SRINAGAR, Mar 11: The protests by JKSSB (Jammu and Kashmir Services Selection Board) job aspirants over Aptech are related to a controversy surrounding the conduct of a recruitment exam by the JKSSB.
In February 2021, the JKSSB conducted an online recruitment exam for over 2,000 Class IV posts in various departments of the Jammu and Kashmir government.
However, many candidates who appeared for the exam alleged that there were several irregularities and technical glitches in the exam, which led to unfairness and discrepancies in the selection process.
One of the main allegations made by the candidates was that the JKSSB had outsourced process of examination to Aptech, a private company that was reportedly blacklisted by the government of India for irregularities in its operations.
The candidates alleged that the outsourcing of the exam to a blacklisted company was not only illegal but also compromised the integrity and fairness of the exam.
They demanded that the JKSSB cancel the exam and conduct a fresh exam under the supervision of a government agency.
The protests by JKSSB job aspirants over Aptech have been ongoing since then, with many candidates taking to the streets and social media to voice their grievances and demand justice. Recently, the protests transformed into juggernaut with many political leaders joining the protesting aspirants.
Altaf Bukhari, President of Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party said that the government must investigate the allegations against Aptech and take appropriate action to recover the diverted funds. He also reportedly called for greater transparency and accountability in the functioning of private companies involved in skill development programs.
Omar Abdullah, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, tweeted in support of the candidates and demanded that the government take action to address their concerns.
Mehbooba Mufti, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), also expressed her support for the candidates and demanded a fair and transparent recruitment process.
Sajad Lone, leader of the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Conference (JKPC), also tweeted in support of the candidates and demanded that the government take action to address their concerns.
The matter is still under investigation, and the Jammu and Kashmir government has assured the candidates that their concerns will be addressed.
Aptech Limited is a global education and training company headquartered in Mumbai. The company provides training and certification courses in IT and computer-related fields, such as software development, digital marketing, and hardware and networking. Aptech also offers learning solutions for schools and colleges, and it has partnerships with various universities and educational institutions around the world.
However, the company has been mired in controversy over the years, with several allegations of irregularities and fraudulent activities in its operations.
In 2015, Aptech was reportedly blacklisted by the Punjab government’s Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (TEVTA) for “poor performance and non-compliance with the terms and conditions of the contract.” According to the TEVTA spokesperson, Aptech was not fulfilling its obligations to provide quality training to students.
In 2017, the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) of India reportedly suspended Aptech’s affiliation as a training partner over concerns about its performance. According to reports, Aptech was unable to meet the required standards for training and certification.
In 2018, the Indian Ministry of Corporate Affairs reportedly issued a list of disqualified directors, which included the name of Aptech’s former chairman, Atul Nishar. According to the ministry, Nishar was disqualified due to his involvement in “fraudulent activities” at Aptech.
In 2019, the Indian government blacklisted Aptech for five years over allegations of financial irregularities. According to reports, Aptech was accused of diverting funds meant for skill development programs.
In 2020, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) reportedly barred Aptech’s former chairman, Atul Nishar, from accessing the securities market for one year over allegations of insider trading. According to SEBI, Nishar had traded in Aptech’s shares based on unpublished price-sensitive information.
In 2021, Aptech was reportedly removed from the list of approved training partners by the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), a flagship scheme of the Indian government for skill development. According to reports, Aptech was removed for failing to meet the performance standards required for training and certification.
In 2019, when Aptech was blacklisted by the Indian government for irregularities and diversion of funds meant for skill development programs, Satya Pal Malik, the then Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir ordered an inquiry into the matter.
However, Aptech continued to remain in the scene with many expressing doubt and protesting its involvement in the recruitment process in Jammu and Kashmir.
Currently, as JKSSB job aspirants continue to protest, the High Court of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh has ordered fresh Enquiry into Aptech Case. Meanwhile, LG Manoj Sinha expressed Displeasure over Any Pre-emptive Statement.
Talking to media persons on the sidelines of an event pertaining to Tawi River Front, Sinha said that any statement or comment at this point of time will tantamount to disrespecting and interfering into the Court decision.
“I believe that if a case is under consideration (sub-judice) before a Court, and even when a decision has been made (into the matter) yesterday, discussing it or giving any comment regarding this tantamount to interfering into the Court decision and such a thing isn’t allowed by the Constitution of India.”
Notably, a division bench of the Jammu & Kashmir High Court on Friday directed a single bench to hear and decide the petition challenging the engagement of the Aptech by the Jammu & Kashmir administration for conducting various recruitment exams.
The division bench set aside a single bench’s order to cancel the contract allotted to the firm and maintained that the interim directions shall remain in force. While JKSSB aspirants continue to protest, it remains to be seen what will follow.