Since Tuesday, thousands of students have taken to the streets to protest against an alleged scam in the examination conducted by the Staff Selection Committee (SSC). The protesters are demanding justice for students who appeared for Staff Selection Commission Combined Graduate Level (SSC CGL 2017) exam, saying the second tier of the examination be cancelled and an investigation be held to probe the inefficiencies, malpractices and corruption that plagues the SSC board.
The second tier of the SSC CGL 2017 examination was held from February 17, 2018, to February 22, 2108. Two days after the paper, a notification was issued on the official website of SSC that there were some technical failures during the examination that resulted in incomplete download of data.
Stating technical failure and reports of malpractices as reason, the commission declared that a re-examination will be held for Paper 1, Quantitative Ability, on March 9, 2018. Only the students who appeared for the examination on February 21 would be eligible to reappear for the re-exam.
The date for the tier 2 examination was originally set for November 11, 2017. However, after repeated notifications, it was delayed by more than three months before finally being conducted in February 2018, only to be cancelled and rescheduled for March 9. The issue did not end there. While the SSC board refused to give any statement about the malpractices, several pictures of leaked question papers of the examination on February 21 were circulated on social media.
The commission claims the pictures are baseless and were distributed only to disrupt the examinations, but students state otherwise and say the paper should be cancelled alleging that cheating took place at several centres.
Questions are being raised against the commission’s security procedures which allowed mobile phones inside the examination centres. Mihir Kumar, a student at the protest, told Newslaundry: “How can the board not admit that cheating has taken place? All 100 questions of the tier 2 examinations were revealed online. How is that fair for any student? We want the exam to be cancelled, considering that cheating has taken place and the government should also look into reports of bribes being paid for seats.”
The protesters, who have been present in front of the SSC office since February 27, have now dwindled in number but the spirit remains strong as almost a thousand students are still standing outside the office. Suresh Singh, another protester, said: “There are thousands of us here and are planning to stay throughout the night. We are not going to leave until we receive justice for something we have put months of hard work into.”
The protesters also alleged that they have faced violent retaliation from the police, despite leading an entirely peaceful protest. They said they have been threatened with lathi-charge and police officials were seen carrying teargas containers.
Another student from the protest site, who wished to remain anonymous, said the protesters have been blocked from all four sides and no provisions are being allowed for them.
“We are not allowed to bring food or even water inside and there have been threats of violence from the police. There has been absolutely no response or statement from the authorities regarding this injustice, even though we have been here since yesterday. This behaviour has been going on since the very beginning, and officials have preferred to ignore our outrage altogether.”
What the authorities say
Around 7 pm on Wednesday, SSC chairman Ashim Khurana met a delegation of protesters. Sushant Jain, one of the students who met with him, said: “Although we demanded a CBI investigation into the matter, the chairman refused it and offered an SIT probe instead. We also demanded the examination be cancelled but he said they can’t do so without proper proof and he was not ready to acknowledge the proof we submitted, and they are not even ready to put a stay order on the examination, let alone cancel it. We decided to take the protest to the department of personnel and training. However, our march was stopped by the police and we were not allowed to go further. The police have been coordinating so far and are ready with water cannons and teargas to use against us.”
It is not just the officials or the government who has chosen to turn a blind eye to the issue, the matter remains under-reported even in the mainstream media. Only after much struggle is it being covered in the online media, with the #SSCScam trending on Twitter with support from Shashi Tharoor and Kumar Vishwas.
The mainstream media houses remain ignorant as they prefer to create controversy and speculate on an actress’s death and funeral rites.
A matter that affects the career of thousands of students, who are demanding their rights, remains neglected and trivialised, to the extent that no statement or justification is being provided by the authorities responsible.