Violent students’ protests for Railway jobs reveals the deeper economic rot occurring in our country

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The protests by students alleging ‘irregularities’ in the Railway recruitment board exam may not hold ground on a legal basis.
But it definitely tells something about the economic condition of our country and what is in store for us in the future.

The main grievance of students who vandalised and burnt the Bhabhua – Patna Intercity Express was that the Railway Recruitment Board (RRB) did not notify properly about the two-stage non-technical popular categories (NTPC) exam in 2019. Students allege that they were supposed to take only one exam and it is unfair that the shortlisted candidates are being made to sit for another Computer-Based Test (CBT). The Railways have subsequently suspended the RRB-NTPC CBT-I exam held last year

However, what is really bothering these students is that candidates with higher educational qualifications were being allowed to take the exams for posts meant for candidates with 10+2 qualifications.
The RRB issued a clarification a day after the results for CBT-I was declared on January 14. It is reiterated that the procedure for shortlisting of candidates for the second stage computer-based test (CBT) had already been given elaborately under Para 13 of the original notification i.e., CEN 01/2019 published on 28.02.2019).” The Railway Ministry also assured the students that a committee will set up to look into their grievances. The student groups have alleged that the government is promising a committee only to postpone the issue till the UP elections are over.

Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnav had mentioned that more than 1.27 crore students filled out forms for the RRB exams. Thus, the competition for the Group D posts was already very intense. On top of that RRB changed the criterion in 2019 wherein some posts were made open for graduates to take the tests. The mad scramble for government jobs along with frustration with RRB’s changing policies resulted in this outburst.

students erupted in protest against the Centre in Bihar and poll-bound UP

Being a student and being poor

Most of these students come from the weaker economic sections of our society and don’t understand that the situation today in our country is now vastly different from what it was 5 – 10 years ago.

Earlier, we did not have such a charismatic PM who could arouse the masses just by saying ‘mitron’. Also, we had a much smaller poverty alleviation programme 10 years ago than it is now.
To provide assistance to the increased number of people unable to find a basic job, the Modi government increased the budget for MNREGA to ₹ 1.11 lakh crore. MNREGA programme was meant to be discontinued after poverty was eradicated from India. But more and more people became dependent on MNREGA suggesting how poverty increased under Modi rule.

Recently, one article was published by Frontline, written by Aakar Patel stating how Modi shrank India’s workforce by a fifth. Also, this article is not missing its facts and the opinion is strongly based on government data.

Many similar articles have been written stating what the government did wrong. Those on the supporting side of the Government also wrote articles stating how these policies will pay dividends in the long term.
Whatever the opinions have been most agreed that the growth of the Indian economy has been very fragile in these last seven years. Under Modi, India’s GDP grew by just 4.8 per cent compared to 8.4 per cent in the first seven years of Manmohan’s regime. More astonishing has been the rise in wealth inequality forcing the poor and the youth to resort to desperate measures.

However, what is seldom discussed is how this is affecting the people of our country, especially the youth and students.

Police take action against the students

More than 23 crore people have fallen into poverty in 2020. Considering how young the Indian population is it safe to assume the vast majority of these newly poor are from the youth. In 2021, the GDP per capita of Bangladesh went higher than that of India. The ‘friendly media’ has done well to make people digest this alarming news.

A country that was created by India after defeating Pakistan in 1971; people of that country now earn more than what an average Indian earns. Such data would have made Indians think twice about the future of their motherland, had the media explained the situation properly.

But chickens are now coming home to roost. The ‘friendly’ media can no longer help the Modi government when the citizens themselves have started to feel the pinch of misgovernance.
These students who are up in arms against the central government does not have any political agenda nor do they have the motivation to continue the protests like farmers for a very long time. It is an outburst, a kind of mass mental breakdown suffered by the poor students who are not only hurdled by their lack of economic strength but now even more frustrated by the system which is failing to provide a level playing field for them.

The violent protests by the students in the quest to get a stable job cannot be accepted as a legitimate way of grieving against the current system.

The Railway minister is also right that he cannot legally stop graduates from applying for low-grade jobs.
Neither it is the fault of the graduates who are applying for posts that may contain hard manual labour and do not require any degree based knowledge.

