by Vikram Nongmaithem
This article is about calling a spade a spade. First of all I would like to extend my hearty congratulations to the 725 candidates who have cleared the Preliminary tests of the Manipur Civil Services Combined Competitive (Preliminary) Examination, 2010 held on September 11, 2011. The writer also used to be one of those “wanted to be MCS officers”, the elite of Manipur, the cream of our society and the protagonist of so many Manipuri digital films in recent years. It is a fact of life in Manipur that anything that the government does often find itself in controversies because it invites controversies by doing unjust and unfair things. I have chosen to write about a few things about the MPSC not because of any personal vendetta against the commission but because as a member of the public I have an obligation to tell the truth as it concerns the future of our state and because we believe the Manipur government should do no wrong. As already reported in the press a bulk of 24 verbatim questions were copied and pasted en masse from a Class-IX level Science quiz blog from the publicly available internet. One of the questions asked “Which one of the following is a safety metal?”. I have searched and asked many Chemistry professors ‘what is a safety metal?’ and none of them have ever heard it before (probably a miss-pelt question on the blog and it was also miss-pelt on the MPSCE question as it was a carbon-copy of the blog). The issue became a widely debated topic on social networking sites like Facebook, Orkut etc. and most people felt it would be a futile exercise to fight against these wrongdoings. However a group of concerned people including many academics, journalists signed in a open letter (the signature campaign was started by one Raju Athokpam) pointing out the discrepancies in the examination to the President of India, the honourable Prime Minister of India, the Governor of Manipur, the Chief Minister of Manipur, Chairman of the MPSC, and the Chairman of the UPSC even citing the URL of the said blog which was found to be webcasted in May, 2011. The open letter explicitly states “We wanted to bring forth some area of concern regarding the “Manipur Civil Services Combined Competitive (Preliminary) Examination, 2010” examination held on 11th September 2011. The purpose of writing this mail is not to malign the reputation of the Manipur Public Service Commission (MPSC) but to protect its sanctity and enable it to continuously strengthen itself as an apex Service Commission of Manipur.” So far, all these people in positions of power have maintained a stoic silence pretending to be blind and deaf. We ought to have addressed the open letter to Anna Hazare and his team as well…..
The total number of questions asked in the preliminary examination is only 200 and unlike the UPSC Civil Services Aptitude Test (aka UPSC Prelims), the preliminary test had just one paper and it was meant to be a screening test only. Here is an analysis of the pattern and nature of the questions asked in the MCCC(P)E, 2010. The question may be classified into different types:- Funny type :“ The sum of any two sides of a triangle is less than/ equal to/ greater than etc. the third side ( one can simply draw a triangle and measure it using his or her fingers), (Which one of the following is not a Union Territory, the obvious answer being Mizoram,.. The question setting might have been outsourced to somebody or bodies outside the Northeast and this particular question surely must have been set by someone who understands very little of Northeast India; not a single question relating to Manipur was asked except a phrase mentioning the origin of the Barak river in the Northern Hills of Manipur), Must Repeat types: ( like, “Santosh Trophy is associated with Football/ Hockey/ Cricket(2008, 2010) , the first Indian woman President of the Indian National Congress (2008, 2010), “ Who wrote ‘Poverty and Un-British Rule in India?”, (2008, 2010 ), Elementary School Level type (e.g. Air is a compound/ mixture/ element and so on) . Even an average class VI school kid will know it. Controversial and ambiguous questions like “Which of the following missiles was inducted into the Armed Forces by DRDO?
(A) Agni II, (B) Agni III, (C)Agni I, (D) Agni IV. Agni I and Agni II have already been inducted and latest to be inducted being Agni III.” Therefore, this question is completely vague and ambiguous if you have to choose only one option.
Three exactly “Cut and Paste” questions from the Civil Services Aptitude Test, 2011 conducted by the UPSC related to economic growth, the function of heavy water in a nuclear reactor and carbon cycle were on the MPSC question booklet one after another . Even the wordings are the same. On further analysis it is found that there are 52 questions from Modern Indian History out of which 48 questions are from the Freedom Struggle of India and not a single question related to Manipur was asked( Manipur was not a part of India then). Does it mean that the officers who are going to run the future need not know anything about Manipur? Again, there are 53 questions from Indian Polity and Economy. Out of these 30 are from the Indian Constitution leaving no space for other areas in polity. Then, there are 18 questions based on Numerical ability. There was not a single question from Data interpretation, non-verbal as well as verbal Reasoning, Comprehension of the English language, Information Technology, Civil Services aptitude test etc. As mentioned earlier 24 verbatim questions were directly copied from a blog in the general science section which are available at http://cbseadda.blogspot.com/2011/05cbse-science-quize.html
published in May, 2011 and http://allexamguru.blogspot.com/2008/12/general-science-objective-questions.html
published in December, 2008 leaving only the 23rd question in that blog . The blogs are a replica of one another. So, if this is the way the questions are set for the examination, it is also possible and probable that a happy-go-lucky guy may find 9 such blogs on the internet and become an “accidental MCS officer”.
