The Assam Public Service Commission (APSC) is very much in the news again not because it has achieved anything remarkable recently, but rather because its present condition is a matter of great worry to the newly elected State government. For quite a long time now, the APSC has been charged with corruption in conducting the civil services examitions of the State. It will be recalled that the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) has long been vocal against corruption in the APSC as well as against its chairman Rakesh Paul who has allegedly encouraged rampant corruption within the organization. It will also be recalled that the leaders of the KMSS including Akhil Gogoi had been put behind bars by the Tarun Gogoi government for holding demonstrations against the APSC. Now that the new government has taken over, Akhil Gogoi has demanded that Chief Minister Sarbanda Sonowal do the needful to make the State corruption free by removing Rakesh Paul from the chairmanship of the APSC. In October last year, Akhil Gogoi had approached the Gauhati High Court seeking a CBI inquiry into the APSC affairs. The Gauhati High Court had directed the CBI to conduct a prelimiry inquiry into the allegations of corruption and the disproportiote assets of Paul, his wife and brother. However, the Tarun Gogoi government, ever keen to protect corrupt elements, was able to secure a stay order from the Supreme Court on the CBI inquiry. Akhil Gogoi has now requested the new State government to appeal to the apex court for a CBI inquiry into all the corruption cases against the APSC.
This is a perfectly justified and legitimate request. In any case, the issue is very important in the context of the people’s demand for a change—a change for the better. It has become a common practice for people in Assam to see all corrupt practices as having to do with dishonesty in the handling of public money. While it is true that everything constituting corrupt practices can be ultimately equated with money, the fact remains that corruption in organizations like the Assam Public Service Commission constitute dishonesty in the assessment of merit, dishonesty in the disposal of opportunities and careers and so on. In an age when we can almost rule out the existence of saints anywhere in the administration, corruption in organizations like the APSC sigl that the possibility of honesty of any kind in governce will disappear completely. When this happens, the first targets of the law-benders will be those who had been the most corrupt. People who have had to buy jobs that they should have got on their merit, will turally seek out those who were responsible for such aberrations to deliver some form of poetic justice. It is indeed unfortute that people heading hallowed institutions that were constituted to support merit and healthy competition in the interest of the best selections for the civil and allied services should be so keen to destroy such institutions solely for persol gain. It is heartening to learn that Chief Minister Sarbanda Sonowal has already initiated certain steps to curb corrupt practices in the evaluation of answer scripts and the conduct of oral interviews by the APSC. However, the fact remains that he cannot get very far if the control of the APSC remains with someone with several charges of corruption against him. The most important step of reform will have to be the early removal of the chairman who has several charges of corruption against him.