Jammu: Hit by scandals in the recent past, the recruitment process in Jammu and Kashmir is back on track with the Services Selection Board introducing new measures, including third-party audits and low-frequency jammers to ensure transparency and fairness.
In July, the Jammu and Kashmir administration headed by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha cancelled the exams conducted for the posts of police sub-inspectors, junior engineers and finance account assistants (FAA), following allegations of paper leak and other malpractices.
The CBI, which is investigating the sub-inspector recruitment scam after registering a case on August 3 on a reference from the J&K administration, has already filed a charge sheet on November 12 against 24 people, including a BSF commandant, arrested for alleged involvement in the scam.
”After a hiatus of several months, we started conducting the written examination after putting in place several new measures to strengthen transparency and accountability for fair selection of candidates,” Rajesh Sharma, who took over as the SSB chairman in May, said.
SSB, the government’s recruitment agency, had last conducted the written examination to recruit police sub-inspectors in March which was later cancelled.
Sharma said the board successfully conducted the examination to fill up 148 vacancies in the horticulture department and 217 posts of junior stenographers in two shifts on November 29, which was followed by a written test of junior engineers to fill up 163 posts in the Jal Shakti department on December 5 and 6.
”The fresh examination for recruitment of sub-inspectors (home department) started on December 7 and is scheduled to end on December 20. So far, 32,000 candidates have already appeared in their examinations on given dates and we are hopeful of completing the process successfully,” Sharma said, adding that 1.14 lakh job aspirants have applied for the 1,200 posts of police sub-inspectors.
On December 8, a single bench of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court ordered the cancellation of the processes relating to exams of police sub-inspectors and junior engineers after hearing a petition filed by some candidates over the decision of the SSB to hand over the contract for conducting exams to a ”blacklisted agency”.
However, a division bench of the court stayed the single bench’s judgement the next day, allowing the completion of the examination but restrained the SSB from declaring the results till its final judgement.
”The matter is sub-judice,” Sharma said in response to a question about the hiring of Aptech, a company which was blacklisted in 2019, for the conduct of the examination.
However, he said the company was hired as per government guidelines as it has already completed the blacklisting period of three years in May this year.
”When we are selecting a company for conducting a written examination, we also employ checks and balances on our side to ensure transparency, accountability and fairness in the selection. We are following the procedure which is matching the standards of major national level recruitment agencies in the country,” he said.
Sharma said the SSB, for the first time, introduced a third-party audit by Ernst and Young LLP to review the processes before the exam, during and after the same, besides installing low-frequency jammers at designated centres after getting required permissions to render electronic gadgets useless.
”OMR (Optical mark recognition) was replaced by computer-based test (CBT). The centres where there was even an iota of doubt regarding credibility were cancelled in consultation with the district administration and the investigating agencies,” he said.
Besides the SSB, the district administration and the General Administration Department (GAD) have deployed experts and observers at the centres, while the police have put in place strict frisking, Sharma said.
In addition to regular staff, he said the board has also deployed one member to coordinate with other departments to avoid any confusion and promptly address the issues, if any, being faced by candidates.
He said technical experts from the information technology department were made part of flying squads, which were deployed in both Srinagar and Jammu for random inspection, while senior officers of the board were divided into teams to conduct surprise visits to each centre.
”All these steps have been taken to ensure transparency, accountability and fair selection, besides restoring the confidence of job aspirants in the system. It is a matter of satisfaction that some of the candidates who have moved the court have also appeared for the SI examination as per their scheduled date,” Sharma said.
He said bringing reforms with changing times is imperative as ”we have to remain two steps ahead of conspirators trying to undermine the system for their self-interest, without caring for the hard work of the students”