Far away centres, high fees, paper leaks mar hopes of Talathi aspirants
The mismanagement raises questions about outsourcing government exams to private agencies.
Several aspirants who have applied for the recruitment examination for the post of Talathi in Maharashtra stand a risk of missing their examination, as they were allotted exam centres hundreds of kilometres away from their homes. Around 25 percent of the applicants who were supposed to appear for the exam on the first day, Thursday, were unable to do so. Though the students were asked for a preference list of three centres each, they still received centres outside of their districts, even their regions.
Moreover, the news of a paper leak on the very first day of the examination itself has raised concerns and anger over the irresponsible management of government examinations by private agencies that have been given the contract for the same. While the examination falls under the purview of the Settlement Commissioner and Director Of Land Records, they have been outsourced to the Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). However, when questioned about the same, an official from the Settlement Commissionerate said that the Commissioner will address the issues on Monday. Meanwhile, several aspirants continue to struggle and skip exams.
“My examination is on Sunday (August 20). I received my hall ticket on Friday and I found out that my examination centre is in Amravati,” says Sachin Sirsat, an applicant and a resident of Sonpeth in Parbhani taluka. The distance between Sonpeth and Amrawati is over 330 kms.
“Sonpeth is a small place. We do not have proper connectivity to travel far away. Travelling is costly. Since my father passed away, my family depends on me. It is difficult to make ends meet and on top of that, the condition in our farms is not great at the moment,” Sirsat says.
Sirsat’s story is the story of several aspirants across the state. As per the data shared by Rajan Kshirsagar of the Communist Party of India (CPI), on Thursday (August 17), the day the examinations began, only 34,153 of the 45,378 applicants could appear for the examination.
सोलापूर पुणे कोल्हापूर टाकलं आणि मुंबई आले .परिक्षा फी 1000 केली आणि हॉल तिकीट पासून घोळ चालू झाला का ? वारे TCS 😱#talathibharti #talathibharti2023 #talathiexam #talathibhartiupdates #CMmaharatra #reniveshnaldepartment#mpsc #student #Pune #solapur #kolhapur pic.twitter.com/2YryeQtO1V— Swapnil Manisha Pandurang Raut (@swapnil_manisha) August 14, 2023
“This means that around 24.7 percent of the applicants could not answer the examination due to wrong allotment of exam centres. If 25 percent of the applicants miss the exam each day, around 2,57,615 aspirants could possibly be denied the chance to appear for the exam,” Kshirsagar says.
Around 12.5 lakh aspirants applied for the Talathi recruitment exam across the state. As per reports, the State government earned around Rs 97 crores just from their application fees. Despite this, the aspirants are still facing mismanagement.
Sachin Gaikwad, an aspirant from Gangakhed in Parbhani said that he had to skip answering the examination on Friday, as he was not able to travel to Amrawati for the same.
“The three centres in my preference list were Parbhani, Nanded and Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar (formerly Aurangabad). Yet, I was allotted Amrawati. A few months ago, I was allotted an exam centre in Nagpur for the recruitment exam held by Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC). I travelled then, this time, I could not,” Gaikwad says.
He hopes if this issue gets voiced, things might change for the upcoming recruitment examinations.
Sirsat also says he will not be able to appear for the examination if his centre does not change. “I have written an email to the TCS, requesting to change my examination centre to somewhere nearby. If they do, I would be able to appear for the exam. Otherwise, I will have no choice but to miss it. That might be the case with several other students from Parbhani,” he adds.
Most aspirants from rural areas do not have access to any other form of transport, but the humble old state transport buses. These buses are not frequent and well connected, with some routes having just one bus per day. With the exam centres being allotted so far off and barely a couple of days before the exam date, the aspirants are finding it difficult to make travel arrangements to reach the exam centres on time. This is leading to several missing their chance at appearing for the Talathi exam.
