Protests against alleged corruption in a government recruitment exam in Gujarat continued on Thursday, a day after the police in capital city Gandhinagar detained more than 700 students following demonstrations by more than 1,000 job seekers. Several demonstrators sustained injuries when the police beat them with batons.
According to multiple students, the question paper of a recruitment exam held on November 17 for the posts of non-secretariat clerks and office assistants was leaked the day before. There were also allegations of widespread cheating during the examination conducted by the Gujarat Subordinate Services Selection Board. The protestors want the government to cancel the examination.
Congress MLA and state Youth Congress President Gulabsinh Rathod, who participated in the protest, said the police began detaining and assaulting the students around 10 am on Wednesday as they allegedly did not take permission for the demonstration. “I too was detained along with 700 or 800 students, and we were released only after 4 pm,” said Rathod, who was elected from Banaskantha district.
More than six lakh people had appeared in the examination for just 3,910 vacancies. Soon after, the Subordinate Services Selection Board began receiving complaints from various parts of the state about alleged irregularities and malpractices. The complaints included CCTV footage of candidates at some centres copying answers from their mobile phones.
State junior Home Minister Pradipsinh Jadeja admitted that the government had received at least 39 formal complaints and 26 Whatsapp messages about the alleged irregularities. Jadeja said the accusations would be investigated, but he denied that the question paper had been leaked. The minister ruled out the possibility of cancelling or rescheduling the exam.
Opposition parties, however, are backing the student protestors and demanding cancellation of the exam.
State Congress media coordinator Manish Joshi accused the Vijay Rupani-led Bharatiya Janata Party government of failing to respond to the formal complaints in the two weeks since they were lodged. The government responded only when students started to protest, he claimed.
“This is an old problem,” Joshi said. “Under the BJP, Gujarat has seen huge irregularities in at least 11 different government exams over the years, including CAT [Common Admission Test], TET [Teacher Eligibility Test], and exams for recruitment of clerks in municipal corporations of Ahmedabad, Surat and Vadodara.”
Independent MLA Jignesh Mevani alleged that irregularities in government exams in the state were as big a scam as the Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh, and need to be investigated. On November 23, Mevani had called on students to gather outside the Gandhinagar Assembly on December 9 to protest against the alleged irregularities in the November 17 exam. “I was happy to see that the students began protesting much before December 9,” said the legislator. “We want this case to be investigated by a Special Investigation Team.”