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Cabinet approves NRA to conduct single exam for government jobs

New Delhi: Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the creation of a National Recruitment Agency (NRA) to conduct an online Common Eligibility Test for selecting candidates for a majority of central government jobs. The Cabinet also approved the proposal to lease out Jaipur, Guwahati and Thiruvanathapuram airports, which are currently owned and managed by the government-run Airports Authority of India (AAI), through public-private partnership (PPP).

Notably, the airports will be leased to Adani Group for 50 years as the company had won the rights to run six major airports — Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Mangaluru, Thiruvananthapuram, and Guwahati — in an auction in February last year.

However, while briefing the Cabinet decisions, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar on Wednesday said that it's not a permanent move as the airports have been leased for the next 50 years only.

"This is not a permanent move. After running them for 50 years, the private operator would be handing over the airports back to the AAI. The AAI will receive Rs 1,070 crore as an upfront amount from the private operator. The revenue received will be utilised by the AAI to develop airports in small cities. Secondly, passengers will get better facilities," Javadekar said.

The latest announcement came a year after the Cabinet had similarly cleared the civil aviation ministry's proposal to lease out Ahmedabad, Lucknow and Mangaluru airports through PPP to the Adani group for a period of 50 years. It was the second big airport privatisation round after Delhi and Mumbai were given to private companies GMR and GVK, respectively.

In another major decision, the Union Cabinet gave its nod to set up a National Recruitment Agency (NRA) for conducting a Common Eligibility Test (CET) for central government jobs, which means there will be one test for Group C and D vacancies, while CET score would be used to shortlist aspirants for Group B posts.

The NRA would conduct CET at three levels – graduate, higher secondary and matriculate, which are presently conducted by the Staff Selection Commission (SSC), Railway Recruitment Boards (RRB) and Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS).

However, the final selection will be made through separate specialised Tier 2/Tier 3 examinations conducted by respective recruitment agencies.

The curriculum for this test would be common as would be the standard. This would greatly ease the burden of candidates who are at present required to prepare for each of the examinations separately as per different curriculum," the government's statement said.

The government has sanctioned a sum of Rs 1,517.57 crore for NRA, it said, adding that the expenditure will be undertaken over a period of three years.

"Apart from setting up the NRA, costs will be incurred for setting up examination infrastructure in the 117 aspirational districts," the statement said. There shall be no restriction on the number of attempts to be taken by a candidate to appear in the CET subject to the upper age limit, the statement said.

"Relaxation in the upper age limit shall be given to candidates of SC/ST/OBC and other categories as per the extant policy of the government," it said.

Candidates would have the facility of registering on a common portal and give a choice of centres. Based on availability, they would be allotted centres.

"The CET would be available in a number of languages. This would greatly facilitate people from different parts of the country to take the exam and have an equal opportunity of being selected," it said.

Explaining the rationale behind the decision, Secretary C Chandramouli said that the government recruitment exams used to have different schedules, application processes and fees, leading to malpractices due to infrastructural challenges.

The decision to set up the NRA has been taken to eliminate these challenges, he said.

He further said that around 2.5 to 3 crore people appear for over 1.25 lakh central government vacancies in Group B and C every year through IBPS, SSC and RRB.

Terming the move as a "landmark reform", Union Minister Jitendra Singh said that it will lead to ease of

selection, ease of job placement and ease of living, especially for those sections of society that are considered disadvantaged.

It will also help the poor and women who have to travel long distances for taking exams for various jobs, he said.

The NRA will conduct a CET to screen/shortlist candidates for the Group B and Group C (non-technical) posts. The NRA will have representatives from the Ministry of Railways, the Ministry of Finance/Department of Financial Services, the SSC, RRB and the IBPS.

For now, the scores of the common test will be used by three major recruitment agencies, but other agencies would be included over a period of time. In the long run, the CET score could be shared with other recruiting agencies in the Central government, state governments/UTs, PSUs and the private sector.

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