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Job Aspirants in UP are in a Downward Spiral With No Recovery in Sight

The unemployed youth in the state that prepare for many state and central exams to get jobs are stuck in a vicious cycle, surrounded by issues like exam delays, paper leaks, late recruitment, etc.
Job Aspirants in UP are in a Downward Spiral With No Recovery in Sight

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In India, getting a government job is considered a way of ensuring a secure life. Millions of aspirants appear for several exams conducted by the state and central governments. This obsession with government jobs directly results from high unemployment in India, which often leads to bizarre scenarios. In 2019, 1.26 crore candidates had applied for around 35,000 vacancies announced by the Railway Recruitment Board (RRB). Gopal Yadav, who is also preparing for these exams, narrates his plight. "In the hope of sarkari naukri (government job), we prepare in difficult conditions. I left my village to go to a place like Delhi for preparation, totally dependent on my parents," Yadav said. He further complains that he has to pay so many bills like hostel charges, coaching charges, etc., all in vain.

"The commission which conducts examinations always delays the exams for one reason or the other, and many corruption charges surface against them as well. Then later, exams get cancelled. Years of our efforts are wasted, and we return to our villages barehanded," Yadav said. Like Yadav, most aspirants who prepare for the government exams come from rural and agricultural backgrounds.

To sympathise with the plight of students, one can recall what happened in the currently trending fiasco around the RRB exams for Non-Technical Popular Category (NTPC). Registration for this exam began in March 2019. But the exam was never conducted till the students took to Twitter to protest against the government. It was only by August 2021 that the Tier-1 exam was conducted. Next, as if it was routine, the students took to another Twitter campaign demanding a declaration of the results. Bunty, who appeared in the exam, said that the government's interest is to lure the aspirants by releasing job notifications when elections are near.

"If you see, the government released job notifications just before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, in March 2019. Our exams are just 'vote politics' for them," Bunty said, adding that "the actual aim of the government is to privatise railways. The 35,000 vacancies we heard about were only election-related vacancies. They are never going to recruit people to fill them."

On January 15, 2022, when results were finally announced, students were not satisfied. The RRB promised to pass at least 7 lakh students from the first round of exams to the second, but only 3 lakh students were selected; a massive wave of protest started in parts of Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Bihar, which we are witnessing today. In UP, protests have been reported in Banaras Hindu University. Students were lathicharged by the police and removed from the site duly. In Allahabad, a shocking instance shows the brutality of the police against students as their hostels were raided on account of being part of the protests.

In a separate but widely regarded CGL Exam (Combined Graduate Level) of the Staff Selection Commission (SSC), aspirants have been furious over the results and recruitment process. It is a similar ordeal to RRB-NTPC, but further long-drawn. Shiv Kumar, who had been preparing for SSC-CGL for almost the past seven years, burst into tears while narrating his plight.

"It's not my fault. Due to SSC's inappropriate normalisation in marking, my marks were reduced to 100 from 150," Shiv Kumar said, referring to the discrepancies in the marking system of the SSC exams. Since SSC exams are conducted in many shifts over 10-12 days, the difficulty level of each exam varies from the other. Some shifts of the exams are easier than the others. To balance the difficulty levels, marks are 'normalised', so the student's actual score is reduced or increased to match the general overall scores of all the students. Shiv Kumar and many other students say that the normalisation system is unfair, and they fail to get recruited due to it.

"We missed the mark required to pass. Many of my friends have faced this problem for years," Shiv Kumar laments.

Like Shiv Kumar, many aspirants have left their houses; they take all expenses like hostel rent, coaching fees, and mess charges from their parents. Kishan Kumar, another SSC aspirant, returned from Prayagraj to Gazipur after preparing for five years for this exam.

"How can we vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government who is so indifferent to the students," Kishore Kumar said, adding that "the central government since Narendra Modi became the PM, has been stepping on the aspirations of the students. There are so many vacancies that they do not conduct exams for because they are bent towards privatisation."

Kishan Kumar hasn't cleared the exam and seemed to be completely hopeless. He points to a vicious cycle that summarises the plight of aspirants in UP quite well.

"It is going to take 7-8 years to complete the process of exams. It has now become a norm. First, we have to appear in the exam; then, we must mobilise a Twitter campaign asking for the result declaration. Then we protest on the streets for our recruitment while police beat and arrest us. All this takes so much of our time," said Kishan Kumar.

In 2017, in protest against alleged cheating and paper leak of the SSC-CGL exam conducted online, a mass movement of students happened in Delhi. It was alleged that many of the Delhi and Uttar Pradesh examination centres were helping students cheat by taking bribes. This was done by 'remote accessing' the systems during the online exam. It turned out to be true after a police investigation, and the accused were held by the police in 2018.

"After the protests, we were expecting some reforms in SSC, but nothing has changed. All problems are still there," said Dev Mishra, an SSC aspirant, adding that "the only way to bring change into this system is to resist this government by not voting for them."

Hashtags like #ModiRozgarDo, #SpeakUPForSSCRailwayStudents, #StudentsLivesMatter has become common for the past few years. It seems to have become the sole resort students can take. With over five million tweets, #ModiRozgarDo trended at No.1 on Twitter on February 25 last year, as students complained that the government isn't listening to them.

Anand Kumar from Prayagraj, UP, who quit a private job to attempt a government job, says he has wasted five precious years of his life and is still sitting idle with no job in hand.

"I am 32; no private company would be interested in rehiring me as I have crossed 30," Anand Kumar said.

He points to the 'gamble' of aspiring for government jobs in the present times.

"Hard work isn't enough. Mistakes of the government and the commissions which conduct the examinations affect the future of aspirants. You will have to pay the price of the mistakes and corruption in exams with your future," Anand Kumar said.

Rahul Sonkar, another government job aspirant who appeared in UPSI (UP Police Sub-Inspector) exam, conducted by UPPRPB (Uttar Pradesh Police Recruitment and Promotion Board) in 2016, is still waiting to get recruited.

"It is now 2022. Even after clearing the exam, our recruitment has not happened."

The exams were conducted on 3,500 vacancies, but even such a small number of vacancies remain to be filled. The absurdity of this exam is that many students who appeared in 2016 for the exam have crossed the age limit to be recruited, which is 28 years. The only thing left to say for Sonkar was to condemn the government for its irresponsibility regarding this exam.

"It's been six years. We will never vote for the Yogi government," he noted.

And the above are just a few of the more common exams that kindle the aspirations of the youth of UP. SSC, Railways and a dozen other state services exams have been embroiled in similar controversies in UP, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan.

With massive unemployment and ambiguity of government employment due to such issues surrounding these exams, the aspirations of many seem to be going down a spiral, with no recovery in sight.

The writers are freelance journalists.

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