Jammu and Kashmir Service Selection Board is a staff recruiting board constituted by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir that conducts examinations for various departmental services or non-gazette posts in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. It was established in 1992 as a constitutional body. The board is headed by its chairman who is responsible for the recruitment process, JKSSB policy formulation, and its implementation. The board chairman including other members is appointed by the Lieutenant Governor. The LG has the right to determine the number of members as well as the members of the commission and their terms of service.
JKSSB has done recruitment for almost every department of J&K in the past. The board is in news due to recent scams and corruption in the recruitment process of FAA, JE and JKPSI. The board has been in news for scams in past too but the elected governments never got those allegations investigated. One such scam was alleged in the list of Fire & Emergency Services in which people believed a mass corruption. The board got the biggest setback in June 2022 when a scam in the recruitment process of Jammu and Kashmir Police Sub Inspector (JKPSI), Finance Accounts Assistant (FAA) and Junior Engineer (JE Civil) was alleged. LG Administration ordered a timely probe into the allegations and constituted a special committee for the purpose. All these exams were conducted by M/S Meritrac Pvt. Ltd. The said company was already blacklisted by ONGC (public sector undertaking) for papers leaks. In August 2022, all three exams were cancelled and an investigation was handed over to CBI. It was recorded that OMR sheets were replaced to help candidates crack the exam. FIR was lodged and raids were conducted at more than 100 places in JK and other states. This was for the first time in the recent past in J&K that a recruitment exam was cancelled due to corruption. LG Administration was applauded for this bold move and everyone thought that it was the beginning of a corruption-free J&K. The only negative in the process was that no JKSSB official was arrested for their misconduct and no aspirant was debarred from appearing in the further examination even after being part of daylight corruption.
JKSSB’s credibility was at stake and now the biggest challenge was to conduct a re-exam of cancelled posts. Everyone was of the opinion that after such shame and backlash, JKSSB will take every move with utmost transparency. Tendering process to shortlist a firm to conduct exams was again started. In November 2022, JKSSB selected M/S Aptech Pvt Ltd to conduct the exams of cancelled posts and other pending exams. Eyebrows were again raised on JKSSB’s credibility as the selected company was blacklisted in UP for a paper leak for 3 years. Aspirants alleged that JKSSB changed the tender clause to favour Aptech. Aspirants dragged this matter to court and Honorable High Court acknowledged the allegations. The High Court of Jammy & Kashmir and Ladakh ordered a judicial enquiry into the matter. The court also ordered to quash the tender given to Aptech and stop the recruitment process at whatever stage they were on 8th Feb 2023.
JKSSB successfully got a stay on the Single Bench order in Division Bench on technical grounds that it was not given chance to be heard. The High Court passed directions to carry on with the recruitment process till a final decision is made. It further directed not to declare the result till further orders. Later on, Supreme Court passed orders that the case should be decided within 3 months and heard on a merit basis when SLP was filed.
Exams for JE and JKPSI were conducted from 5th Nov. to 20th Dec. 2022. The answer key of JKPSI was leaked two days before its notified date which further dented the hopes of aspirants to believe in fair and transparent recruitment. The answer key leak was a threshold point for the aspirants to question the credibility of Aptech and JKSSB. Aptech also had not a good record of transparent recruitment in past. In 2018, Aptech conducted UPPCL(JE) exams and leaked papers in that exam. Due to this, Aptech was blacklisted for 3 years in UP. Aspirants protested from Kuthua to Kupwara in every district of J&K but JKSSB termed the Answer Key leak a mere technical error.
Aptech continued its tainted recruitment records even in 2023. In January 2023, Aptech conducted C-TET exams for CBSE. Papers of the exam were leaked in Meerut, Lucknow, Aara, etc. As per STF reports, system mirroring software was used to clone the Aptech exam software and attempt papers remotely. Police have arrested a few people in this case.
In February 2023, Aptech conducted KV PGT exams for KVS (All India Level exam). The papers of this exam were leaked in Patna, Amritsar, Haryana, etc. Several persons were arrested with laptops and mobiles. They were helping candidates using some system mirroring software.
In the same month, a centre supervisor of Aptech was involved in corruption in KVS exams in Ladakh. He helped some candidates to appear in exams from a desired centre in which the systems were already bug infected to attempt papers remotely.
All these observations are posing greater question marks on the credibility of only the recruitment board of J&K. Candidates demand a judicial enquiry into the matter and want Aptech to be removed from the recruitment process. Deserving candidates are frustrated. Unemployment is taking a toll on the mental health of J&K youth.
Currently, the candidates call JKSSB “Incredibly Uncredible”.
The author is a Vocational Trainer at Govt Boys High School Gariend Khurd Budgam and can be mailed at [email protected]