Banality of governance

137

Amidst all the sound and fury on the streets Manipur has become so accustomed to, so many other governmental misdeeds have been allowed to go unnoticed and unpunished. The most immediate and glaring of these unfolded at the Manipur Public Service Commission, MPSC. No other development could have demonstrated the manner in which governance in Manipur has been trivialised than the casual manner the cancellation of the MPSC’s preliminary examinations held on May 15 for recruitment to 82 posts of the Manipur government’s most prestigious jobs on offer – that of the government’s range of civil services, was announced. A notice on the MPSC’s website issued by the commission’s secretary Shyam Lal Poonia simply declared this in the typically disinterested flat tone of such government notices, that the examination stands cancelled. The “mains” examination for this same recruitment process was due on July 3, but now this too stands automatically cancelled. The sorry episode also made it loud and clear the everydayness of blunders by government executives, so much so that even the most serious mistakes, affecting lives of the ordinary citizenry profoundly, have come to be treated as minor glitzes that do not even deserve an apology or an inquisition, leave aside holding anybody responsible. The fact also is, other than the fiasco that resulted, holding the examination again must necessarily mean new expenditures from public funds. Characteristic of the Manipur government however, all of these apparently have been treated as non-issues, and with casual unconcern it was simply presumed cancelling an already held exam and scheduling another was all that was necessary to exonerate everybody for what should have been an unforgivable blunder.

As the IFP had reported, many candidates of the examination who were placed at an unfair disadvantage complained that the instructions for answering the questions for the cancelled preliminaries were ambiguous and misleading. A sample of the said question paper showed how in the instruction section, in a single paragraph, a sentence announced there would be no negative markings for wrong answers, but the very next sentence contradicted this and said marks would be deducted for false answer, and proceeded to give details of what constitutes a wrong answer and how much marks would be deducted for each wrong answer. It was not as if the examination authorities did not come to realise this mistake before the examination started, for according to the candidates, in some exam centres there were announcements made before the examination began that despite the contrary messages contained in the instruction section of the question paper, there would be no negative markings. However, this verbal instruction was not given to some other centres inhibiting many candidates from attempting all questions, including those they were half sure of the answers but not completely certain. Quite obviously the examination authorities also subsequently became aware of the trouble brewing, and for once rightly decided to cancel the already held examination and hold a new one.

In the entire shameful episode, it must be said the cancellation was the only correct decision, but expectedly there are many questions left unasked therefore unanswered. The first of these is, why was the examination not cancelled right at the moment the moronic and undecipherable instruction was discovered when the sealed packet of question papers was opened? This would have save candidates unnecessary anxiety, and not the least, unnecessary wastage of public money. The more important question is, who set the question paper that contained such an idiotic blunder? Was the question paper not proof read before being approved and sent to the press? And now, why has there been no responsibility fixed yet? Moreover, for a public blunder like this, there ought to have been a public apology from the concerned authorities too. Why has none of these been forthcoming? Imagine what would have happened if such a blunder were to be in the UPSC civil services examination? Important heads undoubtedly would have rolled, and probably an organisational overhaul would have resulted too. It must also be remembered that the mistake in the MPSC question paper was not even one that could have resulted out of any lack of comprehension of the English language, or for that matter work pressure. Instead it appears as one of those that resulted out of sheer negligence that comes from an attitude of criminal banality with which government employees treat their own jobs, dismissing any thought of accountability for their deeds. The final question is, if the government servants themselves hold their own job responsibilities with such contempt, how would the public ever respect the establishment that they are supposed to be the mainstay of? They must remember, it is this which is giving legitimacy to the anarchy on our streets.

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