Again let us take the factor of number of candidates into account. In the MPSC preliminary examination, 2005 Admission certificates were issued to around 12,300 eligible candidates out of which around 7500 candidates wrote their examination. More than 2000 candidates were selected to write for the Main Examination even as the number of vacancies was 128. In the 2008 preliminary examination there were 9054 applicants and 5693 sat for the 91 available posts. The results were never out. Out of 8479 candidates who appeared in the examination of 2011, 725 have cleared the preliminary tests. The MPSC justifies this on the ground that the number of selected candidates is around five times the number of available vacancies i.e. 138. Despite the increase in the number of available vacancies there is no corresponding rise in the number of applicants even though the level of educated unemployed is quite high. This is simply a symptom of the loss of faith in the MPSC and its recruitment system. The MPSC neither follows the pattern and rules of the UPSC nor its fairness. The preliminary test was meant to be a screening test only (as stated in the notice). Perhaps the MPSC might do away with the Mains examination because there is not much need for selecting 276 candidates out of 725 for the interview. Now, an interesting development as reported in the press is that the MPSC have had to select only 690 candidates if it were to follow its own rules rather than 725. How has this anomaly cropped up? In the final results of the MPSC 2005 examinations, a candidate, I personally know too well, was not in the list of the original 128 candidates selected even though he had got higher marks than some of those who were in the list. It was only after a vigilant public outcry that the MPSC finally revealed the marks of the mains examination and the interview. This guy, I am talking about, was later inducted into the services (in a keep your mouth shut manner). Out of the 394 candidates called for the interview, one-third i.e.128 had to be selected. The process was flawed to such an extent that a candidate got 270 marks out of a total of 300 in the interview whereas many of those who were not selected got 130/ 120/ 150 etc. This results in such a situation that even if someone named “A” gets 100 marks than “B” in the mains (written) examination, there is always a high degree of probability that B will be selected instead of A after the interview. This is a highly skewed system where a high degree of manipulation can take place.
The manner in which the results of the MPSC Prelims, 2010 was declared is highly inapt. The results were put up on its website much later. In a way the Teacher’s Eligibility Test conducted by the Board of Secondary Education, Manipur allows any candidate to know his/her score on the website. As the highest recruiting body in the state, the MPSC ought to have followed the same procedure. Why is it not allowing a candidate to know his/her score? If the MPSC had followed the norms and the pattern of the UPSC Prelims (now known as CSAT from this year on) many of the controversies could have been avoided. Even though both the examinations are meant to be screening tests and have almost the same syllabi the MPSC Pelims has just one paper consisting of only 200 questions while in the case of the UPSC there are two papers i.e. two sessions. Is it LOGICAL?
In 1994 the Gauhati High Court struck down the validity of its selection process declaring the result of the written examination “null and void”. The MPSC has a legacy of a store of such things left with it and yet it survives even if it deserves little decent burial. The MPSC knows very well that public memory is short and in a land where the life or death can be taken for granted, the stupidity of this scandal will soon be forgotten and this is a crisis of credibility and accountability but the MPSC wants to think there isn’t a crisis at all. This is another 9/11 for the educated youths of Manipur, the building blocks of our future society.
It is worth remembering how the MPSC 2008 preliminary examination was cancelled for no apparent reason even though it was a more proper and fairer process than the MPSE 2010 preliminary examination. No question scandals of this type were there and the questions well-balanced. Should we say “only the stupidity of the MPSC that invited a (could have been avoided) lawsuit was the factor”? It is an Apollo-19 type operation. Therefore, the results were never out. There were around 9000 applicants and each applicant is charged around 200 Rs. So, where is this Rs. 18,00,000 gone? It is a legally acceptable form of extortion of time, spirit and economy (not to speak of money) of the Manipuri youth. And if such a foolish error on the part of the MPSC led to probable and to-be MPSC 2008 cadre MCS officers becoming warlords and corrupt contractors, who is to be blamed? The government should be more cautious and govern if it is to govern rather than rule. It is the climax of misgovernance of this government if it is stupid enough to remain deaf and dumb at the acts of such omission and commission on the part of the MPSC. The unfairness of the nature of 2010 prelims can in no measure be equated with any unfairness in post-MPSC history of Manipur. The commission, if it is to choose between “right” and “wrong” and between “what is good and what is bad” and between “courage and cowardice”, it has to choose to cancel the 2010 prelims and promptly announce a quick, systematic and fairer prelims.
The MPSC seems to believe that the scandal will soon be over in the midst of the chaos and economic blockades that is plaguing Manipur today by victimising individual candidates. If the MPSC wants to wear the cloak of legitimacy in these most turbulent of times in Manipur’s history, the unfairness should not go scot-free. The trust factor in this institution of the public is dwindling fast. However, the MPSC does its business the way the students’ organisations, civil society groups, political parties, the failed MLAs are not able to do. It is the rise of autocracy and the omnipotent state.