Nagaland Public Service Commission (NPSC), the constitutional body responsible for conducting examinations for appointments in the State services, among others, finds itself once again under intense scrutiny for its question-setting ability, or rather, the lack thereof.
The recent demands made by the Combined Technical Association of Nagaland (CTAN) and the Naga Students Federation (NSF) for a re-examination of the Combined Technical Services Examination (CTSE) Engineering Services have brought the issue and other related matters to the forefront.
On June 12, the two organizations issued separate statements demanding a re-examination, alleging that during the CTSE civil engineering diploma examination held on June 7, “it has been found that 84 questions from paper 1 and 73 questions from paper 2 have been repeated/copied from civil engineering (degree) question papers which were conducted on June 6.”
Besides, there were further allegations of 'copy-pasting' questions as well as “grave oversight.”
This was a sort of déjà vu for the general public as well as aspiring candidates alike.
To recollect, there was a huge outcry regarding the 'NPSC Civil Service (Main) 2014, General Studies, Paper 1(MCQ) with the allegation that out of over “200 questions, at least 120 questions are copy paste” from TATA McGraw Hills General Studies Manual-2013 while in the Current Events, within five pages (100 Questions) of that single book, 50 marks questions has been copy pasted. Besides, it was also discovered that the questions on “current affairs” were far from current, as they pertained to events from 2011 and 2012, which were irrelevant by the time of the 2014 examination.
These revelations shook the confidence of candidates and highlighted serious flaws in the NPSC's question-setting process. Following the outcry, the NPSC acknowledged the impropriety committed by the company responsible for setting the question paper. Specifically, it was revealed that 119 questions had been borrowed from a single book. However, the NPSC's decision not to evaluate the answers to these questions for all candidates was deemed “untenable” by the Gauhati High Court.
Despite the outcome, it appears that the NPSC failed to learn from this incident and implement robust measures to prevent future occurrences. Regrettably, these recent controversies are not isolated incidents appear to be a pattern that casting doubts about the integrity of the NPSC in the past. In 2005, arrests were made in connection with malpractice allegations while in 2009, an ‘answer script swapping scam’ was exposed and apprehension persisted for several years before the 2015 episode.
The recurring demands to reduce marks for personal interviews (viva-voce) in NPSC and other recruitment body examinations is telling and symptomatic of the persistent suspicion of anomalies.
Despite private apprehensions, however, the Commission has managed to regain some credibility over the years, and aspirants are expected to be provided with a level-playing field in its conducted examinations.
Given this context, it is imperative that the NPSC prioritises meritocracy, transparency, and accountability. The commission must take immediate action to address the concerns raised and clearly outline the steps it intends to take to prevent similar incidents from recurring in the future. Merely acknowledging the problems and promising reforms is no longer sufficient; concrete measures must be put in place to restore faith in the recruitment process.
Furthermore, the government of the day, which has consistently emphasised the importance of meritocracy as a core policy objective, must also adopt other measures to check irregularities and ensure that is vaunted goal is put in action, not mere lip service. Implementing a strong organic whistle-blower policy would be a positive step towards encouraging individuals to come forward with information about any misconduct or irregularities.
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