The role of Public Service Commission (PSC) as the recruiting agency for the government and government-controlled organizations is very crucial. It is an institution that is critical even in determining the destiny of the country. And that is the reason why the architects of the constitution have instituted PSCs of each state, like the Election Commission, as statutory bodies. It is envisioned as an autonomous body totally free of the red strings of the executive.
However, experience of the last few years proves that the functioning of PSC has is a far cry from this 'holy concept' about PSC. Even what is heard now about Kerala PSC, which has a reputation of being relatively efficient, are dirty stories of corruption and nepotism. News of raids related to PSC also point to the same. The raids conducted by Vigilance and Anti-corruption Bureau (VACB) officials in the private 'PSC' coaching centres run by officials of the Secretariat, uncovered vital documents including those about financial transactions.
The raids were made at institutes directly related to several officers on leave or on deputation. There were allegations already that the PSC set question papers mostly based on the question banks compiled by such institutions. Most recently, the Kerala Administrative Service (KAS) preliminary test's question paper was found to have contained 20 questions from the question paper kit of a private IAS coaching academy in Thiruvananthapuram. Putting two and two together - by linking the recent raid and the trend of copying questions in PSC tests - the suspicions about the credibility of the institute in question get confirmed.
As per statistics of three years ago, nearly 1.25 crore people have filed in their applications for PSC - a figure ten times that of 10 years ago. That means, people look forward to PSC with great hopes. And although not in proportion to the increase in number of applicants, PSC recently has issued more appointment orders than it did in earlier years. But the problem is that the running of PSC is far from transparennt or impartial.
An example would be the case of KAS (Kerala Administrative Service). The state government's decision to create a cadre of KAS, modelled on the centre's Indian Administrative Service (IAS) was lauded by the Keralite society as a scheme to recruit meritorious officers for the state government service. But some officers tried to inject anti-reservation policies into the process and thereby torpedo this cadre which was designed to make the state secretariat more vibrant. Although the government had to partially retrace its steps at the face of huge protests, the process still ran into problems, including the step-motherly attitude shown to Malayalam.
PSC is still grinning at the 4 lac-plus candidates who wrote the test even in the midst of all these complaints. The PSC's own guidelines had laid down that question papers should not be based on private guides or other booklets. But in practice, question setters regularly copy the guides published by some private agencies. It is the nexus between such private agencies and the bureaucratic lobby that has now been revealed through the Vigilance raids. There is a large lobby at work to catch in their net the huge number of candidates who generally aspire to the relatively secure government jobs, and work hard for it. Therefore, the time has now come to urgently examine whether the functionaries of PSC are also under the control of these mafia.
Through corruption, nepotism, anti-reservation mind-set, serious lapses in conduct of tests, leaking of question papers and copying questions from guides, PSC and authorities kill the job dreams of lacs of job-seekers. Six months ago, leaders of the students' organization Students Federation of India (SFI) who were accused in a stabbing case in University College, Thiruvananthapuram, were nabbed for involvement in the irregularities in tests for civil police officer selection – an incident that exposed yet another blot of PSC.
With the probe team obtaining proof of their having collected the answers to the questions via mobile phone during the test hours, recruitment to seven battalions of police had to be halted completely. It was the candidates who had prepared for and passed the test who had to pay the price for the crime of a few criminals with the connivance of bureaucrats. When this and several other incidents are reported by the media, the authorities respond with a cry of 'media are questioning the credibility of PSC'. Now that the fact has emerged about PSC being led in different directions by a mafia led by the bureaucratic lobby, what is needed is to address the malaise and find a solution to that - and thre is no use gagging those who point their fingers at facts.