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Language row again erupts in TN over postal dept exam

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The Centre’s announcement that it will conduct the postal department exams only in English and Hindi, despite Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s assurance in 2019 that they would be conducted in regional languages also, has again created a flutter in Tamil Nadu.

In 2016, during a postal department exam, candidates from north India had scored better marks in Tamil than those from Tamil Nadu. It had sparked a controversy. The matter is under CBI investigation. In July 2019, the exam was cancelled after protests in the state following which Prasad promised that the exams would be conducted in Tamil, too, in future.

Also read: Three-language formula reignites debate over Tamils learning Hindi

A public interest litigation in the Madras High Court against the exam not being conducted in Tamil was closed after the Centre’s assurance. The court had directed the Centre to notify the exam announcements in Tamil, too.

However, on January 7, the department notified the exam for PO and Railway Mail Service (RMS) accountants. The exam is to be conducted on February 14. But political parties in the state have opposed the move.

It was alleged that while in the past the exams for various vacancies in the department were conducted in Tamil, the exams for employees within the department for promotion were conducted in English and Hindi.

The PO and RMS accountant exams are to be conducted for postal assistants (PA) and sorting assistants (SA).

“This exam is not for direct recruitment and not even for promotion. It is for persons who are willing to change their roles from the existing ones. It is meant to test the accountancy skills of our clerks. If they pass this exam, they will be given a special allowance of a mere ₹150 and they will remain in that post till their retirement. Though this exam is conducted across the country, not more than 200 employees would attempt it. In each division, there would be no more than two or three vacancies for this post,” said V Santhanaraman, director of postal services (HQ), Chennai.

The exam being an open book model has questions based on the posts and telegram (P & T) manuals and financial manuals of the department.

“The candidates will be assessed on the rules pertaining to pension, pay benefits, etc. For many years, the exam has been conducted in English and Hindi only, because all the manuals are only in those languages. The claim that the postal department exams were conducted in regional languages in the past is also wrong. The exams for lower grade posts like postmen alone are conducted in regional languages since those posts have a connection directly with the consumers,” said Santhanaraman.

Bala, state secretary of Democratic Youth Federation of India, Tamil Nadu, told The Federal that conducting exams in English and Hindi will benefit north Indian candidates more.

Also read: Telangana CM urges Modi to allow job-seekers to write competitive exams in regional languages

“Like in 2016, if north Indian candidates indulge in some malpractice and get postings here, they will benefit from the departmental exams conducted in English and Hindi for promotions. That will take away opportunities from our people,” alleged Bala, whose organisation staged a protest and burnt the application forms of the exam in Trichy district on January 11.

Most departmental employees who would take this exam in the state will choose English. If anyone writes the exam in Hindi, we need to bring an evaluator who knows the language. So the allegation that Tamils are intentionally excluded is unfounded, said Santhanaraman.

“The exam which was cancelled last year was conducted again after the rule related to inclusion of regional languages was amended. With regard to the 2016 exam, the probe is going on,” he added.

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