APSC cash-for-job scam : How Sonowal ended a never ending scam

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The APSC cash-for-job scam is considered as one of the biggest scams in Assam’s administrave and political history which has ruled public debate for decades. Corrupt practices like taking bribes to adopting the culture of favouritism, has been exercised by the APSC with impunity. When Sonowal took power as the CM of Assam, he immediately acted on cleaning up the system. Northeast Today reports

As soon as the Sarbananda Sonowal led Government took over in 2016, it has been on strife with the functioning of the prestigious Assam Public Service Commission, APSC. The commission established in 1937 in accordance with the provisions of the Government of India Act, 1935, which conducts examinations to choose cadres for important posts of the state government, has been in news for quite sometime for the alleged malfunctions and discrepancies prevailing in the commission. Corrupt practices like taking bribes to adopting the culture of favouritism, has been exercised by the commission with impunity. Getting a job through APSC was more about money power than hardwork. Amidst all these the commission has somewhere lost its credibility. The Sonowal led government after coming to power in May 2016 announced a crusade against the anomalies. It urged the commission to maintain transparency for the benefit of the public. However, the commission was of the view that the APSC being an autonomous body, the Chief Minister can only suggest and not direct.

APSC’s cash-for-job scam has rather created a sense of distrust among the candidates who aspired to serve the state. However, the Assam Government’s intervention in cracking the nexus opened up some dark chapters that APSC have endured. The scam has further unfolded a massive nexus led by the then APSC chairman Rakesh Paul. Earlier, in 2015 the Gauhati High Court ordered a probe into Paul’s assets and directed the state government to inquire into the proceeding of the APSC. However, things did not materialize, the con man was able to put the court’s order on hold by obtaining a stay from the Supreme Court. Expressing concern over the functioning of the commission, the state government asked it to declare long pending results, which it has failed to do.

The scam unraveled with the arrest of an engineer Naba Kumar Patir who was caught red handed while accepting a bribe of Rs 10 lakh from a job aspirant. After Patir was taken into custody a plethora of evidences came to the fore. Officials were able to discover plenty of objectionable elements like messages from candidates who have texted their names, roll numbers and optional subjects. Patir’s bank account was seized and a probe has begun. Subsequently, on November 7, 2016, the Assam state government had formed a Special Supervisory Team, SST to monitor the ongoing probe into alleged corruption in APSC by its beleaguered chairman Rakesh Paul. Later it was found that Patir along with chairman Paul and two other members including Basanta Kumar Doley and Samedur Rahman were all engaged in the business of spotting candidates who are willing to ‘buy’ the posts. This led to the arrest of Paul and by the end of November 2016, a total of 11 people has been arrested.

As per reports, in June 2017, an investigation led by Dibrugarh Additional SP Surjit Singh Panesar seized the answer scripts of all 241 candidates who had been successful in the 2013 APSC exams, and gave a handwriting test to 25 candidates who had by then completed their training and taken up posts in the districts. It was found that the handwriting samples have not matched with their APSC answer scripts and each of the officers paid between Rs 15 lakh and Rs 30 lakh for their jobs. The scam rather busted a job racket. Meanwhile, the Assam Government has directed the police to file a report on its investigations into the scam prior to a crucial Cabinet meeting and take up the issue of suspension or removal of Paul. It was for the first time in the history of the Assam Public Service Commission, that a chairman has been arrested.

It further revealed the myraid of controversies with allegations of corruption in selection and appointment of Assam Civil Service (ACS), Assam Police Service (APS), Education Service, allied services and all gazetted posts for exchange of hefty amounts of money.

Among those arrested include a relative of BJP Lok Sabha MP and MoS Railways Rajen Gohain, the son of Nilamani Sen Deka, minister in the Congress government of Tarun Gogoi, journalist, relative of a former Congress MP and MLAs from the state. Later in 2017, the Assam government has suspended 10 of the 23 officers arrested after they were accused of paying large sums of money to secure jobs through the examinations conducted by APSC.

Things changed for the better after the Sonowal Government took hold of the situation, immediately after coming to power. It was decided by the state government to appoint non political persons in the APSC. Accordingly, former Additional Director General of Police Pallav Bhattacharjee (Retd. IPS) has been named by the Government as the Chairman of APSC. Whereas, IAS Sanjib Gohain Baruah and Vice principal of SB Deorah College Niranjan Kalita have been appointed as the member of APSC. This step of the Sonowal government has been highly appreciated for making an effort to bring transparency in the system.

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