Angry mobs in eastern India have set fire to train carriages in protests over access to railway jobs that have seen police violently disperse crowds with tear gas and baton charges.
Bihar state has been on edge since the start of the week over claims by young job applicants that an entrance exam for the government-run rail sector was being conducted unfairly.
Protests began on a small scale on Monday but have since spread, with crowds pelting stones at train cars, blocking tracks and burning effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
More than a dozen people have been arrested for participating in the demonstrations, which have broken out at railway stations across Bihar and neighbouring Uttar Pradesh.
Police have been criticised for a heavy-handed crackdown, with social media footage showing officers barging into the homes of suspected demonstrators and flogging them.
“The youth have the right to talk about unemployment,” senior opposition leader Priyanka Gandhi said in a Twitter post condemning the attack.
On #PeoplesEditor we appealed many times that Railway Min officials need to have dialogue with aspirants, pay attention to their Job concerns. No one paid heed to massive digital protests.GOI Forced to talk now after anger erupted on streets #NTPC #JusticeForStudents #RRB_NTPC pic.twitter.com/gvcI3Yuyr0
— Smita Sharma (@Smita_Sharma) January 26, 2022
Joblessness has long been a millstone around the Indian economy’s neck, with unemployment figures at their worst since the 1970s even before the COVID-19 pandemic wrought havoc on local commerce.
More than 10 million people were participating in the current railway employment exams in competition for just 35,000 vacancies, according to local media.