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Monday, January 17, 2022

Paper Fixing

🔴 Haryana’s employment agencies are under all-round fire after recurrent recruitment bungles that have given opposition ammunition to gun for state government’s track record on jobs

Written by Varinder Bhatia , Sukhbir Siwach | Chandigarh |
Updated: November 28, 2021 10:44:21 am
The calendar is now available on the official website of SSC on ssc.nic.in. File.

The recent arrest of Haryana Civil Services officer Anil Nagar, posted as deputy secretary in Haryana Public Service Commission, and the accused’s reported confession of rigging at least four recruitment examinations has put the state government’s recruitment agencies firmly in the dock.

The opposition had been attacking the ruling BJP-JJP dispensation on repeated incidents of alleged irregularities in various recruitment examinations, incidents of paper-leak and even favouritism in certain recruitments.

While BJP and JJP entered into an alliance promising eradication of unemployment and later claimed that government has given appointments to to over 80,000 people since 2014 when BJP came to power in the state, most of these recruitments have been marred by controversy.
The INLD and the Congress claim there were 40 such recruitment drives in which varied irregularities were found. The state government, however, admits there were barely three recruitment drills in which the examination-paper got leaked, adding that there was prompt action in all such incidents.

Anil Nagar told the Vigilance Bureau that he knows Ashwani Sharma (who executes the scanning work in HPSC) for the last 3-4 years. (Express Photo)

Commenting on the impact of the incidents of irregularities, Prof Ranbir Singh, Senior Fellow, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi says: “There is no doubt about the fact that this government has taken many initiatives to ensure fair recruitment and to redress public grievances through initiatives like the CM window. But such incidents are very demoralising and frustrating for the candidates and their parents. It also raises questions on the credibility of the recruitment system. Let’s hope that the credibility of the recruitment agencies will be restored soon after punishing the guilty”.

HPSC’S CASH-FOR-JOB SCAM

On November 17, the State Vigilance Bureau nabbed three persons including Anil Nagar, Ashwani Sharma, a resident of Jhajjar, and Naveen, a resident of Bhiwani, on charges of corruption, cheating, fraud, forgery and criminal conspiracy besides various other provisions of law. The complainant in this case was a Hisar resident, Narendra. The complainant alleged that Jasbir Singh, who runs a software agency in Panchkula’s Sector 11 – M/s Safedot Esolution Pvt Ltd — was given a work-order of HPSC for ‘online application portal’. Narendra said: “In the year 2012-13, he (Jasbir) had got the work-order due to his proximity with Congress leaders, but former HPSC chairman had got to know of his frauds and thus rejected his work-order. However, this time again he pulled some strings and got the work-order in HPSC. He deals in online application portal, scanning and even checking and evaluation of examination-papers. I suspect that he has got several people recruited through HPSC using fraudulent means. I and my friends had been trying to catch him for a long time, but now we have got proof against him. These people do tampering in paper-checking. They are earning crores of rupees from people by ensuring their recruitment. They ask people to attempt only 30-40 questions. In connivance with board officials, they fill up the remaining questions with correct answers.”

Explaining the gang’s operation, he added: “I and my friend Sombir made a plan, contacted his (Jasbir’s) tout Naveen, identified a few candidates of Dental Surgeon examination and sought their help. They told us that they would charge Rs 35-40 lakh per candidate and said that the candidate should not be related to any MLA, MP, HPSC member…..On September 26, Dental Surgeon’s examination was conducted…Naveen accepted one candidate Dalbir’s OMR sheet…On November 2, Naveen told Dalbir that he has cleared the examination, on November 8 he demanded money and on November 10, the result was declared by HPSC. Dalbir qualified in the final result. Naveen’s conversations and messages were also recorded by us”.

The complainant added that Dalbir could be just one case out of many in the recruitment fraud.

Acting on this complaint, VB constituted a raiding-team, laid a trap with complainant Narendra’s help and nabbed Naveen after he had accepted the bribe.

In his disclosure to the police, Naveen took names of Jasbir Singh and Ashwani and claimed that the gang had accepted Rs 20 lakh each from eight candidates in dental surgeon examination. He even gave their roll numbers. He said that he had accepted money from remaining seven candidates and given it to Ashwani Sharma.

He revealed that he had done the same for two candidates in HCS-2021 examination (Rs 20 lakh each), and charged Rs 10 lakh each from 40 candidates in Staff Nurse examination, four candidates in VLDA examination, 15-16 candidates in ANM workers recruitment examination. He also named another associate, Vijay Balhara, and said that Vijay and Ashwani were getting the candidates’ OMR sheets tampered in government recruitments.

