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Reforms still eluding Assam Public Service Commission (APSC)

APSC Building

Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, July 21: Dispur, it seems, is long on crackdown and short on reforms. Reforms in the Assam Public Service Commission (APSC) are a must to check scams in the future.

It is a good sign that the State Government has been cracking down on people involved in the APSC scam leading to the arrest of officers, besides a former APSC chairman and some members. However, in doing that Dispur has not done enough in the past two years to bring about reforms in the autonomous body (APSC) to plug lacunae that allow various scandals to take place.

The former Congress government in the State had formed the TL Baruah Committee for APSC reforms in August 2009. It was followed by another committee formed in May 2015 with MP Bezbaruah as its chairman. However, Dispur opted to put the recommendations of both the committees in cold storage for years on end. APSC’s draft Rules of Business (new) was submitted to the Personnel Department on January 24 this year. However, no response is forthcoming from the department.

The Sadou Asom Nibonua Parishad (SANP) did file a PIL (20/2017) in the Gauhati High Court. Hearing the PIL, Chief Justice Ajit Singh and Justice Achinta Mallah Bujarbaruah directed the department on Thursday to take prompt action regarding the draft Rules of Business.

Sources say that the Personnel Department can bring about some reforms in the APSC on its own without getting any approval from the government. However, for some unknown reasons, Dispur is not doing enough to bring about reforms in the APSC.

The MP Bezbaruah Committee did recommend reforms in the APSC – right from making announcement of examination dates to declaring results. The committee recommended changes in APSC syllabi, evaluation, and even in the selection of its chairman and members, etc. The committee recommended the formation of a search committee to be headed by the Chief Secretary. The committee is to have other members, including a member of the stature of district judge for the selection of APSC chairman and members. The search committee needs to submit panels for APSC chairman and members to the Chief Minister who should head another committee with some other members, including the Leader of Opposition, for the final selection. However, this is not followed in the State. In the recent selection of four APSC members – two with administrative background and as many with other backgrounds – it is alleged, no such procedure was followed. A question that arises now is: does the government want some sort of elbow room when it comes to selection of APSC chairman and members?

APSC reforms in accordance with the recommendations of both TL Baruah Committee and MP Bezbaruah Committee were very much in the BJP’s manifesto for the Assembly election in the State. Even after taking oath as the Chief Minister, Sarbananda Sonowal did review the state of affairs of APSC reforms at a meeting. However, his administration seems to be long on crackdown and short on reforms in the autonomous body.