After a weeklong drama of investigating how 53 people who never applied were appointed physical training instructors (PTIs) in Punjab's schools, the education department doesn't know who tampered with a merit list and paved way for 849 appointment in August last year.
The fiddling with the original merit list pertained to a mala fide exercise in which the director of public instructions (DPI), school education, had ordered a counselling committee to merge another list of "260 probables" and revise the list prepared in July-August 2011. Both DPI Kamal Garg and his predecessor, Punjab Civil Services (PCS) officer Avtar Chand Sharma, when contacted, had denied that they had issued any such order for merging the outside list of 260. Significantly, they did not even put the onus on each other.
Garg, DPI now, acknowledged that the 260 probables were those who had applied for the positions "by post" in response to a separate advertisement in 2007, a year after the 2006 notice about the 849 vacancies. Who had ordered to consider the 260 probables? Why did they apply by post and not online in 2007? The questions remain unanswered.
The-then counselling committee chairperson, State Council of Education Research and Training (SCERT) director Neelam Bhagat (now retired), had opposed the move of re-hashing the merit list strongly, stressing that the fresh list of 260 had nothing to do with the original prepared on a different criteria from among the candidates who had applied a year earlier (in 2006).
She had even made it a point in the file that the list was being revised on the DPI's orders. Bhagat, when contacted, said she was not in a position to say whether the DPI who ordered the revision (tinkering) of the merit was Avtar Chand Sharma or Kamal Garg. Garg took over as DPI on April 21, 2012. Sharma continues on contract as additional secretary in the health department. He was on contract even as DPI after retirement.
Missing file says it all
The answer to the riddle about who had ordered revising the original merit list perhaps lies in a file that has gone "missing". Garg acknowledged that the department had lodged a first-information report (FIR) about a missing file. He declined to say anything about the file's subject or content.
The DPI says he sent the entire record to the Centre of Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) director to confirm and certify the candidates who had not applied. What happens now? "We'll fix the onus and take appropriate action against those guilty, besides dropping those who had not applied," said Garg. Earlier this week, the DPI's office had summoned the72 non-applicants among the appointed candidates and all district education officers (DEOs) concerned with the entire record of the PTIs who had joined in the past one year.