New Delhi: Over 2.5 crore people supposed to take the online examination for nearly 90,000 jobs offered by the railways in what was being touted as the world's largest recruitment exercise are yet to hear from the mass recruiter.
The deadline for submitting applications was March 30, 2018 but the railways in its open advertisement had not given any timeline for the online tests. Now, three months after the last date, aspirants are in limbo.
Railways is the country's biggest public sector employer with around 13 lakh staff, had invited applications for 26,502 posts of assistant loco pilots (train divers), technicians, carpenters and crane drivers among others in Level 2 of the 7th Pay Commission.
The transporter also advertised 62,907 vacancies for gangmen, switchmen, trackmen, cabinmen, welders, helpers and porters in Level 1 of the 7th pay panel.
The delay in announcing dates for the online test, media outlet Amar Ujala reported, was because the Railways did not have enough people to assess the submitted applications. When asked, Railways said that they are at the last stage of going through the lot.
For context, the number of applicants is more than the population of Australia. At the time of inviting applications, however, Railways had expressed confidence in its abilities to sift through the 2.5 crore submissions despite the humongous logistical challenge.
The move to provide jobs to around one lakh youths - high school graduates or those having an Industrial Training Institute (ITI) or equivalent certificate - was necessitated because the railways could not swiftly fill up vacancies, which arose in the last couple of years due to its focus on cost cutting and a sharp jump in wage bill because of the 7th Pay Commission.
Railway minister Piyush Goyal's plan to strengthen safety, in the light of a series of derailments, is also a factor. The minister, who has trimmed the railway board by half, is said to have backed massive hiring as part of his plan to "right-size" the railways, which has been dubbed "top-heavy."
The offer of jobs on such a large scale has also been seen as part of a political plan to blunt the opposition's criticism that enough jobs were not being created by BJP. Sources in the ministry justified the hiring by citing "sheer need."
The additional hiring, as per rough estimates, will cost around Rs 4,000 crore a year. Staff expenses have grown from Rs 69,713 crore in 2016-17 to Rs 72,706 crore in 2017-18. Staff expenditure is at Rs 76,452 crore in 2018-19.
But the delay in hiring is adversely affecting Railway operation pertaining to track maintenance.