Nirmal Singh (23), from Nainital, has been camping outside the Staff Selection Commission (SSC) office at the CGO complex in the capital for the past nine days. Why are thousands of youths like him protesting?
What is the so-called “SSC scam”?
Students from various parts of the country have been protesting since February 27 against the alleged leak of questions of the Combined Graduate Level (CGL) exams conducted by SSC from February 17-22.
According to the students, on February 21, two hours before the quantitative paper exam was to be held, the answer keys with questions were uploaded onto a Facebook page called SSCtube. SSCtube is an online study centre, and it is not clear who runs it. The admin of the page claimed the answer keys had appeared in the account inbox.
Almost half an hour after the exam started at 10.30 am, it was stopped and rescheduled for 12.15 pm, apparently due to a technical glitch. But students claim that after they left the examination centres, they discovered the questions and answers released on SSCtube matched. After the exam restarted, some 20-40 questions were allegedly found answered at certain centres in Bhopal, Patna and Kanpur. This time, the exam was rescheduled for March 9.
“On the screenshots released on SSCtube, icons of ‘Ammy admin’ and ‘any desk’, which are remote access logins, are visible. With this software downloaded into computers, one can easily solve questions. It is clear there has been a leak, and we want the CBI to investigate the nexus between SSC and the service provider for the exam,” Nirmal Singh said.
Earlier on February 17, answersheets were found at an exam centre in Tughlaqabad. SSC had blamed it on mischief, and cancelled the candidature of applicants at the centre.
But once the February 21 incident went viral on Facebook and WhatsApp, aspirants from across the country started to assemble at the CGO complex in Delhi.
What kind of exams does the SSC conduct?
The body was constituted in 1975 as Subordinate Services Selection Board under the Department of Personnel and Training of the central government, and re-designated as Staff Selection Commission in 1977. It recommends candidates for recruitment to various Class III (now called Group C) posts in Ministries/Departments of the central government and in subordinate offices. It also conducts recruitment exams for Group B posts in the payscale of Rs 9,300 to 34,800 with a grade pay of Rs 42,000.
The exam in question was the Tier-II Combined Graduate Level (CGL) exam to fill 8,000 Group B positions this year. Successful candidates would qualify for, among other posts, Income-Tax and Excise inspectors.
14 lakh aspirants had taken the Tier-I exam, of which 1.89 lakh had advanced to Tier-II.
The CGL exams test students on quantitative aptitude, general awareness and English. After Tier-II, there is a Tier-III exam. This is a descriptive paper, which replaced interviews in 2016.
The SSC also conducts the Combined Higher Secondary Level (CHSL) exam for the posts of Lower Division Clerks, Central Police Organisation exams for recruitments in the Delhi Police, CISF, and BSF, and exams for recruitment of Multi Tasking Staff (MTS) for posts of peon. All these exams are held once a year.
What does the SSC say about the alleged leak?
SSC Chairman Ashim Khurana rejected allegations that the questions had been leaked. “There has been no leakage of any question paper of CGL (Tier-II), 2017. Exams have been fairly conducted from February 17 to 22,” Khurana said. SSC alleges that the ongoing agitation is being sponsored by certain coaching centres that want the exam to be cancelled or delayed so that they can run crash courses for aspirants. Khurana said coaching centres were against the system of online exams, to which SSC switched over in June 2016. The Commission has since conducted 25 examinations, in which nearly 2.47 crore candidates have appeared, he said.
But if there was no leak, why did SSC cancel the February 21 exam?
According to the Commission, on February 21, the service provider agency had uploaded a dummy instead of the actual mathematics paper. “Because of the inconvenience that students faced due to the dummy paper being uploaded first, and then being replaced with main paper, the examination of mathematics of February 21 has been cancelled,” Khurana said.
Who is leading the ongoing protests?
While the students gathered spontaneously, they have since found support from political parties and student organisations. The All India Students’ Association (AISA) has been backing the protesters from the beginning, and the NSUI and ABVP, students’ wings of the Congress and BJP, too, have extended solidarity. Leaders of the BJP, AAP, and Swaraj Abhiyan have been addressing students, and repeating their demand for an inquiry by the CBI.
Some protests are taking place outside Delhi as well. In Bihar, SSC aspirants organised a rail roko with support from Madhepura MP Pappu Yadav, stopping trains in Darbhanga and Ara. Protests have also taken place in Allahabad, and Rewari in Haryana.