The struggle of Ajeet Sonkar from Allahabad offers an insight into why over 5 million youths last week stormed Twitter with the hashtag “Modi job do (Modi, give us jobs)”.
Sonkar, who has cleared the combined graduate level (CGL) examination of 2019 after three unsuccessful attempts, has not made it to the merit list although he has got more than the cut-off marks. The CGL examination is conducted by the Staff Selection Commission (SSC) to select employees for various central government ministries and departments.
Sonkar has another grouse: after the past two editions of the exam, it had taken close to two years to declare the results from the date of the publication of advertisements for recruitment. Taking the exam since 2016, Sonkar said that earlier, it took around 15 months for the completion of the process.
With rising unemployment amid shrinking job opportunities in the private sector, the quest for government jobs among the unemployed has assumed more urgency.
Sonkar said candidates often had to cough up money to challenge wrong questions in the CGL exams. The fee to challenge every wrong question is Rs 100.
“It has become a money-spinning machine for the SSC, which is a government organisation. The delay in the conduct of exams and the frequent wrong questions forced millions of candidates to vent their anger on social media,” Sonkar said.
According to him, the delays started in 2017, when candidates had complained about a paper leak. No action was taken despite protests. The results were delayed by two years. Similar delays were witnessed in the CGL exams of 2018 and 2019, Sonkar said.
The exams are held over three legs — preliminary, main and essay writing.
Sonkar alleged that although he cleared the 2019 exam cut-off, his name didnot appear on the merit list.
He said hundreds of othercandidates had met the same fate.
When Sonkar went to enquire at the SSC office in Allahabad, he was advised to approach the Delhi office.
Nearly 35 lakh candidates apply every year for 10,000 posts of junior statistical officers, assistant audit officers and similar posts in the central government where candidates are selected through the CGL exams.
General and OBC candidates have to pay Rs 100 each to appear for the exams while SC and ST candidates are exempt from paying the fee. Nearly 1 lakh students challenge wrong questions every year, Sonkar said.
Sonkar also appeared for the non-technical popular category (NTPC) posts under the Indian Railways in early 2019. The exam was held only last month and the results are awaited.
“I am staying on rent in Allahabad to prepare for the test. The results are being delayed and exams are held in an opaque manner. So we started the social media campaign,” he said.
On February 25, the “Modi job do” campaign had trended on Twitter, with over 5 million users tweeting with the hashtag.
Phone calls from this newspaper to the office of the SSC chairperson went unanswered. An email was sent to the department of personnel and training — the administrative ministry for the SSC — asking about the concerns of candidates, but there was no reply.
D.J. Narain, an Indian Railways spokesperson, said the exams were being conducted over the past two months.
“It is a massive exercise. Because of Covid protocols, the examinations could not be held (on time). Also, many posts are linked to prospective vacancies. But the candidates should be assured that now the results will come out on time and those successful will join the Indian Railways,” he said.
“More than 1 crore candidates have taken the NTPC exam and 40,000 ALPs (assistant loco pilots) have been issued joining letters. Training is going on. Speculation should be avoided,” Narain added.
There have been delays in state government recruitments as well.
The Uttar Pradesh Public Service Commission had advertised 200 posts of assistant professors for government colleges in 2017. The screening exam was held two years later and interviews are being conducted since January 2020 in phases. The commission has recommended to the higher education department the final names for some candidates who have been selected after interviews but no appointments have been made.
“The state government is sitting on the recommendations,” said a candidate who has been selected.
Avinash Kumar, assistant professor at the Centre for Labour Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), said that out of over 100 million regular employment opportunities in 2018, the share of public employment had fallen to below 20 per cent. Government jobs are decreasing year after year yet they remain popular among youths because of security.
Studies have shown that job growth had declined steadily between 2011 and 2018 compared to the previous seven years.
“The government is to a large extent responsible for this situation because of its neglect in providing public services and ill-conceived policy shocks. When the government itself is sitting over its recruitments for years, it is amplifying the anger of youths,” Kumar said.
He described demonetisation as a major policy shock that was based on the flawed claim that people had hoarded black money in cash.
“This government promised 2 crore jobs a year while it has no concrete plan on how to fulfil it. On top of it, this government’s political philosophy is based on creating fear among citizens and universalising shock. The result is that the level of confidence among potential job creators has been shaken. The government should have built confidence among all sections of society but it did the opposite,” Kumar said.