Here's your 10-point cheatsheet to this big story:
The government has suspended the exam and has set up a committee to tackle the grievances of the protesting students. Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has appealed to the students to not break the law and assured them that their grievances would be seriously addressed.
"I request students not to take the law into their hands. We will seriously address the grievances and concerns raised by them," the minister said and added that all Railway Recruitment Board chairmen have been asked to listen to the concerns of students, compile them and send them to the committee. "An email address has been set up for this purpose. The committee will go to different parts of the country and listen to grievances," he said.
Visuals from today's protest in Gaya showed a train engulfed in flames and firemen trying to put it out. A heavy contingent of police failed to control the protesters, who squatted on railway tracks, vandalised property, clashed with security forces and targeted several trains, severely affecting services.
The protests involve the Railway Recruitment Board's Non-Technical Popular Categories (RRB-NTPC) exam 2021. Students have opposed a decision by the Railways to hold the exam in two stages, claiming that the second stage is unfair to those who have cleared the first stage, results for which were released on January 15. Around 1.25 crore candidates had applied for the exams that had advertised over 35,000 posts from level 2 to level 6, with starting pay ranging from Rs 19,900 to Rs 35,400 per month. Around 60 lakh people appeared for the exam.
The Railways has decided to suspend the tests after the protests, a spokesperson said today. It has also formed a high-level committee to examine the grievances of those who have passed the exams under different railway recruitment boards (RRBs) and those who have failed the same. "Railway constitutes High Power Committee to look into Concerns of Candidates over NTPC CBT-1 Result. Candidates may submit their Grievances to Committee till 16th February 2022," the railway ministry tweeted. "Chief Ministers are working sensitively and we are in touch with them. We urge candidates to put forth grievances formally," the Railways Minister said today.
Protesters claim only one examination was mentioned in a notification issued in 2019 and accuse the government of "playing with their future". The Railways Ministry has clarified that the second stage exam was clearly mentioned in the notification.
In Jehanabad town, angry students burned an effigy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on railway tracks and raised slogans against the government.
In Sitamarhi, police fired in the air to disperse angry demonstrators at the railway station. Protests were also reported from Patna, Nawada, Muzaffarpur, Sitamarhi, Buxar and Bhojpur districts. Several trains were canceled or ran on alternative routes on Tuesday on account of the protests.
The agitation has affected several sections of the East Central Railway (ECR) zone and has hit more than 25 trains, causing inconvenience to passengers. The canceled trains include the Durg-Rajendra Nagar South Bihar Express, the Gaya-Jamalpur passenger, Gaya-Howrah Express and Patna-Varanasi Express trains. Several other trains had to be diverted.
The Railways said "mild" force was used after attempts by officials and police to pacify the protesters yielded no results. The police cleared the tracks and arrested at least four people in the state capital Patna on Monday. Amid rising protests, the Railways Ministry issued a statement warning candidates of being 'debarred for life' from jobs in the railways.