GUWAHATI, Nov 3 - Citing the recent case of recruitment of about 900 candidates from outside the State for filling up Grade IV posts under the Lumding Railway Division, the Assam Rail Passengers’ Association (ARPA) has called upon the State government and the political leaders here to pressurise the Centre to introduce necessary legislation to ensure that only local youths are employed for Grade III and Grade IV posts in the Indian Railways and other Central departments and undertakings.
ARPA has also said that only realignment of the existing Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) and its bifurcation into two separate zones, with one catering exclusively to the seven northeastern states, is the only solution to bring about faster development of rail infrastructure in this region.
“The recent case where almost 900 youths from other states were recruited for filling up vacancies in the Lumding Division once again illustrates the fact that the people of the North East are deprived of their dues. What is the need to recruit youths from other parts of the country for Grade IV posts here when the rate of unemployment in the northeastern states is so high? The railway authorities may say that there is no provision for reservation of jobs region-wise in Central government departments and undertakings. But, that does not take away the fact that local youths of Assam and the North East have been deprived of what should have been rightfully theirs?” Dipankar Sharma, secretary of ARPA, said here today.
He added, “What is use of organising agitations and demonstrations once the recruitments have already been carried out? We come to know of such facts only after things are already done. There is a strong lobby which always deprives the North East and its people, be it in the case of railway projects or of recruitments in railway jobs. And it is very unfortunate that our State government, our legislators, parliamentarians and our leaders remain mum on such sensitive matters.”
Calling upon the Assam government and local political leaders in the State to become active on this issue, Sharma said that only sustained pressure on the Central government and the railway authorities can bring about a change.
“Pressure must be put on the Central government to amend its recruitment policy so that local youths of a backward region like the North East, where employment avenues are anyway few, are not deprived on the excuse of having ‘all-India merit list’. Ideally, vacancies of Grade III and Grade IV should be filled with locals only. However, in the short run, if reservation of jobs on regional basis is not possible immediately, then at least the State government and the political parties must tell the Centre to hold special recruitment drives for locals of the North East for a period covering five to seven years. AASU and other regional students’ outfits must also mobilise public opinion on the issue,” said Sharma.
It is noteworthy that the Leader of the Opposition in the Assam Legislative Assembly, Debabrata Saikia, had recently spoken out against the latest recruitment by the railways.
Citing reports, Saikia had said that about 899 candidates from outside Assam, primarily from states like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Haryana, have been “surreptitiously recruited” for Grade-IV posts under the Lumding Railway Division at the cost of depriving eligible local unemployed youth.
The Congress leader had written a letter to Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal in this regard and urged him “to take bold steps to have the partisan and irregular recruitment process scrapped.”
“We would like to thank Saikia for showing some initiative and highlighting the issue. Otherwise, we have over the years noticed that the political leaders of Assam never bother to speak out on matters like this. If necessary, the Assam Legislative Assembly can pass a resolution demanding that the Central government bring in a legislation to recruit only locals in Grade III and Grade IV posts,” said the ARPA secretary.
He also castigated the Railway Ministry for not taking any steps to establish a separate zone catering exclusively to the northeastern states.
“When Suresh Prabhu was the Railway Minister, he had promised to look into this long-standing demand. After his departure from the ministry, no action has been taken on the issue. At present, most the projects and funds meant for the NFR goes to those areas of West Bengal and Bihar, which come under the zone. Assam and the other northeastern states are deprived. Only a bifurcation and realignment of NFR can address the infrastructural issues of railways in the North East,” Sharma said.
The previous State government headed by Tarun Gogoi had also called for bifurcation of the NFR.
“The Sonowal government should take up this issue with the Centre. Having a separate zone will help in faster completion of projects and expansion of the railway system in the North East,” said Sharma.