Letter From India: Railway Exams Not A Free Ride India has an exam for virtually every government job — no matter how small. The Railway Exams, given to aspiring guards, ticket collectors and drivers, ask a surprising variety of questions — difficult questions. Competition for jobs on the railway is extreme — by one account there are 20,000 applicants for one ticket collector job.
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Letter From India: Railway Exams Not A Free Ride

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Letter From India: Railway Exams Not A Free Ride

Letter From India: Railway Exams Not A Free Ride

Letter From India: Railway Exams Not A Free Ride

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India has an exam for virtually every government job — no matter how small. The Railway Exams, given to aspiring guards, ticket collectors and drivers, ask a surprising variety of questions — difficult questions. Competition for jobs on the railway is extreme — by one account there are 20,000 applicants for one ticket collector job.

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Now, another letter from India from NPR's correspondent there, Philip Reeves. He's been exploring the life of the people who work on the country's railways and the journey they must take to get there.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIRDS CHIRPING)

PHILIP REEVES: This is India's most magical hour. It's just before dawn. Soon, the multitude who live in the city will begin churning out noise and dust and heat. Now, though, it's hushed, but for the birds singing their morning chorus.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIRDS CHIRPING)

REEVES: And the trains singing theirs.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRAIN HORN BLOWING)

REEVES: Those horns are coming from a railway station about a mile-and-a-half from our home. Every morning, I lie in bed trying to visualize the journeys those trains are about to make through the plains, deserts and mountains of India, pausing at countless obscure and shabby towns.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRAIN HORN BLOWING)

REEVES: Unidentified Man (Teacher): (Foreign language spoken)

REEVES: Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)

REEVES: But Deepak Pandey(ph), one of the students here, says the ticket collectors exam is no cakewalk.

DEEPAK PANDEY: (Unintelligible) exam. Tough competition in this ticket collector job.

REEVES: And how many people do you think will also be competing with you for this job? How many people?

PANDEY: Approximately 20,000.

REEVES: How many?

PANDEY: Twenty thousand.

REEVES: Twenty thousand,.

PANDEY: Yeah.

REEVES: For one job?

PANDEY: Yeah.

REEVES: Do you believe you'll get the job?

PANDEY: I think I'll get it.

REEVES: You have to be an optimist.

PANDEY: Yeah.

REEVES: Now, you can also buy books in India that contain sample papers for the railway exams, and I've got one here. This is for a ticket collector's job. Question 67: What's laughing gas made of?

(SOUNDBITE OF BIRDS CHIRPING)

REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News, New Delhi.

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