India’s publicly owned railway network says it has received 28 million online applications for its biggest ever recruitment drive, which ends on Saturday.
The Times of India reported that railway officials expect the number of applicants for the 90,000 positions to climb even higher as the deadline approaches.
The jobs advertised include 26,502 train driver and technician posts, and 62,907 vacancies for less-skilled positions including trackmen, welders and porters.
Modernization after years of neglect
The world’s eighth largest employer, Indian Railways has some 1.4 million staff and has begun a massive modernization program costing some 105 billion euros ($130 billion).
“We’ve not been recruiting for the last couple of years and attrition is already there. And so we require people,” Ashwani Lohani, chairman of the railways board, told Reuters.
Earlier this month, the government said it would expand high-speed rail services into the capital New Delhi, allowing trains to run at 160 kilometers per hour (100 miles per hour), compared to 70-90 km p/h at present.
The country’s first high-speed rail service is under construction from the commercial capital Mumbai to Ahmedabad, the fifth most populous city.
India’s overcrowded rail network means commuters not only have to stand, but often hang off the sides of carriages
Indian media said the railway firm was likely to add another 20,000 positions next month, taking the total offered in this exercise to 110,000.
The Times of India said the applicants would need to complete an online examination, offered in 15 languages, including Hindi, English, Urdu, Bengali, Punjabi, Gujarati, Tamil and Telugu. They’ll also be required to pass a fitness test.
Opponents of Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi have accused his administration of a cynical vote grabbing exercise by launching such a large recruitment drive a year before national elections.
Modi was elected in 2014 on a promise to reignite growth in the world’s seventh largest economy and create 100 million jobs.
His ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is currently running a social media campaign boasting of the recruitment drive.
Some 1 million young people enter the Indian labor market each month. But the country is struggling to generate opportunities for its next generation of workers due to slower economic growth, economic reforms, and automation,
Even its once-vaunted IT industry last year made thousands of workers redundant.
Senior railway executives now have the logistical challenge of sifting through the millions of applications, and then training the tens of thousands of people it eventually recruits.
Indian Railways operates 121,407 kilometers (75,439 miles) of track and carries more than 23 million passengers daily, who connect through 7,172 stations.