Indian jobseekers set trains on fire in protest against railway hiring

Unsuccessful applicants allege irregularities in screening process for about 150,000 vacancies

Smoke pours out of a train carriage in the Gaya district of Bihar state after it was set on fire in a protest against alleged irregularities in the recruitment process by Indian Railways. AFP

Thousands of youngsters in India burnt empty train coaches and blocked rail traffic this week in protest against alleged irregularities in recruitment by the country's railways department, one of the world's largest employers.

Student associations have called for more protests this week, mainly in the eastern state of Bihar, which has been reporting one of the highest jobless rates in the country.

India's unemployment is estimated to have exceeded the global rate in five of the past six years.

Disorder erupted on Monday after test results for several job categories showed that the names of the same people appeared multiple times, riling unsuccessful candidates.

Millions had applied for about 150,000 jobs in Bihar and neighbouring Uttar Pradesh state.

"The recruitment process has not been transparent," said Ashutosh Singh, one of the protesters in Bihar, where coaches of a stationary train were set on fire on Wednesday in the district of Gaya. "A number of the selected candidates had their names in various categories, which is very unfair."

Crowds gather for a demonstration in Gaya, in the north-east Indian state of Bihar, against India's railways' hiring process. AFP

The Ministry of Railways said on Wednesday that a committee had been formed to look into the concerns of the candidates.

It earlier said those found involved in the vandalism and destruction of public property could be barred from candidacy for railways jobs, as well as being subject to legal action.

Indian Railways employs more than 1.2 million people.

In Bihar's capital Patna, authorities have filed police complaints against about 400 unnamed people and six institutes involved in coaching students for railways and other jobs, senior official Chandrashekhar Singh said.

In Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state where local elections start next month, authorities suspended six police personnel for using "excessive force" against protesters in the city of Prayagraj.

Three civilians were arrested, senior police officer Ajay Kumar said.

Updated: January 27, 2022, 11:13 AM