Resolving the matter through discussions
There is recent and continuing sit-in by Disabled persons (‘Divyangjan’) at Mandi House in Delhi regarding some issues for Level-1 jobs in the Railways for Divyangajans. At the outset, on this sensitive matter, it is categorically stated that insofar as Divyangjan candidates are concerned, Railways have ensured that notification of the required number of reserved vacancies, conduct of the entire recruitment exercise, and filled up of posts meant for Divyangjan have been not only transparent and fair, but also in accordance with statutory provisions and the law of the land in this regard. Nevertheless, necessary details with regard to the whole issue are brought out below.
· A centralized notification (CEN 02/18) for around 63000 Level-1 vacancies for all Railway zones across Indian Railways was issued in Feb’18 by Railway Recruitment Boards.
· This notification had initially 729 vacancies for Disabled in 3 Categories- Orthopaedic, Visual, and Hearing Disabled. The major chunk of vacancies was notified for Orthopaedically Disabled, based on job & suitability requirements of the posts advertised. Candidates could apply to be considered for vacancies of one of the 16 Railway zones of their choice.
· An organization of visually impaired persons filed a PIL in Hon’ble Delhi High Court in Feb’18. In the meantime, the revised Disabilities Act, 2016 had been enacted by then and notified by the Department of Personnel & Training of the Govt. of India in Jan 2018. In terms of this Act, the total vacancies to be reserved for Persons with Benchmark Disabilities (PwBD) was revised upwards to 4%, with prescribed bifurcation among Disability categories.
· In compliance of Court hearings and directions in the case, the provisions of this revised Disabilities Act was made applicable to the CEN 02/2018 recruitment exercise as well. This meant that 4% vacancies had to be kept reserved for Disabled candidates. As specified in the Act, this was to be distributed equally as 1% each among 4 Disability Categories – Locomotor Disability (LD) that was earlier called Orthopaedic; Visually Impaired (VI), Hearing Impaired (HI), and an added Disability category of Multi-Disability (MD). MD would include candidates suffering from more than one Disability among the other three, as defined by medical benchmark standards.
· Accordingly, total Vacancies reserved for Disabled candidates (Divyangjan) were revised upwards by Railways from 729 to over 2400 with around 600 for each of the 4 Disability categories of LD, VI, HI and MD.
· In the meantime, a window of one month was provided on February 28, 2018 for candidates to apply because of the applicability of the revised Disability Act.
· There were total about 1.87 crore applicants. Written Exams (Computer-based 100% objective in 15 languages) were conducted in the latter part of 2018. Around 1,55,000 (1.55 lakhs) Disabled candidates took the exam for the around 2400 posts notified as reserved for such candidates. All prescribed facilities such as scribes, extra time, careful seating arrangements etc. were arranged for Disabled candidates. Minimum qualifying/cut-off threshold scores that were 40 for General candidates and 30 for SC/ST/OBC candidates were relaxed by 2 marks to 38 and 28 respectively for Disabled candidates. Around 34000 Disabled candidates scored above this threshold qualifying limit. Based on number of vacancies and their merit position in the particular Disability category in that Railway, commensurate number of qualified candidates were called for Document Verification and medical examination, prior to being offered appointment. Against those who are either absent or have not cleared verification of Documents and meeting the medical standards as per their Disability, candidates next in line as per merit have been called. So far, around 1025 Disabled candidates have already been selected for appointment. As authenticity of certificates and determining of medical status is taking additional time in the case of some Disabled candidates, this number of 1025 will go up in the coming weeks.
Sequence of Events
· Last month, some protesters under a banner “Toshiyas” did a sit-in in Delhi for 3 days from Oct 23-Oct 25, 2019. Apart from generic grievances regarding Government policy of reservation for Disabled categories and how this should be implemented in recruitments, they had also alleged irregularities in individual cases due to which they were aggrieved that meritorious Disabled candidates had not been selected.
· A detailed three-way discussion with the protesters, senior Railway officers and senior officers of the Ministry of Social Justice was chaired by Secretary, M/o Social Justice on 24 Oct 2019.
· On 25th October, the Court of Chief Commissioners of Persons with Disabilities (CCPD) heard the Petitioners and took their submissions on record. The Railways’ position and point-wise clarifications were also taken on record, following which the Court passed orders the same evening. These orders directed display of cut-offs for each Disability category not only on the respective Railway Recruitment cell websites of each Railway zone, but also on the Railway Board website. Directions to Railway zones to expedite the process, ensuring that no non-Divyangjan was appointed to a Divyangjan-reserved post, and careful consideration of any list of individual candidates’ grievances to be furnished by the Petitioner were also given.
· The directions above were complied by Railways and compliance report also sent to the Court (CCPD), with a copy to the Petitioner.
· After a specific request by Railway Board’s office, the Petitioner in the case at CCPD furnished a list of around 184 candidates across 10 Railway zones, who, it was claimed, had not been selected even though they had qualified as per merit.
· The list was carefully examined by Railways Administration and it was found that around 21 of the 184 had not secured the relaxed threshold cut-off/ qualifying score of 38 (for UR) or 28 (for SC/ST/OBC). The around 163 others had crossed this minimum threshold but were far short in terms of merit score when compared to the last such candidate selected in that Disability category by that Railway zone. This detailed position in respect of the entire list submitted by him was sent to the Petitioner.
· On Ministry of Railways’ own initiative, a further detailed follow-up meeting with the main Petitioner and several of the original protesters was again held at Patna on 23rd November 2019 with senior officers of the Board to collect any residual grievances.
· Again some protesters under a fresh banner have suddenly gone on a sit-in since 26th November. These protesters were part of the earlier group, but have now reportedly splintered/broken away and have sat on this dharna.
· Two more attempts at resolving the matter through discussions with senior Railway officers have failed first at Rail Bhawan on 26th Nov evening, and the second at the protest site on 27th evening, as the protesters are sticking to their demand of being given jobs in Railways irrespective of their merit position, Disability category, and vacancies notified in the Railway zone they have chosen.