Lately, there has been some talk about the sabotage of the Assam Public Service Commission (APSC) by someone entrusted with heading the organization, and about possible ways of restoring it to its past glory. As the principal recruiting agency of the Assam Government, it had enjoyed a great deal of well-deserved respect under a succession of very capable chairmen. As such, it is important to realize that the total lack of respect for it today, mainly due to its destruction by someone at its helm, makes the use of the word sabotage very appropriate. Origilly, the verb for of the word meant to deliberately or wilfully destroy or obstruct, especially for military or political advantage. Later on, sabotage also came to mean the wilful destruction by a workforce of their employer’s property during a strike. Hence, even in less specific use of the word, the meaning of destruction brought about by someone within an organization remained. The tarring of the APSC was most effectively undertaken by former chairman Rakesh Paul, two members of the APSC and a few other officials of the commission arrested recently on charges of involvement in the cash-for-job scam. It was when Rakesh Paul and his associates used the APSC for selling prize jobs that they collaborated in the destruction of the organization. The tarring of the APSC has been in keeping with what is fairly common in Indian administration. Our politicians and bureaucrats are ever ready to create new organizations (both needed and superfluous ones), but they are far more gifted at subsequently destroying the systems they create. This keeps most of our bureaucrats busy during their service careers.
Despite the not-so-glorious record of our bureaucracy in the matter destroying systems, it is important that we must mage to sustain and restore institutions like the APSC in their most efficient and effective forms. One is, therefore, relieved to find that there are active steps afoot to restore the APSC to its former position by completely elimiting some the evil practices that were hitherto tolerated in the past and by emulating the best practices of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). One of the major steps of reform contemplated is to totally debar candidates from bringing gadgets like laptops, mobile phones or Bluetooth devices while appearing in APSC examitions or selection tests. Such measures should have been strictly imposed long ago, but quite obviously such devices admirably suited a regime that had brought in the cash-for-jobs culture to the functioning of the APSC. A source within the APSC said recently, “Even though the APSC had imposed a ban on bringing such gadgets inside exam halls, there have been reports of some candidates violating such rules to resort to unfair practices. The commission is now thinking debarring such candidates from appearing in future exams of the APSC for a certain period so that it acts as a deterrent for other candidates. The development is part of APSC’s to reform its entire exercise of conducting exams and selection of candidates. There will be a zero tolerance policy against any kind of cheating in exams.” Any honest zero tolerance policy against cheating at examitions should debar candidates resorting to unfair practices for all times and not just for “a certain period”. There is a clear indication that the APSC did tolerate some cheating at examitions in the past and that the attitude of tolerating wrongdoing was what ebled a very corrupt person to become the chairman of the APSC who set about turning the APSC into a shop window for jobs. It is not enough for organizations like the APSC to be talking about “zero tolerance” policies with reference to the future. Zero tolerance of all unlawful practices should have been the policy of such organizations from their inception. The APSC must now evince the wisdom to learn from past mistakes and assure the people of Assam that it will regain its lost reputation through dedication and determition.