‘Fairness should not be rhetoric alone’
Haryana Public Service Commission has courted controversy by awarding marks to HCS prelim exam candidates for inaccurately framed questions. The Commission should have taken advice from a group of experts after seeking the opinion of paper setters, says HPSC member Prem Prakash Pandit in an interview to Hitender Rao.chandigarh Updated: May 19, 2012 13:02 IST
HPSC’s decision to award marks to candidates for inaccurately framed questions in the HCS and allied services preliminary examination has come in for criticism. In fact, the decision is being challenged in the court. Your comments.
We received several objections from the candidates who appeared in the preliminary examination. The Commission decided to take the opinion of paper setters first. Ideally, the Commission should have taken advice from a group of experts after seeking the opinion of paper setters. This would have been a better way to settle the issue. Everyone would have been satisfied this way, as it would have been more transparent, fair and devoid of any concealment. No one in the Commission, including the secretary, could have dealt with the issue single handedly as there were 19 optional subjects.
But is it not shocking that the question papers of HCS preliminary exam had such bloopers. Does it not reflect poorly on the functioning of the Commission?
The entire work of paper setting and evaluation is done at the level of the HPSC secretary, an IAS officer, at present. He is the person who selects the papers setters and also get the answer sheets evaluated.
As in the previous HCS examinations, there are speculations that kith and kin of high and mighty have cleared the preliminary examination this time also.
Maintaining secrecy, choosing paper setters and evaluators are all the jobs of HPSC secretary. We only get to see the roll numbers and the prepared results. The Commission members have no information on the names of those appearing or qualifying in the exam. The HPSC secretary merely takes permission on file from us to declare the results.
Coming back to the issue of inaccurately-framed questions in the HCS preliminary examination, what stopped the Commission from taking the opinion of experts on the issue?
There is another side to this story. Had we sent the objections for the opinion of experts, it would have further delayed the results and triggered all kinds of speculations.
Why does the Commission always remain in news for wrong reasons?
Over the last several years, the HPSC has got a bad name because of blatant political interference in its functioning. The present Commission, however, has resisted such interferences. About 72,000 persons, including many from far-off places, applied for 151 vacancies of HCS and allied service advertised by the Commission this time. This would not have happened if the image of the Commission were so poor. Even in the previous HCS and allied services exam, the Commission selected 22 candidates, who were outsiders.
You spoke about political interference in the functioning of the Commission? What can be done to curb this?
There should be no interference in the functioning of a constitutional body. Moreover, it is the members of the Commission and not any politician or administrator who are accountable. We and not the politicians will have to face the music when something goes wrong. No politician will every own up that he interfered.
Actually, morality in public life is the need of the hour. Mere laws will not help. The decision of the Punjab and Haryana High Court that a high powered committee headed by the Chief Minister and having leader of the opposition and Assembly speaker on the panel should recommend a panel of names to the Governor for appointment as members of Public Service Commission is a welcome step in reforming the system.
Talking of morality, it is easier to preach than practice?
I am not one of those who do not practice what they preach. You will be surprised to know that this time, I did not allow my sons to appear for the HCS exam purely on moral grounds. Last time, they had qualified in the preliminary examination. However, I did not allow them to appear in the mains examination since I knew that their selection would have invited allegations of abuse of power. See, we have to set an example and remain prepared to make sacrifices.
I am of the firm view that those occupying high chairs should not allow their children to appear in these examinations.
This is a sacrifice they will have to make to restore the credibility and image of the Commission. Fairness should not be rhetoric only, it should reflect in our actions.
I have seen that once in power, people forget all the morals they sermonized when they were out of power. Favouritism, nepotism, casteism takes precedence over everything.