Amidst all the hullabaloo in Arunachal Pradesh regarding AE paper leak issue, one needs to revisit an exam which was conducted in not so distant past but was engulfed in similar chaos and controversies, ie, APPSCCE 2017. The said exam was conducted in the tenure of the same deputy secretary and under the same chairmanship, who had presided in recent AE paper leak issue.
The story takes course with final advertisement of 105 by APPSC for combined competitive exam, 2017. As per recruitment rules, the number of candidates to be selected for appearing in mains should be 12 times the advertised number of vacancies. In this case, a provisional merit list of 1,260 candidates was prepared based on marks secured in prelims that was conducted on 29 July, 2018 and results for prelims were declared in 2 August, 2018. Owing to various anomalies, complaints were made by some aspirants on 30 July, 2018, which however, were not entertained by the commission. In an unprecedented move, the commission declared another set of results, consisting of 76 more candidates from geography Set C, owing to pressure from erstwhile AAPSU and admitting technical error on its own; increasing the number of candidates to 1,336 from 1,260. This move by the commission itself had not adhered to the 1:12 ratio that had to be maintained as per recruitment rules. Instead of adding 76 more candidates in the results’ list, what the commission should have done was: a fresh provisional merit list of 1,260 candidates should have been prepared, taking marks scored by candidates from Geography Set C into account as addition of new scores by candidates would change the ranking order in list.
Declaration of results in two parts was questioned by many candidates, especially those from commerce optional, as they had many anomalies in their optional paper in the prelims; the claim was even backed up by eminent professors from Rajiv Gandhi University. When the commission had turned a deaf ear to all these cries by aspirants, the matter was taken to court and during the proceedings, the APPSC had accepted that 45 out of 125 and 30 out of 125 questions were incorrect in commerce and geography optional, respectively. Now this revelation forces us to question whether one set of candidates can be discriminated from another in an exam process when they both had similar disadvantaged circumstances, albeit the discriminated one was placed in a more disadvantaged position.
All of these created confusion and chaos amongst the candidates who were to appear for the mains without any assurance of their own candidature. A candidate who appears for civil service exam has lots of things to cope up with; family pressure, crossing of age limit, financial burden of coaching fees and rent fees, competition from fellow friends and other candidates alike and amongst all, pressure to do something worthy in one’s life. Amidst all these uncertainties, one thing a candidate must be sure of is his candidature to write the exam. The very basic thing which a candidate needs to be able to prepare for exam with full efficiency was taken away by the legal battle of the APPSC. The court verdict came a day before the mains exam to proceed with the exam, angered by which, massive protests was demonstrated by distressed candidates on the day of mains exam for APPSCCE 2017. More than 800 of the 1,336 candidates did not appear for the said exam as a part of the protests.
Things took an ugly turn when candidates who had written the mains exam and the candidates who had boycotted the exam faced each other in court. The leadership of the mains appeared candidates was done in liaison with the erstwhile members of the APPSC under the chairmanship of Nipo Nabam. Finally, in the single bench judgment, the high court had ordered to reconduct the exam from preliminaries itself as the exam process then had done injustice to many. This verdict was challenged in double bench as writ petition by the mains appeared candidates who too had rightfully desired to secure their candidature. A confidential document viz ‘APPSC Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Examination Guidelines, 2012’ was produced by the APPSC in the courtroom, wherein it was stated that the commission shall not entertain any representation by the candidates after declaration of results. The ambiguity of the word ‘result’ doesn’t confine itself – whether prelims, mains, or interview. The double bench had then ruled that, since the complaints had been done after declaration of the prelims results, the merit of candidates doesn’t hold any ground. The matter was then taken to the Supreme Court; however, due to Covid pandemic and decision to entertain only matters of importance of life and death, the final battle came to an end with the commission declaring the final results, wherein DFCSO Minoty Borang Saroh had secured Rank 36 among 105 candidates.
In this whole episode, many things were questionable. Why were complaints made by geography optional candidates were entertained and not those by the commerce optional candidates when similar anomalies were found in both the cases and both the complaints reached the commission after declaration of the prelims results. The authenticity of confidential document, viz, the APPSC Rules of Procedure and Conduct or Examination Guidelines, 2012 also into question as why it wasn’t produced during hearing in single bench and was never brought in public domain prior to the APPSCCE 2017 case. A constitutional and independent body like the APPSC was working in liaison with some selected candidates for turning the case into their favour. They even went as far as calling candidates as early as 5 am in morning to write the exam and even arranged catering service for lunch to candidates.
Looking back at all these events that had happened and connecting the dots with the present scenario, one cannot deny the absence of unholy nexus between the APPSC and brokers who lure candidates for a sure shot lucrative government job. Now that the AE paper leakage issue was caught red-handed, many top officials of the APPSC are resigning on moral grounds, stating that they have hurt the sentiments of the aspirants, and contemplating their failure to conduct free and fair exams. The same officials were an integral part of the APPSC during APPSCCE 2013 mains paper leakage issue, wherein Ujum Perying had gone on a hunger strike. The composition of the APPSC was the same when brother Tater Gao went for fast until death over the APPSCCE 2017 issue. The exam was not free and fair for anyone ever, yet officials remained silent till their dark secret was made public to all. This issue cannot be limited to just the AE 2022 or the APPSCCE 2017 just because of the arrest of a few candidates and some brokers; it is way beyond that. Taket Jerang was serving in the APPSC since 2014 and till date, many exams had been conducted in his tenure, be it joing BDO, AAO, fishery officer, extension officer, ADO, HDO, JE, and so on. All exams conducted by the APPSC from 2014 till date should be investigated and no culprit should be spared who crushed the dreams and aspirations of many hardworking candidates.
The onus of creating a better society, where hard work is rewarded with success and any means of adopting short cuts to success is frown upon, lies on us. We, as members of civil society, can contribute a lot in reforming the APPSC from inside out and strike the iron when it’s hot. Any input from anywhere which may lead to further strengthening of this issue will be highly appreciated, be it from individual level or group level. It’s high time too for student organisations to look for ways to make these exam conducting bodies, viz, APPSC and APPSSB, more accountable, so that young aspirants who aspire to become government servants do not have to cry for their rights. Same steps should be taken up by clan-based organisations at grassroots level in their domains. Arunachal must unite as a whole, keeping tribal, regional and religious ideologies aside, and then only can we achieve ‘sabka sath, sabka vikas’.