Blatant trampling on merit

Monday Musing

[ Tongam Rina ]

Chief Minister Pema Khandu has been very vocal about fair recruitment for government jobs. He has been consistent in his stand that recruitment for government jobs should be fair and just, stating that merit will be the sole criterion. He has never been ambiguous about it, giving hope to thousands of unemployed youngsters that merit will be the only criterion in a state where merit isn’t the sole reason to be appointed as a government employee.

Though he has been passionate about it, there are often accusations of questionable appointments and blatant misconduct by agencies responsible for recruitments.

Though not directly under the state government, the recruitment for selection of staffers for the Kurung Kumey and Dibang valley Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVK) by the agriculture department was under scrutiny by the ICAR’s Agriculture Technology Application Research Institute for alleged violation of guidelines.

Another case that came to light was appointments made in the Raj Bhavan. The Raj Bhavan did not issue a denial, nor did the state government, regarding allegations that three employees were appointed flouting appointment rules. There was no scope for the government or the Raj Bhavan to come up with a statement because exemptions were given by the state cabinet for appointment. If they had come up with a statement of denial, the government would have had to admit that rules aren’t equal for all, and that the state cabinet could not say no to the Raj Bhavan’s request for exemption.

Did Governor BD Mishra not know that his secretariat bypassed government recruitment rules? Unlikely. Did he take up the case of violation by his own secretariat and subsequent protests by some organisation during his monthly meetings with the chief minister? The issue died down, as it happens in Arunachal. But precedents have been set that illegality is acceptable and can be overlooked, and that the people in responsible and powerful positions can do anything, no matter what they preach, the Raj Bhavan included.

Why should the government of Arunachal give exemptions to certain class of people and certain offices, bypassing its own rule, when the beleaguered Arunachal Pradesh Staff Selection Board has been entrusted with the task of directly recruiting Group C employees?

The government bypassing its own rule and the Raj Bhavan’s silence have only emboldened its agencies.

Two recruiting agencies, the Arunachal Pradesh Public Service Commission and the Arunachal Pradesh Staff Selection Board, have been under scrutiny – from downright corruption to inept handling of recruitment process.

The horror of the cash-for-job scam by board is still fresh in the minds of the people.

The Arunachal Pradesh Public Service Commission has been the centre of controversy for years now, like most of the commissions in the country. The latest to hit the commission is the alleged leakage of questions for the assistant engineer exam. So far 10 arrests have been made by the SIC, which is probing the case. The trail seems long, going by the arrests so far.

Each time there has been a case with the commission or the board, it resulted in knee-jerk reaction by the government to appease the popular sentiment, instead of looking for foolproof measures.

This time the government has sent the paper leakage case of the commission to the CBI. Has there been a response to it? The move by the Khandu government to invite the CBI seemed more like a move to deflect the pressure when it is already being investigated by the state police.

While the investigation is ongoing and a response from the CBI is awaited, the government should invest some time to learn from past mistakes in the recruitment process of the board and the commission. Suggestions can be sought from the commission members themselves and from UPSC, or from other trustworthy commissions elsewhere in the country, on how to make the commission better.