07-Dec-2022  Srinagar booked.net

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Drooping Energies, Lost Faith, Aftermath Of JKSSB Job 'Scam'

It was the first major recruitment since Jammu & Kashmir lost its autonomous status in 2019 where 97,000 candidates appeared for 1200 posts

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When Shahid Ahmad Najar, 27, walks through the streets of his village in Nadigam village of Shopian, people around ask him why is he idle and not able to qualify any government exam.

These questions don’t let me sleep, said Najar who has qualified degrees in Environment science and education.

Najar is one of 97,000 candidates who appeared for the 1200 Sub-Inspector posts in the Jammu and Kashmir Police but the first major recruitment by the Jammu and Kashmir administration after the abrogation of its autonomous status was marred by allegations of large-scale fraud and nepotism.

“I lost my father in 2014 since then my family had pinned high hopes on me as they find a bread earner in me but the scam shattered dreams of my whole family,” he said.

Following reports of the scam, the candidates hit the streets forcing J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to order a probe which is currently headed by RK Goyal, additional chief secretary home, J&K.

Insomnia, depression and suicidal thoughts are common among the job aspirants who managed to get 80 to 90 points out of 150 in the OMR- based objective type examination, said 28-years-old Ishtiyaq Ahmad Khanday, another job aspirant from Kunzer area of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district.

But the deserving names disappeared from the merit list when the results were declared on the evening of 4 June, he told The Himalayan Post.

“JKSSB has ruined our careers because the candidates who had worked hard and deserved to be in the list were dropped,” he said.

Sailing in the same boat, Azhar Ahmad from South Kashmir’s Pulwama told The Himalayan Post that the results were bizarre as the toppers in the list were from siblings from 20 families and 40 candidates were selected from a specific area and specific centre in Jammu.

Azhar who has done a master’s in applied science said that the results also raised doubts regarding previously held examinations by JKSSB like accountant assistant finance, accountant assistant for panchayats and junior assistant etc.

Now Azhar is applying for jobs in the Information Technology (IT) field but he says the JKSSB scam has discouraged him badly and affected his study schedule.

Consultant psychiatrist and associate professor at the department of psychiatry Dr Yasir Rather said that when job aspirants go through such helplessness and hopelessness, it raises their suicidal tendencies.

“The unemployment factor certainly becomes a psychosocial stressor among the youth due to which they resort to negative coping which leads to anxiety and depression,” the Psychiatrist explains.

One of the strong factors behind drug addiction in our society is joblessness and financial constraints, he added.

The alleged scam has surfaced at a time when the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) revealed that the unemployment rate has increased to 18.3 per cent in May, which was 15.6 per cent during the month of April 2022.

The rising unemployment rate in J&K is a big concern as the youth are forced to run after government jobs in absence of a strong private sector in the region.

Ahmad who has turned 30 says many job aspirants cannot marry as people in Kashmir think only government jobs are reliable to get married.

“And this was not the first time the recruitment exams have come under the scanner for the alleged scam and favouritism,” he said.

In October 2020 candidates who appeared in the exams for the post of Fireman and Drivers in the Jammu and Kashmir Fire and Emergency department, set their ‘degrees on fire’ as a mark of protest and threatened self-immolation in case the government showed any leniency in unearthing alleged paper scam ensuring the appointment of school dropouts for 880 posts advertised back in 2013.

The then protestors said the highly educated candidates were dropped and instead school dropouts were appointed.

However, the aggrieved candidates of JKSSB are now demanding an impartial probe into the alleged scam while many say a CBI probe is mandatory given the magnitude of the alleged scam.

“An independent investigating agency should probe the scam so that the selection list gets quashed,” aspirants told The Himalayan Post.

“Because we no longer feel, we can re-start preparing and appearing for another exam. The scam has drooped our energies and we have lost faith in the system” they said.

A senior government official wishing anonymity told The Himalayan Post that despite a transparent system in place anything is possible in between.

For example, the official said, anyone inside the board can bypass the system and play foul.

“From the paper setting to the marking, everything goes secretly and smoothly depending on the functionality of its internal system which depended from person to person.

Each examination is itself a test for JKSSB,” the official added.

“JKSSB has failed to function as a recruitment board,” Srinagar-based academic counsellor Mohammad Yaqoob Khan said.

“Since 2011 JKSSB has not conducted a single exam fairly,” he alleged.

“There is no appropriate calendar from the board which we see in the Staff Selection Committee (SSC). JKSSB has been generating huge revenue while asking candidates to submit the form fee for each vacancy advertised by the board. On the contrary, SSC takes a time fee for multiple vacancies,” Khan said.

Citing an example, he said for class IV posts the board initially accepted the forms as well as fees from all the candidates irrespective of their qualifications.

However later, 10+ 2 qualified candidates were declared ineligible and their form fee was not returned.

“In July 2020, JKSSB spokesman had stated that the board received 1.26 lakh forms against 8575 class-IV vacancies through which the board generated Rs 4.4 crore revenue deposited by the jobless youth.”

Irfan Amin Malik is a journalist based in Kashmir. He tweets @irfanaminmalik