It is shameful for a State when the chief recruiter of its public officials finds himself in police lockup over charges of selling jobs to the highest bidder. Following a money trail unearthed in Dibrugarh, the police on Friday came a-calling on APSC chairman Rakesh Paul even as APSC member Samedur Rahman remained absconding. The Sarbanda Sonowal government deserves praise for showing that it means business in taking on endemic official graft that has long laid Assam low. And it once again proves what the courage of just one public-spirited individual can accomplish. The lid was blown off this latest cash for government jobs scam only after a private dental surgeon from Amguri came forward to inform the police how she had been approached by a tout. The snowballing revelations led to the cancellation of APSC’s dental surgeon recruitment exam held this year. The tout, an assistant engineer in the Town and Country Planning department posted in Dibrugarh, has reportedly made damning disclosures about his links with the APSC; incrimiting phone messages with candidates’ roll numbers and other details have been found and large cash transactions detected. It now all depends upon whether Dibrugarh police uncovers sufficient evidence to build up a really strong case against Rakesh Paul & Co. Merely putting the handcuffs on a public service commission chief is not enough. Constitutiol law says that a Governor can suspend a State PSC chief or member while the President of India awaits a Supreme Court report on what to do with him or her. And once the matter reaches court, it may drag on for years altogether and reach nowhere.
Lest we forget, the Assam Public Service Commission goes back a long way to 1937, set up under the Government of India Act, 1935, and reconstituted in 1951 with the Indian constitution coming into force. The APSC then commanded all-round respect, headed as it was by a succession of men of unimpeachable integrity. But as in some other State PSCs, the rot set in APSC as some political leaders here began to get ideas of not only using the bureaucracy as their committed force when in power, but also as a means to exert continuing influence when out of power. This they did by getting their favored candidates selected, most of them their kith and kin. It is a dreadful comedown from the exalted heights the APSC once enjoyed, when its selection procedure comes repeatedly under court scrutiny. Nothing came of the recommendations by the Tapan Lal Barua Commission to make transparent the APSC’s functioning, as well as the appointment process of its chairman and members. Similar has been the fate of the MP Bezbaruah-led committee’s detailed report on cleaning up the APSC’s entire examition, evaluation and selection process. Why do governments commission such reports at public expense when they have no intention whatsoever to follow the recommendations in the first place? And can we forget those newspaper photographs of sacks full of cash discovered at the residence of Tara Prasad Das when he was helming the APSC? Yet he went on to win assembly elections, not once but twice on Congress ticket in 2001 and 2006. It was long after his immunity as lawmaker was gone that the Enforcement Directorate got around to file a case against Das, based on the chargesheet by vigilance and anti-corruption department for possession of assets disproportiote to income. We can also recall how in December 2012, the then chief minister Tarun Gogoi suddenly recalled the file on appointing the APSC chairman, and med Rakesh Paul for the job ignoring opposition by the Personnel department and the Governor already giving his assent to ba Kumar Das. When common sense says that only men of impeccable credentials and proven public service record ought to be selecting like candidates to man public posts, what has instead happened in Assam over the last two decades is utterly ucceptable, if not obscene. This is the cancer the Sarbanda Sonowal government must now remove from the APSC, so it has its task cut out.