‘Bihar Bandh’ declared today in protest of new Railways recruitment process: What the row is all about


The states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are on alert after a clutch of student organisations have called for a Bihar Bandh today against alleged ‘irregularities’ in the Railway Recruitment Board's examination process.

Several students' organisations, including the All India Students Association (AISA), called for the state-wide bandh on Friday to protest against the alleged irregularities in the Railway Recruitment Board's Non-Technical Popular Categories (RRB-NTPC) exam 2021.

We take a look at the students’ allegations, why violence erupted and what happens next.

Violence erupts on 26 January

The country’s celebrations of Republic Day were marred when reports emerged of thousands of students taking to the streets of Bihar to protest against alleged irregularities in the Railway Recruitment Board's examination procedure.

Initially, the protests were seen in Bihar's districts of Patna, Nawada, Muzaffarpur, Buxar, Sasaram, Sitamarhi, Arrah, and Bhojpur. They squatted on railway tracks and disrupted train services across the state.

Several trains in Bihar had to be cancelled or rescheduled.

Job aspirants block railway tracks during their protest over alleged erroneous results of Railway Recruitment Boards Non-Technical Popular Categories exam 2021 in Prayagraj on Tuesday. PTI

Protests were also reported in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh.

Protests soon became violent with the protesters torching the Rajgir-New Delhi Shramjeevi Express in Gaya.

In Patna city, the police fired tear gas shells and used water cannons to disperse students protesting against the alleged irregularities in the results, news agency ANI reported.

Several persons were injured as students clashed with the police at Sitamarhi railway station, ANI reported. The police had reportedly opened fire in the air.

In Uttar Pradesh, the police on Tuesday cracked down on students who allegedly tried to stop a train at the Prayag Junction in Prayagraj city as a mark of protest, the Hindustan Times reported. The personnel reportedly used mild force to disperse the students.

What’s their grouse?

The protests are a result of students claiming that there were discrepancies in the RRB recruitment process. For the unversed, the Railway Recruitment Board (RRB) is a government agency for the recruitment of candidates to Group C and Group D non-gazetted civil service and engineering posts in the Indian Railways under the Ministry of Railways.

The students are angry because the government decided to conduct two computer-based tests (CBT) for the RRB Non-Technical Popular Categories (NTPC).

They claim that the second stage is unfair to those who have cleared the first stage, results for which were released on 15 January.

They further allege that the two-stage exam involving CBT-2 is designed to favour those with a higher qualification, even for jobs that require lesser qualification.

An IndiaToday report further quoted the protesters as saying that it was unfair of the RRB to ask them to appear for another examination. They accused the officials of “playing with the future of the students”.

The protesters also claimed that even the results released on 15 January were inaccurate.


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How the government reacted

The Ministry of Railways refuted these allegations, with Union Minister for Railways Ashwini Vaishnaw saying, “The employment notification has legal sanctity. For those with grievances, we have to find a solution and deal with sensitivity. We cannot legally bar graduates from applying to posts which require 10+2 qualification.”

The board asserted that the question of depriving any deserving candidate of selection did not arise.

Eventually, on Wednesday, the Railways decided to suspend the tests.

Further, it also formed a high level committee to examine the grievances of those who have cleared the exams under different railway recruitment boards (RRBs) and those who have failed the same.

The candidates can lodge their concerns and suggestions to the committee at rrbcommittee@railnet.gov.in, the ministry said. Candidates have been given three weeks' time, up to 16 February, to submit their concerns. The committee, after examining these concerns, will submit their recommendations by 4 March, 2022.

Bihar bandh call

Students union body AISA in Bihar called for a statewide ‘bandh’ today in wake of the recently declared NTPC stage 1 exam results.

AISA termed the committee formed by the railway ministry to look into the concerns raised by the aspirants of alleged irregularities in Railway Recruitment Board's NTPC stage 1 exam results as a "hoax", and refused to bog down despite the formation of the committee.

On Thursday, the All Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) parties also announced their support for the Bihar Bandh'.
In a joint statement issued on Thursday, the RJD, Congress, CPI and CPI(M) said, Bihar has the most number of young people in the country and has the highest unemployment rate. Students are being cheated by the Central as well as Bihar governments.

"It keeps promising jobs for them but when they come out on the streets demanding jobs, the Nitish Kumar government rains baton on them."

All parties which form the grand alliance have decided to support the Bihar bandh call given by students union on 28 January. They also demand that "all FIRs registered against students or coaching institutes by the state police must be withdrawn immediately".

Who is Khan sir?

Amid all this, teacher and YouTuber Khan sir — a prominent teacher of Patna — has gained more prominence after he was booked for provoking students.

The action by the police came after he recently alleged that the railway ministry placed an additional exam burden on those who have already cleared their first examination.

News agency PTI reported that aspirants who indulged in violence and damaged railway property in several parts of the state on Monday and Tuesday had reportedly claimed that they were encouraged after a video of Khan Sir wherein he was seen instigating them to intensify their protest to cancel the RRB-NTPC exams started doing rounds on social media.

Students gathered at Patna Rajendra Nagar Terminal and Ara station in Bihar. Image Courtesy: @Akyadav1211/Twitter

Train services disrupted

The violence and protests have caused severe disruption to the train services. Protesters allegedly torched four empty coaches of a stationary train in Gaya and blocked rail traffic between Gaya and Jehanabad on Wednesday.

The agitating students had stopped trains like Rajendra Nagar-New Delhi Tejas Rajdhani express, the Sampoorna Kranti express, South Bihar Expres, and Mumbai-bound Lokmanya Tilak Terminus Express.

Political reactions

The protests have evoked several reactions from leaders across the political spectrum.

The Congress on Thursday said it stands with those protesting the alleged irregularities in a recruitment exam by the Railways while stressing there should be no place for violence in these agitations.

Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate said her party will support the job aspirants in their protest and urged them to follow the Gandhian principle of non-violence.

She accused the BJP government of "taking away" the employment opportunities by "not keeping the promise of providing two crore jobs every year".

It is "shameful" that instead of creating job opportunities, the BJP government is beating up and threatening the job aspirants for protesting the "irregularities", Shrinate alleged.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had tweeted on Wednesday, "Every youth is free to raise voice for rights. Remind those who have forgotten that India is a democracy."

In a following tweet, he called for calm. "I am and will be with you in favour of the truth against the policies of the BJP government. But violence is not our way," he said.

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi, too, came out in support of the protesters. "The arrested students should be released. The order banning protesters from jobs [in Railways] should be withdrawn," she tweeted.

Former state chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who heads the NDA constituent- Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular), also came in support of the protesting students.

Senior BJP leader and former Bihar deputy chief minister, Sushil Modi, on Thursday said the state government should not to take any coercive action against the protesting students. "I personally met the Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw in connection with the ongoing students' protests against the RRB-NTPC exam. The railway minister has assured me that the ministry will not conduct two computer-based tests for the RRB-NTPC exam."

With inputs from agencies

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‘Bihar Bandh’ declared today in protest of new Railways recruitment process: What the row is all about
‘Bihar Bandh’ declared today in protest of new Railways recruitment process: What the row is all about
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