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NRA – Gateway to ‘Ease of Living’ for Job Aspirants

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 By Dr Jitendra Singh
After the passage of the historic and revolutionary recruitment reform in the form of National Recruitment Agency by the Union Cabinet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to the youth of the country, saying the move will prove to be a boon for crores of youngsters and asserted that it will eliminate multiple tests and save precious time as well as resources. Modi also said that creation of NRA will also be a big boost to transparency, which is the Central Hallmark of his governance model. A multi-agency body called the National Recruitment Agency (NRA) will conduct a Common Eligibility Test (CET) to screen/shortlist candidates for the Group B and C (non-technical) posts. NRA will have representatives of Ministry of Railways, Ministry of Finance/Department of Financial Services, the SSC, RRB & IBPS.

At present, aspirants have to take different exams that are conducted by various agencies for central government jobs and, on an average, 2.5 crore to 3 crore candidates appear for about 1.25 lakh vacancies in the central government every year. But, from next year, the NRA will conduct a common eligibility test (CET) and based on the CET score, one can apply for a vacancy with the respective agency. This is nothing short of a revolutionary step in making life simpler for millions of job aspirants, besides saving time and resources.

It may be recalled that in the last six years, a series of Governance reforms was undertaken under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and some out of box decisions were like doing away with the time old practice of getting documents attested by a gazetted officer and replacing the same with self-attestation, doing away with interviews for lower rung selections, abolition of more than 1500 obsolete rules/laws, three-month Central Government stint as Assistant Secretaries for IAS officers in the beginning of their career, amendment in the Prevention of Corruption Act and new format for PM’s Excellence Awards. But NRA stands out a unique model as it marks a paradigm shift in the Government Recruitment process. It’s also in tune with Modi Government’s Mantra of “Ease of Living for the Young Job Aspirants” by simply facilitating Ease of Recruitment, Selection and Job placement. Moreover, the multiple recruitment examinations are a burden on the candidates, as also on the respective recruitment agencies, involving avoidable/repetitive expenditure, law and order/security related issues and venue related problems. Therefore, NRA in its true spirit is a combination of convenience and cost effectiveness for candidates.

Ease of Access to Examination Centres
Examination Centres in every District of the country would greatly enhance access to the candidates located in far-flung areas and there will be special focus on creating examination infrastructure in the 117 Aspirational Districts, which will go a long way in affording access to candidates at a place nearer to where they reside. In one stroke, it will prove a great boon to crores of aspirants residing in hilly, rural and remote areas and most importantly the girl candidates facing plethora of problems in taking such examinations at different centres at different point of times and the resultant benefits in terms of cost, effort, safety would be immense. Taking job opportunities closer to the people is a radical step that would greatly enhance ease of living for the youth. NRA also envisions conducting Mock Test for rural youth and will have 24×7 helpline and grievance redressal portal.

Ease of Score-CET Score to be valid for three years, no bar on attempts
Another great feature of the NRA-CET Combo is that the CET score of the candidate shall remain valid for a period of three years from the date of declaration of the result. The best of the valid scores shall be deemed to be the current score of the candidate and there would be no restriction on the number of attempts to be taken by a candidate to appear in the CET subject to the upper age limit. Relaxation in the upper age limit shall be given to candidates of SC/ST/OBC and other categories as per the extant policy of the Government. This would go a long way in mitigating the hardship of candidates who spend a considerable amount of time, money and effort preparing and giving these examinations every year.

Standardised Testing
NRA shall conduct a separate CET each for the three levels of graduate, higher secondary (12th pass) and the matriculate (10th pass) candidates for those non-technical posts to which recruitment is presently carried out by the Staff Selection Commission (SSC), the Railway Recruitment Boards (RRBs) and by the Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS). Based on the screening done at the CET score level, final selection for recruitment shall be made through separate specialised Tiers (II, III, etc.) of examination which shall be conducted by the respective recruitment agencies. The curriculum for this test would be common as would be the standard. This would greatly ease the burden of candidates who are at present required to prepare for each of the examinations separately as per different curriculum.

Ease of Tests and choosing Centres
Candidates would have the facility of registering on a common portal and give a choice of Centres. Based on availability, they would be allotted Centres. The ultimate aim is to reach a stage wherein candidates can schedule their own tests at Centres of their choice.

Ease of Multiple languages
The CET would be available in a number of languages. This would greatly facilitate people from different parts of the country to take the exam and have an equal opportunity of being selected. Besides Hindi and English, tests will be conducted in 12 languages in due course and efforts will be made to include all the languages mentioned in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution. Initially, the CET scores would be used by the three major recruitment agencies. However, over a period of time it is expected that other recruitment agencies in the Central Government would adopt the same. Further, it would be open for other agencies in the public as well as private domain to adopt it if they so choose. Thus, in the long run, the CET score could be shared with other recruiting agencies in the Central Government, State Governments/Union Territories, Public Sector Undertaking and Private Sector in a true spirit of Cooperative Federalism.

(Dr Jitendra Singh is Union Minister of State (Independent Charge)