she sayd.
But that didn’t stop her. She, along with other 150 students, has launched a social media campaign named “Age Relaxation for J&K Youth in UPSC”.
The campaign underlines the demand to restore the age relaxation clause for the UPSC aspirants born between 1980 and ‘89.
“The aim of the campaign was to raise the issue so that it reaches the decision-makers. Many students have not yet utilised these provisions as they thought they have time and they wanted to attempt strategically. In this case, we can’t be sitting quiet. One has to make some noise,” she underlines.
Kanwal Singh, a student activist, who has been at the forefront of many student protests in Jammu, says that the plea of students have fallen onto deaf ears. According to Singh, a concerned student delegation from J&K also met with concerned authorities in New Delhi to apprise them about the consequences of the untimely scrapping of the clause. However, no step was taken.
Already burdened with burgeoning unemployment and low-speed internet, the scrapping of such provision has disgruntled the youth of Jammu and Kashmir. “Not even a single vacancy has been filled in last two years in government department. There is no private sector in J&K. 4G internet has been suspended. In these circumstances, such decisions will prove fatal for the unemployed youth of J&K,” says Kanwal.
Coaching institutes that have been preparing students for the examination termed the decision as the “last nail in the coffin”. One such institute in Jammu is Officers Academy. Its director Preeti says, “If I talk about my institute, the hard work of the students has gone into vain; especially students who live in faraway areas. The sudden scrapping of age relaxation has not only demotivated students but has also shattered their hopes, time and energy.”
The situation is similar in the region of Ladakh, which became a separate Union Territory last year. UPSC aspirants there have also expressed concern regarding the scrapping of the age-relaxation clause. Speaking to NewsClick, Ghulam Mohammad from Kargil said, “Ladakh has been equally disturbed by the insurgency and cross border violence. The scrapping of such provision has plunged the youth into a dark pit.”