Let’s Celebrate Merit

Let’s Celebrate Merit
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Dr. Zubair Nazeer

On 18th December 2017, the Jammu and Kashmir Public Service Commission declared the final result of J&K Combined Competitive Examination 2014. Fifty-one candidates have been selected through this examination. Out of these fifty-one candidates, thirty-six candidates are from Jammu Division, thirteen from Kashmir division and two from Ladakh region. If the list is further analyzed, one can easily see that there are several candidates from Poonch (7), Rajouri (6), Kishtwar, Doda and Ramban districts. These are the districts which are neither close to Jammu city nor Srinagar. Though the majority of the candidates are from Jammu division, they are not from one or two specific districts, but from various districts of the division.
It is heartening to see the students from remote areas of the state successfully clearing this examination. This would add to the diversity and regional representation in the state administration. In fact, diversity within the administration is an essential part of social equity and social change. There is a need for adequate representation of all the regions in the state administration and other fields like education and health and so on. This representation would be ensured through success in various competitive examinations. It has to be a joint effort and hard work of students, parents, teachers and civil society. But, it is important that we celebrate merit in competitive examinations.
Unfortunately, we have not been celebrating merit in various appointments made by the Jammu and Kashmir Public Service Commission. There are often allegations of regional bias leveled against the PSC when candidates of a particular region don’t make it to the final lists in adequate numbers. Though there have been issues with the selection process and transparency within the JKPSC and there may be some genuine concerns but these regional bias allegations are mostly politically motivated. There has to be recognition of merit at some stage. The fair distribution of posts among various regions can’t be a consideration in the appointments made through competitive examinations. Regional bias against Jammu candidates was raised several times in Jammu in the last few years especially when the selection lists of Assistant Professors in the Higher Education Department were released. There were protests as well in Jammu against this regional bias. The selection list of Assistant Professors in the discipline of Commerce was often cited as an example. In that selection list of fifty-eight posts, only thirteen candidates were from the Jammu region. The similar allegations of regional bias were made when only one candidate from the Jammu division figured in the selection list of Jammu and Kashmir Civil Services (Judicial) Competitive Examination 2013 in the open category. The other four candidates in the open category were from the Kashmir division. Now, the same argument can be made in the Kashmir region about the final result of J&K Combined Competitive Examination 2014. But, this vicious cycle has to stop somewhere and we have to appreciate the success of candidates selected on the merit irrespective of the region they may belong to.
Ladakh region has also been raising the regional bias issue in higher appointments from time to time. Earlier due to the advantage of higher literacy among the Scheduled Tribes in the Ladakh region, most of the ST reserved seats would go to the candidates of the region. But, over the years, education among the other STs especially Gujjars has increased and this increased the competition for such reserved posts. Gujjar candidates have fared well in various competitive exams both in the reserved as well as general category. This has resulted in less number of candidates selected from the Ladakh region. In this case as well, we should be celebrating the merit and efforts of a marginalized community like Gujjars than promoting negativity.
The Jammu and Kashmir Public Service Commission has to improve its functioning and ensure transparency but we need to promote the positive mindset among the students. Harping on regional bias even when candidates are selected on merit can promote negativity among candidates and discourage them from preparing and applying for the higher posts in the state. The adequate regional representation can be ensured through the promotion of positive mindset and appreciating the success of others. If more candidates are selected from a particular region, the others need to analyze why that particular region is doing better and learn from it. Promoting and celebrating merit principle is also important because we need better candidates for these posts to improve the functioning of the state.
Unemployment is a major issue in the state and it is not the issue specific to one particular region. The issue of equitable opportunities of employment in the civil services in the state keeping in view the complex socio-economic, regional and geographical issues has been addressed through the reservation policy and the Jammu and Kashmir Civil Services Decentralization and Recruitment Act, 2010. Most of the posts except some specific are filled on the divisional and district cadre bases in the state. There are some issues which can be discussed separately, but the reservation policy and the Jammu and Kashmir Civil Services Decentralization and Recruitment Act, 2010 has ensured regional and sub-regional equity in the employment. Therefore, it is not factually correct that all the posts are going to one particular region. The least we should do is to allow and celebrate the merit principle in the higher appointments in the state.

—The author is a Research Associate at the Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi. He can be reached at : zubairmalik.2009@gmail.com