New Delhi: The fate of 2.37 crore job aspirants who have applied for 1.6 lakh posts in Indian Railways in 2018 is uncertain as a public interest litigation (PIL) has been filed in Delhi High Court challenging the appointment of TCS iON by the railways for conducting the computer-based test (CBT).
In his plea, petitioner Shailendra Sharma had alleged that the ministry of railways and the Railway Recruitment Control Board (RRCB) had awarded the contract for conducting the computer-based recruitment test to TCS iON on nomination, instead of through a bidding process. By doing this, they had violated the norms and undermined the guidelines of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), the petitioner added.
“The Central Vigilance Commission has repeatedly reiterated the need for transparency in the award of contracts by the government and its instrumentalities," the petition says.
In February, the Indian Railways had initiated the world’s biggest recruitment drive to fill around 1.6 lakh vacancies for posts like assistant loco pilots, technicians, gangmen, switchmen, trackmen, cabinmen, welders, helpers and porters in Group C and D. The recruitment exams started in August and will continue till October, while the result dates are yet to be announced. However, following the petition, uncertainty will prevail till Indian Railways gets a clean chit from the judiciary.
Queries sent by Mint to both Indian Railways and TCS iON remained unanswered. They refused to share details of the contract stating the matter was sub judice.
Three companies conduct online exams for government bodies and universities--TCS, SIFY and Prometric. Among these, TCS has been market leader for the last few years. The company conducts many exams like the Common Aptitude Test (CAT) and Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) among others.
Indian Railways entered into an MoU with TCS iON in 2015 for conducting online exams. In 2016-17, TCS won the contract to conduct the examinations after a bidding round organized by the Railways charging around ₹ 100 per candidate (for the ones who appeared). In 2016-17 around 90 lakh applicants took the exam.
In February, the railways had floated a tender for empanelment of examination conducting agencies with a closing date of February 28. However, on February 22 it issued a public notice stating the date of submission of RFQ documents had been postponed and a fresh date would be notified. But on June 25 it discharged the tender without assigning any reasons through a public notice.
Talking to Mint, a senior railway official said, “Railways can justify the move. Under Rule 194 of General Financial Rules 2017, the government can select an entity by direct negotiation/nomination, on the lines of single tender mode under exceptional circumstance. For example such tasks that represent a natural continuation of previous work carried out by the firm or situations where only one consultant has the requisite expertise." In case of TCS iON both the rules applied, he added.
The notice by the Delhi High Court was received by lawyer Jagjit Singh on behalf of the railways and the RRCB and the next date of hearing is fixed for December 10.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal has described the recruitment drive as one of the NDA government’s biggest achievements. “Indian Railways has made its upcoming recruitment drive completely online, enhancing transparency and fairness in the process," he had tweeted.