Srinagar: After a noted RTI activist revealed that the successive governments in Jammu and Kashmir have generated a whopping Rs 70 crore revenue from tens of thousands of unemployed youth, hundreds of aspirants are batting for the pending exams and employment.
“J&K Services Selection Board (SSB) has been taking us for a ride since long now,” said Kulsum, whose name recently figured in the tentative selection list.
“Already the board took a lot of time to conduct the exam and now we don’t know how long we have to wait for the final selection list.”
Like Kulsum, Danish is also awaiting his exams for which he nearly deposited Rs. 2000 early this year.
“SSB should sense the gravity of the situation on the ground and come to the rescue of students,” the postgraduate degree-holder who applied for Class IV exam said.
“They can at least rise above this Covid lockdown alibi and go for the online exams. While being digital is the need of the hour, the aspirants can’t be held hostage by the lockdown-derailed offline exam system of Kashmir.”
These voices are speaking in unison after the disclosure was made by the government through an right to information (RTI) application moved by activist Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat.
The noted activist had sought the details of total revenue generated by SSB from March 2016 till September 20 last year by inviting applications for various vacancies in the government departments.
The reply given by the Public Information Officer, J&K Services Selection Board, Jammu vide letter SSB/Adm/RTI/D-01/2020/28 dated April 27, 2021.
“The total revenue collected by the J&K services selection board from March 2016 to September 20,2020 on account of various kinds of fees from job aspirants is Rs 770947432,” reads the reply from SSRB, a copy of which lies with the Kashmir Observer.
To another question seeking year-wise break up of revenue, the SSB says that from March 2016 till December same year, an amount of Rs 53,233,733 was collected by the job aspirants as fee for applying for the vacancies. Similarly in 2017, SSB generated revenue of Rs 161442645, in 2018 Rs 27,770,5480 in 2019 Rs 60,738,410 and from January 1, 2020 to September 2020, an amount of Rs 217827164 was earned by SSB through application forms and fees.
According to the RTI reply, the recruitment agency has not conducted written tests of at least 50 advertisements issued in 2018 for filling over 150 various vacancies, including supervisor, caretaker and junior assistants in the social welfare department after withdrawing the notices in pursuance of the instructions conveyed by the General Administration Department.
The SSB has not also given the reason for not conducting the exams saying “The information does not cover under the preview of section 02-F RTI Act 2005”
Like hundreds of aspirants “left in lurch” by the SSB authorities, is Manchand Singh, a resident from Jammu city.
He did his B.Tech from Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University (BGSBU) Rajouri before moving to Pune where he completed his Masters in engineering from BharatiVidyapeeth Deemed University (BVDU). He was among the top ten in the M Tech batch.
When he returned to his hometown, he started looking for employment opportunities to earn his bread and butter.
In 2017, Singh says like other friends and engineering graduates and post-graduates, he applied for a post of Assistant Professor in the Government College of engineering and technology advertised by the Jammu and Kashmir Public Service Commission (JKPSC).
“With each form we submitted a fee of Rs 1000. Nearly four years have passed, but the vacancies have not been filled and nor does anyone know about the status of the recruitment process,” Singh said.
Since 2017, Singh said, he has applied for many posts advertised by SSB and other recruitment agencies from time to time.
On December 24, 2020, SSB advertised 580 posts in four departments of Science and Technology, ARI and training, Law, justice and parliamentary affairs and public works (R&B) department.
Barely over a month later on February 3, 2021, SSRB issued another advertisement to fill 927 vacancies in various government departments, including Jal Shakti, Horticulture, Law, justice and parliamentary affairs, Hospitality and protocol department and information department.
“I applied on both occasions for the post of junior engineer. And with each form, I paid a fee of Rs 350. I am clueless about the process,” he said.
“Earlier, the government would conduct only single exams to fill posts of junior engineers in different departments. Now, department wise recruitment has started. And it means, we have to pay a fee every time we apply for departmental vacancies. This is sheer injustice,” he adds.
JKSSB Reacts, Agrees To Charge One Time
Facing flak for turning into a money minting machine by charging exorbitant fee from unemployed youth, JKSSB Monday said it has decided to charge only one time application fee for all such identical posts which have been advertised vide different notifications and for which Board intends to conduct a single examination.
Announcing the decision it however refuted allegations of overcharging from aspirants alleging that an attempt was being made to divert attention from their good work
Reacting to the news of ‘over-charging’ of examination fee from candidates, JKSSB spokesperson said that prima facie the “unfair and out of context criticism” appears to be an attempt to deflect attention from the widely hailed efforts of the JKSSB in ensuring high standards of transparency in recently held examinations, besides declaring time bound results, amid all the odds and difficulties caused by the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.
The JKSSB Board, the spokesperson said being one of the largest and prime recruiting agency for the government of J&K for non-gazetted positions, has fixed Rs 350/- as application/examination fee from candidates for conduct of written test of all categories of posts in the year 2015 and pertinently, the same has not been revised for the past 6 years.
“The fee so charged is utilized for meeting the expenses for online application development, conduct of examination and other incidental charges like remuneration of invigilator staff/Magistrates/Observers, hiring of vehicles for Centre Magistrates/ Centre Observers/transportation of examination material to and fro the examination Centres, Videography of Examination Centres etc,” he said.
The spokesperson further said that the board keeps conducting examinations regularly and makes payments to various stakeholders as per the laid down norms and parameters. He said that the application/examination fee charged by the JKSSSB is one of the lowest as compared to sister recruiting and testing agencies of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, like Jammu and Kashmir Public Service Commission (JKPSC) and the Board of Professional Entrance Examination (BOPEE).
Drawing comparison, the spokesperson said that BOPEE charges an amount of Rs 1200 for Common Entrance Test (CET) for admission to B.E /B.Tech (Engineering) courses in various Govt & Private Colleges of J&K UT, an amount of Rs 500/- for admission to CET for (10th based) Para-Medical Diploma (FMPHW/MMPFW) courses and Rs 1000/- for admission to CET for (12th based) Para-Medical Diploma Courses. Similarly, he said, the J&K Public Service Commission charged Rs 1000/- application fee for general category candidates and Rs 500/- from reserved category candidates for recently advertised posts.
“Therefore, the alleged claim that the application/examination fee fixed by J&K SSB is punitive is misleading, out of context and gross exaggeration, having no connect with existing reality. Further, the Board does not receive budgetary support/grant, other than administrative expenses from the UT Government, either for meeting shortfalls regarding conduct of examination or introduction of transparency related services,” the spokesperson said.
He said the comparison of JKSSB – a UT level recruiting agency with a national level recruiting body like Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) is not only inapplicable but misleading, in as much as that varied factors including relative cost of examination, budgetary grant provided by the Government, etc govern the quantum of fee to be charged from candidates. It is also asserted that the application/examination fee charged by the JKSSB presently is realistic and reasonable and if the circumstances permit, the Board will not hesitate in reducing the application/examination fee in future in the interest of aspirants.
The JKSSB spokesperson further said that the Board while taking cognizance of the fact that the ongoing pandemic has severely impacted the economy and as relaxation/ relief to the unemployed youth of the Union Territory, decided to charge only one time application fee for all such identical posts which have been advertised vide different advertisement notifications and for which Board intends to conduct a single examination.
“Moreover, the Board notifies tentative answer key of all the question paper(s) and gives reasonable opportunity to candidates for submitting representation before finalizing the answer key(s) free of cost unlike J&K BOPEE, which charges an amount of Rs 1000/- for the same,” he added.
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