After months of hard work and sleepless nights, candidates who appeared and were preparing to appear in a job test conducted by the Staff Selection Commission (SSC) were shocked when the news of alleged leak of a question paper reached them. Screenshots of a question paper of Combined Graduate Level (Tier-II) examinations, along with answers, were found circulating on social media. There were also report of mass copying. The SSC has subsequently cancelled the exam held on February 21, 2018. Not only this, there has been a delay in the conduct of the examinations without any visible reasons. The commission has said that this exam will be re-conducted on March 9. The SSC holds examination for various categories, the scam has been exposed only in the CGL (Combined Graduate Level Exam) and there is also news of discrepancies in MTS (Multi-Tasking Service) as well.
Mental Trauma of Youths
This scam and other scams of these kind force lakhs of job aspirants to undergo traumatic mental torture after years of hard work without any fault at their end. This scam has affected the efforts and hard work of lakhs of the students who appeared this year for nearly 9,372 vacancies to be filled under the SSC CGL Tier II exam that were held between February 17 and February 22 in 206 examination centres. For them it was a direct loss of months of hard work and money spent on their preparations. In a scenario when unemployment is at alltime high in India and there are a very few new job opportunities, these SSC exams become very important for the aspirants, and students plans for years to appear in these exams. There are various coaching hubs throughout India where lakhs of the aspirants are living in difficult conditions to qualify these examinations in hope of securing a stable government job. These examinations are the only hope of students from lower income sections and from the marginalized sections as other tests such as the UPSC Civil Services demand more monetary and time inputs. So, these examinations which recruit people for the posts of lower division clerks, stenographers of the central secretariat and equivalent grades of Indian Foreign Service, central excise inspectors, income tax inspectors, and sub-inspectors in the CBI and central police organisations become their obvious choice.
Under these condition students were forced to raise their voice and go for an indefinite protest in front of the Staff Selection Commission (SSC) headquarters at Lodhi Road in New Delhi since February 27. This was a spontaneous call by a few aspirants in Delhi but was joined in massive numbers by others. Similar kinds of protests are being organised in various parts of the country. Students are determined for their demand for a CBI inquiry into the scam and other discrepancies in SSC examinations. Nobody has estimated the impact and effectiveness of these protests. Initially, as usual most of the media houses also ignored but the kind of mobilisation and intensity of the protests compelled them to broadcast the news. It became a national issue very soon. Leaders of the most of the political parties were also forced to speak on this issue. Recently, Anna Hazare also joined the movement.
Unemployment is Real Cause of This Anger
This also exposes the hollow claims of the BJP of creating two crore jobs every year when the youths are reeling under joblessness, with price rise and large-scale corruption further marginalising them. The anger shown by the students and youths is more than the reason of scam only. In fact, it is the general anger and anguish of unemployed youths of the country whose future is in dark due to the anti-people policies of the central government. India has a demographic dividend of a large number of youth population as boasted by our political leadership at various national and international platforms. This youth population is a potential workforce for building of nation which needs proper training and employment. But policies of our successive central governments and most of the state governments are failing to generate new job opportunities. After the anti-people decisions such as demonetisation and GST, the private sector is also shrinking and existing employees are losing their jobs. Much talked-about IT industry is continuously retrenching its employees. The central government has decided to abolish the posts lying vacant for the last five years. Due to these policies, employment opportunities are continuously shrinking both in private and public sector, resulting in more uncertain future and resentment among the youth.
This SSC scam has acted as a stimulus to ignite the anger of the students and youths which is resulting in massive, consistent and aggressive struggle. While the central demand of the agitators in front of the SSC headquarters is focused on a CBI inquiry but the ongoing struggle is now also discussing issues of general employment and corruption in other recruitment processes also.
Outsourcing of Exam Process & Corruption
There is a growing trend and shift in the policy in the mechanism of conducting various examinations. Most of the examination processes are being outsourced to private agencies. SSC has given contract to private vendor SIFY to conduct examinations and all the private cyber cafes which operate on SIFY network are the centres for the examination. These cyber cafés are easily accessible to everyone and hence can easily be hacked as well. The screenshots which have come out in the public domain clearly show a taskbar below which is an indication that screenshots have been taken from a public computer. There is a demand for the immediate withdrawal of license given to SIFY for conduct of SSC examinations. There can be shortcoming in the government sector but it cannot be replaced by private when it comes to question of credibility.
Stubborn Attitude Of GOVT & SSC
It is mere apathy and insensitivity on the part of SSC and the Government of India that while all the government ministers and officials were busy to celebrate Holi and extending greetings to nation, nobody bothered about these students who were there in front of the SSC headquarters to protect their future. In fact, SSC still is not ready to accept that there is any scam. It is reflected by official statement of SSC, "The commission has received a few screenshots in the afternoon of 23.2.2018 of quantitative ability (Paper-1) apparently taken on 21.2.2018 at around12.30 pm belonging to a candidate…(roll number 2201281955). These snapshots are being circulated after about 48 hours of completion of the CGLE (Tier-II) Examination, 2017 and appear to be manipulated and would have no significance on the sanctity of the examination. Earlier also, at around 10.15 am on 21.2.2018, the commission received an information that some of the answer keys of Paper I, to be held at 10.30 am on that day of the examination, were being circulated on the social media/emails. The commission investigated into the matter and found that the claims were absolutely bogus and baseless."
The SSC has cancelled the examination on technical basis only. There are various efforts to defame the struggle as is normally done by the government. In fact, the SSC has come with an allegation that these genuine protests of the students are backed by some coaching institutions. The toilet facility at the CGO Complex has been blocked for protesters and street lights have been switched off. All this is being done to harass the protesters and compel them to withdraw their protest. Students have taken these efforts of administration as a challenge and are determined to carry forward their struggle.
Political Patronage to Corruption
In all the cases in the recent years be it VYAPAM, AIIMS or any other for that matter, there have been a few arrests which include a few students and some lower-level officials but no one in responsible positions has been booked yet. This exposes the government’s lack of political will to deal with the matter. This is the experience of the youth of this country, especially after VYAPAM scam, that nothing changes and the culprit and criminals who are responsible for breaching system are getting political patronage from the ruling parties. This is compelling youths to protest for their future and save the system.
This particular struggle has an impact and also mobilised the youth not only against the corruption in the recruitment process but also on the issue of unemployment. Realising the impact, there are efforts by the BJP and the Congress to hijack the movement of students. The BJP is trying to portray that they are mediating the talks and all the impact on the authorities of SSC is only due to their efforts and not by the mobilisation. But students and youths are quite aware about their role in fighting corruption and providing employment. The role of the Madhya Pradesh government in the VYAPAM scam is still haunting the youth.
Struggle the Only Option
There is a need of serious and honest inquiry against this corruption and the people responsible for this scam should be nabbed and punished in a time-bound manner so that a strong message is conveyed. This opportunity should also be used by the student and youth movement to seriously mobilise unemployed youths on the question of unemployment.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are the author's personal views, and do not necessarily represent the views of Newsclick.