APSC's incorrigible ways
In the fil year of its third term, the Tarun Gogoi government has once again ensured that its baneful effects on the State’s administrative machinery will persist for decades. A government that has put up, if not colluded, with rampant corruption and irregularities of all hues — has again given its stamp of approval to people of doubtful credentials and antecedents for service in the top echelons of the State administration. This has been brought out in full force in the list of successful candidates for 241 posts in the Assam Civil Services (ACS), Assam Police Services (APS) and allied services announced recently by the Assam Public Services Commission (APSC). As on several earlier occasions, this time too the APSC list has caused dismay and constertion all around. The list reads like a who’s who list of wards, relatives and close associates of serving and former ministers, MPs and MLAs and even some influential jourlists. Questions have been raised about the poor academic background of many of the selected candidates. The topper in the APS list allegedly has cases lodged against him in several police stations in Guwahati, including cases of fraud and cheating under Section 420. With sections of the press reporting such irregularities in full detail, the anger and disgust among many aspirants to the State civil services is palpable. To their intense chagrin, they have realised yet again that the APSC remains incorrigible, determinedly set in its perverse ways at the behest of corrupt and vel political masters. Some of them are now mulling over taking the RTI route and knocking at the court’s door, but then this government has mastered the art of giving obfuscating replies to RTI queries by hiding much and revealing little, as well as stonewalling the legal process.
For a long time, the workings of the APSC, particularly how it goes about examining, evaluating and selecting candidates, has remained a dark mystery. There have been umpteen reports of irregular markings of answer scripts, examiners of one subject evaluating scripts of another subject, blatantly rigged interviews and anomalies of all kinds. A public service commission ought to be above suspicion like Caesar’s wife, but sadly the APSC has become a byword for corruption and nepotism in the public mind. The common perception is that of a government recruitment body in which touts and middlemen hold sway, where jobs are sold to the rich and the powerful. The depths to which the APSC sank with Tara Prasad Das at its helm, when Income Tax officials unearthed massive hoards of cash in his residence, still rankle in public memory. Controversies continued to dog the APSC when Gita Basumatary was heading it; and there are allegations galore against the manner Rakesh Pal is running its affairs at present. In 2009, the Gauhati High Court had to set aside the APSC fil list of successful candidates of the 2006 examition, for glaring anomalies over quotas. While delivering its verdict, the High Court made the damning observation that while democratic values enshrined by the Commission can thrive and prosper only on public confidence, ‘the lack of public confidence in the APSC carries ominous portents for the future’. Ostensibly to clean up the image of the APSC and restore public trust in it, the Tarun Gogoi did appoint the Tapan Lal Baruah commission, but then proceeded to trash the report. The commission’s suggestions to make appointments to the APSC itself transparent and free from political influence, did not sit well with Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi at all. And so the APSC continues to serve as a willing vehicle for the pernicious culture of graft and political patroge the Gogoi dispensation has pumped into the State administrative apparatus in the last 14 years.