It has been five years since Talathi recruitment was last introduced in the state. Several aspirants were eagerly waiting for this opportunity.
Talathi bharti 2023— amol ghuge (@A_mol_G) August 15, 2023
1)chhatrapati sambhaji nagar
Allocated Exam centre: Amravati
Please do something.#seriousness @RRPSpeaks @mieknathshinde @AjitPawarSpeaks @Dev_Fadnavis @RVikhePatil pic.twitter.com/JG8ZfDctfV
“Whether we get the job or not is a different issue. But shouldn’t everyone at least get an equal opportunity to appear?” Sirsat asks.
Aspirants say that those coming from marginalised backgrounds have been facing challenges since the application process for the examination began, as the application fees itself were Rs 1,000. To understand how unusually high this amount is, the regular application fees for the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) exams are Rs 100 and the application fees for the Maharashtra Public Service Commission (MPSC) exams are Rs 296.
“Is an application fee of Rs 1,000 justified? I had to borrow money from a friend just to apply. I had filled form in advance, soon after the application process began, so that I could get the centre of my choice, near home. And yet, my examination centre is in Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar (formerly Aurangabad). Now I need to make financial arrangements to travel around 400 kms,” Sagar Bandgar from Dharashiv (formerly Osmanabad) shares his plight.
He says that as per his knowledge, most of the aspirants from Dharashiv have been allotted centres in either Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar or Bhandara. Some centres are not even in the city areas, but in the rural areas around the city, which makes it even more difficult for the aspirants to find their way and reach the centres on time.
“Even if the centres were in Latur or Solapur, which are around 100 kms away from Dharashiv, we would have managed somehow. But the centres are too far away,” Bandgar adds.
He says that in 2019, he and several other aspirants lost around Rs 5,000 as the many recruitment exams that they applied for were cancelled. The aspirants fear they are about to lose the application fees this time as well, due to not reaching the centre or as there was an incident of paper leak as well.
On Thursday, at Dindori Road in Nashik, a case of paper leak was busted by the police, on the very first day of examination on August 17. A case of paper leak was also suspected in Nagpur as well.
गणेश शामसिंग गुसिंगे हा काल पकडला गेला आहे अजून ही यांना तो संशयित वाटतो. @Dev_Fadnavis साहेब आपण गृहमंत्री आहात या अट्टल आरोपीची आपण इतिहास बघा.हा पिपंरी चिंचवड पोलीस भरती मधील फरार आरोपी आहे अजून त्यांना तो सापडला नाहीये. हा म्हाडा भरती मधील फरार आरोपी आहे अजून तो सापडला नाहीये pic.twitter.com/difPkhR5ve— स्पर्धा परीक्षा समन्वय समिती ,महाराष्ट्र राज्य (@Mpsc_Andolan) August 18, 2023
Such instances of mismanagement and chaos have been observed several times, whenever the conduct of state government examinations has been outsourced to private companies. Just two years ago, the recruitment exams for the health department under the Maha Vikas Aghadi government had received flak, when some of the aspirants were allotted centres as far as in another state.
This time, TCS and the Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS) have been given tenders for the management of the exams.
“These are the companies from Delhi, how do we even communicate with them?” Sirsat questions.
The students have been demanding that all recruitment exams be conducted by the Maharashtra Public Service Commission (MPSC) and not be given to any private agency.
“Such chaos very rarely happens when the exams are conducted by the MPSC. The Commission’s operations are more transparent. Since it is a government agency, it can also be held accountable,” Rahul Kawthekar of Spardha Pariksha Samanvay Samiti (competitive exams coordination committee) said.
He also demanded stricter action against paper leaks. “How do the papers of such important examinations leak every time? This happens with support from the coordinators appointed at the examination centres by the private agencies. We have demanded that Maharashtra Government too brings strict laws to address the paper leak cases, on grounds of those formed by the states like Uttarakhand and Rajasthan,” Kawthekar adds.