India’s Modi criticized for exam irregularities amid lack of jobs

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India’s opposition parties and the country’s students have hit out at the new government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for irregularities in recent government-run tests for college admissions and government teaching jobs.

Modi surprisingly lost a parliamentary majority in a general election that ended this month partly because of joblessness, especially among the youth, exacerbated by frequent leaks of test papers for government jobs that are coveted by many Indians for the security.

Having to rely on fickle allies to run his third government, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party next faces local elections in the states of Haryana and Maharashtra where it did badly in the national vote.

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The government late on Wednesday cancelled an examination done earlier this week for university and college teachers as well as doctorate courses, based on early inputs from a government cyber-crime analysis team that the “integrity of the aforesaid examination may have been compromised”. It said in a statement the federal Central Bureau of Investigation would probe the matter.

The Ministry of Education said it had also sought a report from police into “certain irregularities alleged” in running another test for admission in undergraduate medical programmes in May.

The main opposition Congress party, on a high after its better-than-expected election result, said the “Modi government has ruined the country’s education and recruitment system”.

“Our agenda is to secure jobs for the youth, affirmative action and freedom from paper leaks,” Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge wrote on social media. “Our struggle for the rights of the youth will continue from the streets to parliament.”

Other opposition parties also criticized the government.

India’s unemployment among people aged between 15 and 24 was 18 percent last year, according to estimates from the International Labor Organization, higher than neighbors such as Bangladesh and Pakistan. Overall, India’s unemployment currently is 8.5 percent, according to the private think-tank Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, compared with around 6 percent before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pankaj Yadav, 24, was one of nearly one million students affected by the cancellation. He took the examination for a doctorate in political science for the third time and was hopeful of cracking it, lining him up for eventually landing a teaching job at a university.

“As students, we can only protest,” Yadav said in the town of Prayagraj where he attended a cram school for the examination. “I thought my paper went well. If I can get enrolled in PhD somewhere, I will become eligible for assistant professor jobs in a university.”

Some student unions have already called for a demonstration outside the education ministry in Delhi later in the day. Congress has also called for protests in some states.

The ministry said it was “committed to ensure the sanctity of examinations and protect the interest of students” and that the guilty would be punished.

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