New Delhi: Indian Railways’ largest recruitment drive will begin on Thursday amid uncertainty over the number of posts with more than 47 lakh applicants sitting for the computer-based examination that will be held over 10 phases till 31 August. The Railway Recruitment Board (RRB), the body responsible for recruitment of employees for the national carrier, had in February sought applications for 26,502 posts of assistant loco pilots (ALPs) and technicians. However, a new notification issued on 1 August, just 10 days before the examinations were to start, stated that “these 26,502 vacancies are likely to be increased to about 60,000 vacancies."

A senior RRB official said on condition of anonymity, “There is still no clarity on the increase in number of vacancies. We haven’t got any communication in this regard." The word ‘likely’ has been used in notification because the increase in number was still uncertain, he said.

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The increase in number of vacancies is also being looked as a political move with General Elections due next year. However, railway officials deny it.

Around 2.5 lakh applicants will appear in the first phase of the examination, which will be held on Thursday across 440 centres in 116 cities. Of the total 47 lakh applicants, 9.5 lakh are from Uttar Pradesh, while 9 lakh and 4.5 lakh are from Bihar and Rajasthan, respectively.

The computer-based exam will be of 60 minute duration and will have 75 multiple choice questions. Around 1/3rd marks will be deducted for every incorrect answer. The exam will be conducted in specialised centers equipped with critical security features such as CCTV and metal detectors.

Indian Railways is one of the largest employers in the world with more than 1.4 million employees.