“Please raise our issue, we are really worried,” Shekhar Pratap, 25, who has been preparing for competitive exams since 2015 in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh, said. Pratap sat for an exam for the post of village development officer in 2018 and cleared it, but never got the appointment letter. After on February 25, Pratap joined a protest by young men and women demanding jobs at chief minister Adityanath’s residence in Lucknow on February 26.
“My family distributed sweets after the results were declared. Now everyone is mocking us,” he told Newslaundry over the phone.
He is just one of many young people caught in the quagmire that is the process of getting a government job in Uttar Pradesh. Some of them have been waiting for their appointment in spite of clearing all necessary exams in 2016.
Protesting candidates for VDO posts being taken away by police.
Pratap’s ordeal began when the Uttar Pradesh Subordinate Services Selection Commission, which conducts exams for a host of state jobs, put out an ad to fill 1,953 posts of village development officer, or VDO, in May 2018.
Pratap, one of nearly 14 lakh aspirants to apply, moved from his home in Mau to Prayagraj to take coaching classes for the VDO exam. The exam was conducted on December 22 and 23 that year and the final results were declared on August 28, 2019. Pratap made it to the final list of the selected candidates put up on the website of UPSSSC.
On August 29, the state’s rural development minister, Rajendra Pratap Singh alias Moti Singh, wrote to Adityanath alleging discrepancies in the exam. Citing two answer sheets as an example, he wrote, “While carbon copies of answer sheets show that two candidates have given responses to a total of five questions the original answer sheets show that they have responded to all questions.”
The answers were recorded on optical mark recognition sheets where the correct option needs to be marked. Since the original OMR sheet and its carbon copy weren’t tallying in some cases, Singh demanded an inquiry
Accordingly, on August 31, a complaint was registered at Lucknow’s Vibhuti Khand police station for cheating, forgery, and fraud. It was filed by Ram Naresh Prajapati, a UPSSSC official who had alleged irregularities in the answer sheets of 136 candidates.
On February 29, 2020, the UPSSSC issued a notification containing a new list of 1,553 candidates selected to fill the VDO jobs. Since questions had been asked about the transparency of the exam, UPSSSC secretary Ashutosh Mohan Agnihotri explained, the results of the remaining candidates would be declared once the investigation was over. Pratap was in this new list as well.
On June 20, the commission issued another notification informing the selected candidates that since a special investigation team had been constituted in March to look into the matter, their appointments would be delayed until the investigation had been completed. They have received no information since.
“I am from a middle class family and I used to be passionate about getting a government job. Today when we go for a protest, officials simply tell us to prepare for another exam,” Pratap said.
His father is a fruit trader and sends him Rs 5,000 a month for expenses in Prayagraj. To reduce costs, Pratap shares a room with another person, paying Rs 1,250 per month as rent. Frustrated with the official response and the slow pace of SIT enquiry, he said, “Today, the system has failed us.”
Himanshu Yadav, another VDO aspirant, said that since 2019, they have been tweeting about the issue with the hashtag #VDO2018 to garner attention. “I must have tweeted 3,000 times since then, depending on what the limit of sending tweets per day is,” he added.
On February 28, the candidates took part in the “Modi Rozgar Do” Twitter trend, asking for help.
In 2018, the first set of jobs advertised by the UPSSSC after the BJP came to power were of yuva kalyan adhikari, or youth welfare officer, and vyayam parikshak, or exercise trainer, at the block level. There were 728 vacancies in all, of level-five pay grade, offering a starting salary of around Rs 29,000 a month.
Anand Upadhyay, 26, from Jaunpur, applied for the position of youth welfare officer. He was among 3,50,000 candidates who had applied. The exam was held on September,16, 2018, and the results were declared in February 2019. The selected candidates were to undergo a physical examination but the exercise was postponed in view of the then impending general election. It was finally done in October 2019.
Though the UPSSSC had advertised 728 jobs, the final list had only 274 names. The second list did not come out until February 2020.
Upadhyay’s name was on the first list. Yet, he never received a joining letter. He had applied thinking he would use part of the salary to invest in further studies. “I wanted to join a coaching centre for civil services,” he said. “Now I can’t think about the future.”
Upadhyay, along with many of the other candidates, protested outside the UPSSSC office on February 5 last year, seeking clarity about their situation. Some of them also joined in the “Modi Rozgar Do” Twitter campaign.
Like many unemployed youngsters, Upadhyay has been active on Twitter, hoping someone in authority would listen to his grievance.
“I must have sent out around 5,000 tweets from my account. On May 20, the minister finally responded to me,” he told Newslaundry. In one of his tweets, Upadhay had tagged Upendra Tiwari, state minister for youth affairs, sports and panchayati raj. Tiwari assured him of quick action. There has been no response since.
A press clipping of a protest by candidates.
In November 2016, the UPSSSC advertised about 450 posts of junior engineer. Some 42,000 people applied. Narender Kumar, 24, who had completed a diploma course in engineering from a private institute in Mathura, was one of them. The announcement came at a time when the Akhilesh Yadav government’s term was coming to an end. The exam dates weren’t announced before the election and the matter has been in limbo since.
In 2020, the UPSSSC announced the exam dates thrice but it was never conducted because of the pandemic. In February 2021, after some of the applicants sat on a dharna outside the UPSSSC office, the commission said the reason for the delay was the lack of clarity over the implementation of the quota for economically weaker sections. The Narendra Modi government passed a law giving 10 percent reservation in jobs and education to economically weaker sections in January 2019.
UPSSSC officials told the applicants they were yet to hear from the state government if the exam would be conducted after allocating seats under the new quota. “How can EWS be implemented in an exam announced before the law came into existence?” Kumar asked. He told Newslaundry that the aspirants are now planning to approach the courts.
Newslaundry tried contacting UPSSSC secretary Ashutosh Mohan Agnihotri for comment, but without success. We also sent a questionnaire about delays in the induction of new recruits and the conduction of exams for vacancies advertised years ago to the commission. This story will be updated if we receive a response.