Few days back JKSSB uploaded the merit list of much the awaited panchayat account assistants. Nearly two thousand candidates were declared qualified after declaration of the results. Those candidates who had crossed the winning line were seen celebrating their success across the social media platforms by uploading Alhamdulillah status updates amid virtual festivity like milieu on Facebook. While more than one and half lakh aspirants will have to continue their struggle for employment amid rising unemployment crisis. I too had figured in the failure list but instead of mourning over my loss, I was mourning the merit list of JKSSB. I began to feel like a victim of meritocracy. Let’s be frank enough, in a meritocratic society like ours, merit is the product of privilege. You will always find more privileged at the top of success pyramid, and less privileged at the bottom. I don’t want to spoil this limited newspaper space here by discussing urban-rural divide, and socioeconomic privileges of candidates, as reservation quota is already there to bridge this gap between socio economically less privileged – RBA/SC/ST – with more privileged OM candidates. I am going to discuss the elephant in the room; something evident but no one is daring to talk about this, i.e. the privilege of 4G network, which only one district in Kashmir division happens to be blessed with i.e. Ganderbal. Rest deprived of the same. I’m astonished why there is no separate merit list for candidates from Ganderbal due to this digital privilege.
Information and communication Technology is turning out to be an important teaching and learning tool in these unprecedented Covid19 times. Learning has shifted from brick (actual classroom) to click (virtual classroom) format. Unfortunately in this proverbial paradise on earth, we are robbed of this luxury, even though the supreme court of India had declared access to Internet a fundamental right. Unfortunately we have been left at the mercy of our rulers; it is for them to decide what’s good and what’s bad for us.
Now, coming back to JKSSB PAA exam, why I am not ready to accept my failure? Admit it, we are witnessing the worst unemployment crisis in our vale and with very little opportunities available for job in private sector, most of the qualified graduates are eyeing their hopes on government recruiting agencies like JKSSB and JKPSC. In mid-2019, announcement of fast track recruitment of PAA came like a breather for desperately waiting qualified candidates of the valley. Like many, I too was geared up to face this challenge. Now if there is no level playing field in these exams how can you expect the digitally less privileged candidate to compete with more privileged amid this dog eating dog competition? And how can JKSSB justify this merit list? How can you expect a candidate learning on snail’s speed 2g network to compete with a candidate learning on 4g speed network? it’s like comparing athlete running on foot with an athlete racing on motorbike.
Being at the receiving end of 4G ban, I know the trauma one has to face while studying on 2g network and how difficult it becomes to concentrate on study videos amid regular buffering slowdowns. Now you can claim internet isn’t the sole source of knowledge, one can study from books too? But before you rebut this claim of mine, I have to defend my statement: if you look at the syllabus of Panchayat Accounts Assistant, it’s interdisciplinary or mixed one, not subject specific at all, with topics from almost every stream, be it science, commerce or humanities. Now me being a science graduate, how can I understand accountancy from books. I needed some tutor for this and amid these Covid19 crisis I couldn’t find one. So, I had to rely on YouTube lectures for understanding of basics of these subject; I happened to be naïve from bottom to top. Now there is disparity in accessibility of digital platform for candidates from Baramulla and other districts to that of Ganderbal. That violates fundamental right of equal access to opportunities to compete. Let’s us take an example of watching ten-minute video on 2g network and 4g network, any candidate from districts other than Ganderbal will agree with me; time it takes to fully watch a video on YouTube is twice its duration time on 2g network i.e. ten-minute video is going to take twenty minutes for complete watching without ignoring the distraction caused by usual buffering stoppages while playing the video. That means our two-day preparation was literally equal to one day preparation of candidates from 4g blessed districts. That is shear injustice and needed to be taken in account while uploading merit list.
With all due respect to candidates of Ganderbal, I don’t have any animosity with candidates from Ganderbal district; neither I’m going to blame my failure on them. I just want to show mirror to authorities at the helm to highlight the plight caused due to 4g ban.