When the Indian Railways advertised the availability of over 35,000 posts in the railways sector, around 1.25 crore candidates applied for the exam. The pay range of these posts was between Rs 19,900 and Rs 35,400 per month.
Approximately 60 lakh people eventually sat for the exam, which was held in six phases between December 2020 and July 2021.
The results were declared on January 15, 2022, shortly after which job-seeking students launched violent protests in Bihar, alleging that there were discrepancies in the shortlisting process and that a new round of examinations had been added without prior intimation.
Opposition parties, which had been trying to bring the issue of unemployment into focus ahead of the assembly polls, jumped at the chance of mobilising countless jobless youth over the incident, which they said was partially triggered by pent-up frustration over the lack of prospects.
Number of railway employees on the decline
The Railways has traditionally been a popular mass employer and at its peak had nearly 16 lakh employees (in 1999-2000). Since then, however, the figure has been steadily declining.
Over the past decade, the number of employees has dropped from 13,61,519 in 2009-10 to 12,70,399 in 2018-19 — the figure has held steady at 12.7 lakh since then.
The fall in employee numbers, however, is certainly not due to lack of interest among the youth.
Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Choudhury brought up the issue in the Lok Sabha during the budget session on February 3 and sought immediate action from the government to reduce the unemployment rate.
“For 35,000 jobs, 1.25 crore youths applied. We can well imagine the situation of unemployment in the country and the government must take action on it,” he said.
Rahul Gandhi also slammed the centre for the increasing unemployment rate in the country and said that because of this, students are compelled to protest.
“Unemployment has reached record level: 3.03 crore youth in the country do not have work. The unemployment rate is more than during the lockdown period,” he had said, adding: “These statistics show why students are compelled to take up Satyagraha.”In response to the grievances of the aspirants, the railway ministry has suspended the NTPC and Level 1 exams, scheduled to be held on February 15 and February 23.
Meanwhile, the railway ministry has formed a high-power committee to look into the concerns and doubts raised by the aspirants. The committee will submit their recommendations by March 4.
The issue of irregularities in the exam was also brought up in the Rajya Sabha during the budget session on February 2.
Railway budget focuses on infrastructure
During the budget presentation on February 1, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that Rs 1.4 lakh crore has been earmarked for the railways ministry, an increase of around Rs 20,000 crore from the revised estimates of the previous fiscal.
Overall, the national transporter is set to get a capital expenditure push of Rs 2.45 lakh crore in 2022-23, 14% higher than the budgeted capital expenditure of Rs 2.15 lakh crore for the current financial year.
It was also announced that India would manufacture 400 new-generation Vande Bharat trains in the next three years, and that the Railways will also introduce new products and efficient logistics services for small farmers and Small and Medium Enterprises.
Sitharaman, however, highlighted that with a dip in revenue on the one hand and high staff and pension costs at the other, the Railways’ operating ratio – a measure of its profitability – has continued to worsen and crossed 100 for two consecutive financial years 2019-20 and 2020-21.
The budget has proposed the operating ratio for 2022-23 at 96.98 against 98.93 in the current fiscal.
(With inputs from agencies)