It is the fault of demonetisation which was one kind of lockdown experimented by Modi much before the COVID-19 plandemic happened.
It is the fault of crony capitalism, that made it normal for business tycoons to hold large public assets on behalf of the government.
It is the fault of those people promoting a cult of personality portraying a leader as supreme and infallible.
The faulty policies, refusal to accept mistakes and course-correct has led India to a dangerous situation where citizens have started to scramble for the scarce economic resources available to them.

The students by burning a train destroyed public property but the frustration which has made them take such a drastic step indicates disillusionment among the youth.
The youth no longer believes that the government is looking after their welfare. The youth sees no future in a system where the rich only keeps getting richer while opportunities for the poor keeps shrinking.

These students were convinced that no amount of studying can help them compete for government jobs as the well-off will always find it easier to get the job. Legally too they couldn’t challenge this ‘unfairness’. So the only way out for them was to rebel against the State.

Youth Congress President tweeted a video showing angst of a candidate

The media can keep promoting the cult of Modi. Modi himself may wear all the attractive clothes and present the best oratory skills he possesses but all this showmanship will not hide the fact that India and Indians are in deep trouble. And certainly, the youth is not buying this media propaganda at all.

The question should not be asked whether the students who went berserk on the Indian Railways were right or wrong.

Police firing tear gas shells on protesting students

The real question is why such low key exams meant for non-technical posts are becoming as premium as IAS exams?

This is not the first instance of such desperation by job-seekers. Last year a huge contingent of teacher aspirants had gheraoed the residence of Bihar state education minister Vijay Kumar Chowdhury alleging discrepancies in the STET exams.
In 2018, the news of 3,700 PhD holders applying for the post of peon also went viral but that report too was dusted under the carpet by the ‘friendly media’.

As the number of years ruled by Modi increases, the number of highly qualified students applying for such ‘lowly’ jobs also keeps increasing.

This also keeps increasing the frustration of those poor students who are actually eyeing those ‘lowly’ jobs.
Why are the highly qualified students taking exams for posts that require little specialized knowledge?
Isn’t that an indicator that opportunities in our country are quickly shrinking?
That those trying to enter the workforce are having to face even greater obstacles than before?

Certainly, such a situation does not look to be the characteristics of a developing country. It looks like the initial stages of a country going the Venezuela way.

The Sensex might touch the sky. The number of Indians becoming billionaires may also increase. But the glitzy wealth of the top few can only shine the surface for some time. If below the surface, the rot is spreading fast, the shiny cover will also get destroyed soon.

The government is giving stern warnings. Any more such vandalism will attract strict actions from the government. The students have also been threatened with a permanent ban from getting railway jobs. But when lakhs of young Indians are becoming desperate to secure their future, such threats will have little impact.

You cannot reduce frustration and helplessness by ‘fear’. The government’s warning will only build more anger and sooner it will burst out again and maybe in an even more dangerous way.

It is important for the government to address the root cause of the issue. The issue is decreasing opportunities to become a part of the workforce. This situation has been the creation of years of misaligned policies and will take time to get resolved.

But it is important that the Modi government course corrects now.

Make all government job examinations as transparent as possible with complete knowledge of the specifications known to all candidates.
The government should make it easier for small businesses to grow. Simplify the GST regime to make it more user friendly for those less tech-savvy. These small businesses as they grow will also create more jobs.

India ranks 62nd in total public expenditure on education per student. With such low investment, it is hardly surprising PhD students are now aiming to become peons. Clearly, the government needs to improve this a great deal.
While Modi has done well to give ‘catchy’ names like Make in India, Skill India to government schemes, their implementation leaves a lot to be asked for. Frankly speaking, Modi’s industrial policy has been with no planning at all. Government schemes have been adjusted as per changing political needs and TRP levels.

Crores of rupees have been lost on showmanship, showing grandeur to the public and implementing big-ticket projects with little value for the masses. It is time the government starts focusing more on promoting labour-intensive industries, introducing ‘real’ structural reforms and most important of all – creating a level playing field, not just for students but for everyone – farmers, entrepreneurs, the whole workforce. Then only such a mad scramble for jobs might end and a train might be saved from getting burned down.

Disclaimer :- This post is independently published by the author. Infeed neither backs nor assumes liability for the opinions put forth by the author.

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