To Regain Credibility, the JKPSC must be Subject to a Comprehensive Overhaul

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Shahid Majeed Mir

The colonial setup of Government functioning was based on efficient and meritocratic foundation of the civil service. This entire system was adopted on the basis of satisfactory results in the polity after India’s independence. Thenceforth, the system got institutionalized in constitutional provisions with sufficient autonomy in their internal regulation. This way, the UPSC and PSC boards, at both the Centre and State levels respectively came into existence. While as the UPSC board succeeded in evolving as institution of credibility, the story of PSC boards is entirely different. These institutions are either stagnated due to lack of institutional capacity or hushed up procedures. The case of JKPSC is no different than other counterparts. Recent results of the 2014 notification of highest state cadre posts came as a bolt from blue for every aspirant who wishes that their exams see the light of day. It is against this backdrop that the JKPSC issued a notification of combined competitive exam in March 2106 for the modest number of seats in KAS cadre. Although the selection of candidates for the next level exam has been issued but the exam itself is in doldrums due to integrative factors. Half politics and half incapacity of JKPSC play with the highly intellectual capital of the state. What will be fate of exams slated to start from 15th of February? This question is a hotbed issue on social media now.
The present conundrum speaks volumes about normal functions of the institution which regulates its procedure with political interference. Where does the problem lie? There are multi dimensional issues to be sorted out for transparency and fast track recruitment. Whenever it comes to procedure of filling KAS posts, the erstwhile mechanism of ancient times is followed. If the UPSC evolves with time and refits the way and style of examination of civil service cadre, the credibility of JKPSC comes under scanner. In fact, ours is a tragedy whose nature lies in separate preparations for the UPSC and JKPSC despite the same nature of recruitment with respect to the civil service.
The central choice of doing away with the optional subject choice will open a reliable and impartial mechanism across subjects. This procedure would pave way to common standard for each aspirant in the nip and tuck tune to the UPSC style. On the second front, the meagre share of J&K in the IAS cadre will improve by this decision because the parity between style of examination varies a lot now which was not the case in the past. Our aspirants face an uphill task to prepare separately especially when the timing of both coincides.
Thirdly, the highly confidential produce raises eye brows on transparency thus worsening the cycle of court stays and political interference. This is the case with pending notification of JKPSC which awaits mains exam since the last two years. What will be its impact on youth? How can JKPSC defend its functionality? I am myself a liable witness to the thick and thins of JKPSC and its complex mechanism to get selected as coveted KAS Officer. There’s a need to radically reform the public information wing or the grievance redressal mechanism.
It’s of no use to continue the procedure of merit secrecy and confidentiality in the OMR sheets. The recent reform initiative of attaching carbon copy to the preliminary exam OMR is a step in the right direction. However, the result along with merit of candidates will enhance the transparency of board. In fact, this initiative will radically reduce the number of RTI queries. It will embark a new journey of UPSC style exam to do away with court interference in conducting examination. The recent petition of 429 candidates speaks volumes about complex procedure.
Although the candidates don’t fall in merit but the grave injustice at the hands of JKPSC can’t be ignored. They would have taken the other route in career or for that matter the other choice(s) which might have come in their way. While the court supported this argument, the reply of JKPSC couldn’t get the support it expected. Hence, there is an urgent need of reforms in the style of post examination procedure with quick possible mechanism to redress grievance of aggrieved candidates in previous stages. Fourthly, the exam should be delineated from politics. To validate the credibility of autonomy, the JKPSC would have shown it by its functionality rather than submitting it in the Court for supporting exit of 429 candidates.
Unless and until, the overhaul of JKPSC is not undertaken, the collapse of the system is not far. It will be remembered for times to come if the 15th February exams are again deferred. The only way out is to completely refit the management of JKPSC. Everyone is in a confusing state of affairs when it comes to preparing for civil services in strife torn Kashmir. There’s a grapevine buzz about the fate of examination from 15th February deferred on basis of elections. The politics of the day should not only abstain from interference but actively force JKPSC to streamline processes for fast track recruitment. We don’t know how much time it will take but the surety of exams to be held from February 15th bangs the head of aspiring candidates. To regain the credibility of JKPSC is to show its impartiality in 15th February examination and to improve the transparency in institutional functioning. I rest my case on hope , inspite of my deep forebodings and misgivings.

—The author hails from Machil, Kupwara and can be reached at: