Friday, 10 February 2012

MID DAY article-" there is something rotten....."

Nine men come together to question alleged irregularities in the UPSC examinations, but the commission refutes their claims
Nine men from all across the country once dreamt of appearing for the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) examination and serving the country by becoming IFS/IRS/IAS/IPS. None of them though, passed the examination.

Today, all of them are doing well in their respective fields. One of them is a soldier who was injured in the Kargil War; there are doctors, a stockbroker and builders.

All in all, they have chosen vastly different career paths. Yet, they all seem united by a common desire -- to expose the wrongs within the system. This has made all nine of them come together and form a Non Governmental Organization (NGO), 'Transparency Seekers for Accountability' (TSA) to expose the irregularities in the conduct of the UPSC examination.

The TSA has used the Right To Information (RTI) and now has Supreme Court's verdicts aiding in their effort to unearth alleged irregularities.

Interestingly, the UPSC is a constitutional body under the Department of Personnel and Training Department, one of the many portfolios directly under the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).

Psychiatrist Dr Prashant Chakkarwar, a member from the NGO said, "Unlike Board and University examinations where a deprived student has right to see the answer sheets and marks given by the examiner can be challenged, the UPSC does not entertain such requests even under the Right To Information (RTI) citing the 'confidentiality' issue. The UPSC has rejected the RTI request even after directives (August 9, 2011) from the Supreme Court directing all examination bodies to provide photocopies of answer sheets of candidates under RTI and the same cannot be denied under section 8 of RTI."

He added, "Our aim is to bring transparency in the examination process of the UPSC and rightful candidates should not be deprived of their chance to make it amongst the final lists. We have come across a lot of irregularities and are victims who got crushed between the influential and the corrupt and in the process were deprived of our right to serve the nation."

'Bogus' roll numbers
According to Dr Chakkarwar, a can of worms first opened when Dr Ravi Jindal, an anaesthetist, who had appeared for the UPSC examination in 2005, was not selected.

Jindal, under the RTI had asked the UPSC to provide him the exact number of candidates who applied for this examination and last roll number allocated for the examinations held since 2003 to 2006.

The UPSC in their reply dated March 8, 2007 said that in 2003 the number of candidates were 3,16,495, but the roll number allocated were 3,16,587 i.e., 92 roll numbers were extra. Similarly in 2004, there were 439 extra roll numbers, while in 2005 there were 172 extra roll numbers. In 2006 there were 7,867 extra roll numbers.

Additional RTIs for the following years until 2010 showed that the numbers increased over the years, in 2009 the number of bogus candidates went up by 6,760, while in 2010 the number went up by 4,234.

When asked about the discrepancy, the UPSC replied that the extra roll numbers were due to a mix up of roll numbers of other examinations conducted by the body.

However, the doctor stated that this explanation is fraudulent, as the application forms of the Civil Service Examination are computer readable and there is no chance of any mix up.

Moderated marks
Dr Chakkarwar appeared for the UPSC examination in 2008. Unsatisfied with his marks, he had applied for photocopies of his answer sheets and asked whether the marks shown in the final result were the actual marks given to him by the examiner.

To his surprise UPSC replied to him in a letter dated November 27, 2011 that the marks shown in final results are not his actual/raw marks given by the examiner, but are the scaled/moderated marks. He continued his fight and approached Central Information Commission (CIC).

Other case studies
According to Dr Chakkarwar, there are several cases of irregularities . One Brijees Arzoo from Sasaram, Bihar, appeared for the Civil Services Examination in 2005. When his result was posted on the Internet, he was shown absent for the Urdu paper. He filed an RTI application, saying he was present. Within three days a new result was posted on the Internet showing Arzoo's marks in Urdu literature.

Manish Jain from Gujarat had appeared for the Civil Service Exam in 2001 in History and Geography. First, he was issued a mark sheet with Philosophy and Hindi literature. But when it was brought to the UPSC's notice, they issued another mark sheet showing History and Geography as his optionals.

Nitin Varma, from Jabalpur, MP, appeared for this examination in 2001. He was shown as 278 in the final list. Unhappy with his ranking Varma approached Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT). On CAT's order, his answer sheets were re-evaluated and his rank was improved to 28.

Ratipal Saroj was the Section Officer in the UPSC. He had appeared for the Civil Service Examination in 1985.

Later, he colluded with other UPSC employees and changed his answer sheets with the ones of other high scoring candidates and stood third.

Other candidates had written a letter to the prime minister raising suspicions. A CBI inquiry was conducted and Saroj's fraud was exposed.

"The UPSC has been unable to provide explanations for the defects in the system. Rather it has claimed that the system is perfect and time-tested. If it is a time-tested system, can the UPSC explain why are they planning to change it now?" questioned Dr Chakkarwar.

He claimed, "Using this fraudulent system, the whole result is stage-managed to select few favoured candidates while maintaining a facade of honesty. The result is for everyone to see. We would probably not have needed a Lokpal, had the UPSC done its job with honesty."

The Other Side
R K Sinha Joint Secretary, UPSC, was away for a meeting and could not be contacted. In his absence, a senior UPSC official, who did not wish to be named, said, "UPSC is a neutral body and a constitutional agency, which facilitates the state and central government for hiring administrative officers in the rank of IFS/IRS/IAS/IPS/IFS, etc. Allegations levelled against the UPSC by a certain set of people are baseless and they are doing this to defame the UPSC. If they have issues with the UPSC's way of conducting examinations, they should approach the court and we will reply in the court."