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Wednesday, July 17, 2024  
10 Muharram 1446  

India’s Modi criticised for exam irregularities amid lack of jobs

India's unemployment among people aged between 15 and 24 was 18% last year
Students holding placards protest outside the Ministry of Education against the cancellation of the UGC-NET examination at New Delhi. Reuters
Students holding placards protest outside the Ministry of Education against the cancellation of the UGC-NET examination at New Delhi. Reuters

India’s opposition parties and the country’s students on Thursday hit out at the new government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for irregularities in recent government-run tests for college admissions and government teaching jobs.

Modi surprisingly lost a parliamentary majority in a general election that ended this month partly because of joblessness, especially among the youth, exacerbated by frequent leaks of test papers for government jobs that are coveted by many Indians for the security.

Having to rely on fickle allies to run his third government, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party next faces local elections in the states of Haryana and Maharashtra where it did badly in the national vote.

The government late on Wednesday cancelled an examination done earlier this week for university and college teachers as well as doctorate courses, based on early inputs from a government cyber-crime analysis team that the “integrity of the aforesaid examination may have been compromised”. It said in a statement the federal Central Bureau of Investigation would probe the matter.

The Ministry of Education said it had also sought a report from police into “certain irregularities alleged” in running another test for admission in undergraduate medical programmes in May.

The main opposition Congress party, on a high after its better-than-expected election result, said the “Modi government has ruined the country’s education and recruitment system”.

“There is huge pressure on our students. There is large-scale unemployment in the country,” Rahul Gandhi, Congress’ highest profile leader, told a news conference on Thursday.

“The youngsters in India have no way through. The youth of India have nowhere to go. It’s a profound national crisis!” Other opposition parties also criticised the government.

India’s unemployment among people aged between 15 and 24 was 18% last year, according to estimates from the International Labour Organization, higher than neighbours such as Bangladesh and Pakistan. Overall, India’s unemployment currently is 8.5%, according to the private think-tank Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, compared with around 6% before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Pankaj Yadav, 24, was one of nearly one million students affected by the cancellation. He took the examination for a doctorate in political science for the third time and was hopeful of cracking it, lining him up for eventually landing a teaching job at a university.

“As students, we can only protest,” Yadav said in the town of Prayagraj where he attended a cram school for the examination. “I thought my paper went well. If I can get enrolled in PhD somewhere, I will become eligible for assistant professor jobs in a university.”

In Delhi, dozens of students holdings placards with writings like “shame on authorities” protested outside the education ministry, as police dragged some of them away. Congress has also called for protests in some states.

The ministry said it was “committed to ensure the sanctity of examinations and protect the interest of students” and that the guilty would be punished.

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Narendra Modi

Indian National Congress