After the passage of the historic and revolutionary recruitment reform in the form of National Recruitment Agency (NRA) by the Union Cabinet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to the youth of the country, saying the move will prove to be a boon for crores of youngsters. He asserted that it will eliminate multiple tests and save time as well as resources. PM Modi also said that the creation of the NRA will give a big boost to transparency, which is the hallmark of his governance model. A multi-agency body, the NRA will conduct a Common Eligibility Test (CET) to screen/shortlist candidates for the Group B and C (non-technical) posts. The NRA will have representatives from the Ministry of Railways, Ministry of Finance/Department of Financial Services, Staff Selection Commission (SSC), Railway Recruitment Boards (RRBs) and Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS).
At present, aspirants have to take different exams that are conducted by various agencies for central government jobs. On average, 2.5-3 crore candidates appear for about 1.25 lakh vacancies in the central government every year. But from next year, the NRA will conduct the CET and based on the score, one can apply for a vacancy with the respective agency.
It may be recalled that in the last six years, a series of governance reforms were undertaken under PM Modi and some out-of-the-box decisions including doing away with getting documents attested by a gazetted officer and replacing the same with self-attestation, doing away with interviews for lower-rung selections, the abolition of over 1,500 obsolete rules/laws, three-month central government stint as assistant secretaries for IAS officers at the beginning of their career, amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act and a new format for the PM’s Excellence Awards. But the NRA stands out as a unique model as it marks a paradigm shift in the government recruitment process. It’s also in tune with the Modi government’s mantra of “Ease of Living for the Young Job Aspirants” by facilitating ease of recruitment, selection and job placement. Moreover, the multiple recruitment examinations are a burden on the candidates, as also on the respective recruitment agencies, involving avoidable/repetitive expenditure, law and order/security-related issues and venue-related problems. The NRA is a combination of convenience and cost-effectiveness for candidates.
Examination centres in every district would greatly enhance access to the candidates located in far-flung areas. There will be a special focus on creating examination infrastructure in the 117 Aspirational Districts, which will go a long way in affording access to candidates at a place near where they reside. This will prove a great boon to crores of aspirants residing in hilly, rural and remote areas and most importantly, for female candidates who face a plethora of problems in taking such examinations at different centres at different times. The resultant benefits in terms of cost, effort and safety will be immense. Taking job opportunities closer to the people is a radical step that would greatly enhance ease of living for the youth. The NRA also envisions conducting mock tests for rural youth and will have a 24×7 helpline and grievance redressal portal.
Another great feature of the NRA-CET Combo is that the CET score of the candidate shall remain valid for three years from the date of declaration of the result. The best of the valid scores shall be deemed to be the current score of the candidate and there would be no restriction on the number of attempts to appear in the CET subject to the upper age limit. Relaxation in the upper age limit shall be given to SC/ST/OBC candidates and from other categories as per the extant government policy. This will go a long way in mitigating the hardship of candidates who spend a considerable amount of time, money and effort preparing for and giving these examinations every year.
The NRA shall conduct a separate CET each for the three levels of graduate, higher secondary (12th pass) and the matriculate (10th pass) candidates for those non-technical posts to which recruitment is presently carried out by the SSC, RRBs and IBPS. Based on the screening done at the CET score level, final selection for recruitment shall be made through separate specialised tiers (II, III, etc) of examination, which shall be conducted by the respective recruitment agencies. The curriculum and standard for this test will be common. This will ease the burden of candidates who are at present required to prepare for each of the examinations separately.
Candidates would have the facility of registering on a common portal and give a choice of centres. Based on availability, they will be allotted centres. The ultimate aim is to reach a stage wherein candidates can schedule their tests at centres of their choice.
The CET will be available in several languages. This will greatly facilitate people from different parts of the country to take the exam and have an equal opportunity of being selected. Besides Hindi and English, tests will be conducted in 12 languages in due course and efforts will be made to include all the languages mentioned in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution.
Initially, the CET scores would be used by the three major recruitment agencies. However, over time, it is expected that other recruitment agencies of the central government will adopt it as well. Further, other agencies in the public as well as private domain will be able to adopt the CET if they so choose. In the long run, the CET score could be shared with other recruiting agencies in the central government, state governments/Union Territories, public sector undertakings and the private sector in a true spirit of cooperative federalism.
This article first appeared in the print edition on August 27, 2020 under the title ‘Taking jobs closer to people’. The is the Minister of State, Prime Minister’s Office, Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions; Department of Atomic Energy and Department of Space and Mos (Independent Charge) for the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region