'SCs and OBCs Don't Matter': 600 Days of Protest in UP Teacher Recruitment Scam

In 2019, anomalies were reported in the reservation process followed in the UP Assistant Teacher Recruitment Exam.

6 min read
Hindi Female

It was pouring rain in Lucknow early morning on Sunday, 4 February. But that didn't seem to bother 28-year-old Chandan Kumar and several other protesters who sat in the city's Eco Park to demand justice for victims of an alleged reservation scam in the Uttar Pradesh Assistant Teacher Recruitment Examination (ATRE) conducted on 6 January 2019.

"The crowd is slightly thin today because of the rains. We usually have 150-200 people show up on a daily basis. We've been on protest for over 600 days. Can you imagine that? 600 days!" said Kumar, a resident of Raebareli, who in his quest for justice, had moved to Lucknow when the protest started — only with the hope of returning home soon.

"I come from an agricultural background. Nobody in my family has a job, let alone a government job. Initially, I thought that the dharna will last a few weeks. Agar forward caste ka matter hota toh ab tak solve ho chuka hota. Lekin gareeb aur pichde log sirf vote bank hote hain. (Had this been an issue of the forward castes, it would've been solved by now. But poor people who come from backward castes are just treated as a vote bank). Our issues don't matter," said Kumar, a job aspirant from the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category.

The average monthly salary of an Assistant teacher in a government school in Uttar Pradesh is Rs 50,000.

For many aspirants including Kumar, this job was their only hope for social and financial security. And it is this hope that continues to bring them to Eco Park despite 600 days of protest and state inaction.

"Everybody from the Chief Minister to the Opposition and even the Allahabad High Court has accepted that there were discrepancies in how the exam was conducted. Yet, close to five years have passed, and we are still forced to sit on dharna everyday to demand justice," Kumar said.

The Making of UP's 'Vyapam Scam'

On 1 December 2018, in the run-up to the 2019 UP Assembly elections, the state government announced the recruitment of 69,000 teachers for the job of Assistant Teacher. The exam was conducted on 6 January 2019.

However, in May 2019, when the results were declared, the candidates found several discrepancies in the reservation criteria. The aspirants claimed that against 18,500 seats which were to be reserved for candidates from the Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and OBC categories, only 2,637 seats were allotted in the reserved category.

"...basically 15,863 seats belonging to the reserved categories were allotted to candidates from General caste category," Kumar alleged to The Quint.

Similar allegations were made regarding seats reserved for aspirants from the Scheduled Caste (SC) category. "SC aspirants were provided with just 16 percent reservation instead of the mandatory 22.5 percent," the protesters alleged.

In 2019, anomalies were reported in the reservation process followed in the UP Assistant Teacher Recruitment Exam.

The protest, launched in 2022, have completed over 600 days.

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

In July 2020, the case was taken to the National Commission for Other Backward Classes, which after an inquiry found discrepancies in the reservation criteria adopted for the exam. Following the Commission's report, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in April 2021 took cognisance of the case and ordered redressal of grievances.

Earlier Opposition leader including Congress' Priyanka Gandhi had compared the scam with the infamous 'Vyapam' Scam unearthed in Madhya Pradesh in 2013.

On 5 January 2022, the state government then prepared a list of 6,800 aspirants wronged in the process and promised to issue joining letters shortly.

By then, however, it was time for another state Assembly election (2022) and the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) came into force, hampering the recruitment process.

The case was then taken to the Allahabad High Court, which in March 2023, observed that there were several anomalies in the reservation process in the examination and directed the state to quash the initial list and issue a new list of successful candidates within a time period of three months.

"It's February 2024, and we're still here...those appointment letters haven't reached us till date," Kumar said.


'This Job is Our Oxygen'

Rama Yadav, 35, has come all the way from Amethi — over 130 km from Lucknow — to participate in the protest. "I am here with my five year old daughter. Whenever I come to the protest, I have to bring her along. There's nobody to take care of her at home," said Rama, who also appeared for the exam in 2019.

In its report from October 2020, the National Commission for Backward Castes observed that according to the rules governing reservations in India, if a candidate from the SC, ST or OBC categories is selected on the basis of merit along with the General category candidates, their selection will not be counted as a section in the reserved category.

"There were 34,589 unreserved seats in the examination. As per the real figures, 18,851 OBC candidates qualified for the cut off on the basis of merit. However, the first list prepared by the education department only had 13,007 OBC candidates in unreserved category. Remaining 5,844 OBC students were placed in reserved category despite them qualifying in the unreserved category seats," the report stated. A copy of this report was seen by The Quint.

In 2019, anomalies were reported in the reservation process followed in the UP Assistant Teacher Recruitment Exam.

A delegation representing the victims outside the residence of Uttar Pradesh Education Minister Sandeep Singh.

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

As of June 2020, the UP Police had arrested 10 people in connection with the alleged scam.

As per a report by the Economic Times, the police at that time confiscated Rs 22 Lakhs and two luxury cars from the accused. One KL Patel, a former Zila Panchayat member, was identified as the main accused.

"Everybody agrees that a scam has happened. The NCBC, the state government, the police...and yet we are being forced to fight this in the courts. How are we expected to pay the lawyers?" questioned Rama. "This job was supposed to be the oxygen of our lives. Imagine having to spend five years without oxygen. That's how our lives are right now," she added.

In March 2023, the Lucknow bench of the High Court directed the UP Government to prepare a revised select list of 69,000 Assistant Teachers selected through the exam after rectifying the irregularities committed in fixing the quota for their appointment.

This after 117 writ petitions were filed in the court in connection with the case.

The court also directed the government to quash the list of 6,800 candidates identified as those who were wronged in the process. These candidates would have been appointed in addition to the 69,000 others.


"…any reserved category candidate, who has obtained 65 percent marks or more can be considered to be a meritorious reserved category candidate and accordingly allowed to compete with the general category candidate and progress to the open category, whereas a reserved category candidate, who has scored less than 65 percent and more than 60 percent in the ATRE-2019 would be considered in their own respective category and would not be allowed to progress into consideration zone with general category candidates,” the Court had observed.

In 2019, anomalies were reported in the reservation process followed in the UP Assistant Teacher Recruitment Exam.

Protesters from different parts of UP gather at the city's Eco Park in the hope of justice.

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

The Long Wait For Justice

After a rather long stint at the Eco Park, Raj Bahadur Yadav, 33, returned home to Allahabad on 3 February. "I'd fight for what's mine till my last breathe but sitting on a dharna comes at a cost — mental and financial," he said.

"For most part of my adult life, I have stayed in Allahabad preparing for various exams to get a government job. I come from a poor family in Azamgarh. After several unsuccessful attempts, I was one of those whose name appeared in the list 6,800 students who were wronged in the scam. My heart sank when I saw that. To be able to sit in Lucknow and protest is also a luxury which only a few people can afford. There are people who took loans to complete their education. In fact, some candidates who were protesting with us died by suicide because of apathy of authorities in this case," he alleged.

A first generation learner, Raj Bahadur said he will now go back to Azamgarh look for private jobs to support his family.

(The Quint has reached out to concerned UP government officials regarding the status of the probe. This story will be updated when they respond.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read Latest News and Breaking News at The Quint, browse for more from jobs

Topics:  Uttar Pradesh   Jobs   UP Government 

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
3 months
12 months
12 months
Check Member Benefits
Read More