On November 18, Vigilance Bureau nabbed Ashwani and recovered bribe money cash Rs 1.07 crore. Ashwani told Vigilance that the money was meant for Anil Nagar. Vigilance made Ashwani contact Nagar. Later, he was taken to Nagar’s office where he handed over the money and subsequently Nagar was also nabbed.

Anil Nagar told the Vigilance Bureau that he knows Ashwani Sharma (who executes the scanning work in HPSC) for the last 3-4 years. Nagar added that he was given the responsibility of supervising HCS and Dental Surgeon recruitment examination by HPSC’s chairman. He added that he had planned with Ashwani to charge Rs 30 lakh per candidate and 20-22 candidates’ OMR sheets were tampered. He, according to vigilance sources, added that he was to charge Rs 20-25 lakh per candidate, while rest of the money was to be distributed among Ashwani and others.
Sources added that Nagar conceded to having made Rs 1.30 crore for five candidates in HCS recruitment examination and Rs 2.08 crore for 13 candidates in Dental Surgeon examination. He also gave all the roll numbers of those candidates to the VB.

FIRM IN HPSC SCAM CROSSHAIRS

According to the records, M/s Safedot Esolution Pvt Ltd was incorporated on November 5, 2009. It is registered at RoC, Delhi and its authorised share capital is Rs 30 lakh while the paid up capital is Rs 10 lakh. Besides Jasbir Singh, who is one of the accused in the HPSC cash-for-job scam, there are three other Directors in the company that include Keshar Singh, Rishi Pal and Shweta Mittal. The company claims, on its website, that it is an IT solutions provider and was operational in SCF 93, Sector 11, Panchkula till a few months ago.
The Indian Express visited this address, which is mentioned in Vigilance’s FIR and even on company’s website. The owner of the SCF told The Indian Express that the company was operating from the first floor but has packed up about two-three months ago.

“There were not many people in this office, only a bunch of people who majorly used to work on their laptops. There were barely any visitors to their office. I do not know much about what all they were doing. I am not aware where they have shifted, but I think they once mentioned that they would be shifting to IT Park, Panchkula,” the man who runs JK Bansal store on the ground floor of the SCF told The Indian Express. He added that a man named Sumit used to pay them the rent.

OTHER RECRUITMENTS UNDER CLOUD

The issue of police constables recruitment (male) rocked the Vidhan Sabha’s monsoon session in August. Several MLAs attacked the government on repeated incidents of irregularities in recruitment examinations. HSSC had to cancel the recruitment examination mid-way on August 7 amid reports of paper leak.

CM Manohar Lal Khattar, at that time, had maintained that his government was leaving no stone unturned to nab the culprits who were involved in such nefarious activities. Giving details about the police recruitment paper-leak scandal, Khattar had said, “The question paper of the police recruitment examination was leaked from Jammu’s printing press in a pen drive. The first person gave it to the second for Rs 5 lakh, second sold it to the third for Rs 10 lakh, then it was eventually sold in Haryana for a sum of Rs 1 crore. It is a gang of paper leak mafia out of which we have arrested 26-28 accused persons. Our police have already arrested most of the accused. All those who were responsible in this shall not be spared. If anybody is yet to be caught, he shall also not be spared.”

In a jibe at the government, Leader of Opposition and former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda had said, “The government that talks about (eliminating) ‘Parchi’ and ‘Kharchi’, has created ‘Lakhi’ and ‘Karori’ scamsters. Today such people are active who take lakhs of rupees for getting jobs and crores of rupees for leaking papers”.

AICC general secretary Randeep Surjewala, in a recent press conference, demanded that the government should probe all such recruitments that were held during Anil Nagar’s tenure in the HPSC. “In yet another sensational revelation, the hand of ‘paper solver gang’ has come to the surface in the recent recruitment of police sub- inspectors….why no inquiry initiated in the matter? Why the investigation into HTET paper scam of Board of School Education Board of Haryana is being pushed behind the curtain? It has also come to the notice that the strings of this job sales gang are also connected to the HTET papers solving gang since 2016. Incidentally, Anil Nagar was the secretary of the Board of Education in those days. Then why no investigation on the same,” he had said.

In May 2018, HSSC’s then chairman Bharat Bhushan Bharti was suspended following a public outcry over a controversial question related to Brahmins in the written exam conducted for the post of Junior Engineers on April 10.

However, then Haryana Governor Kaptan Singh Solanki had reinstated Bharti as the Justice Darshan Singh Committee gave him the clean chit. The Governor had, however, recommended action against those involved in setting the question paper.

HARYANA’S PUBLIC EXAMINATION (PREVENTION OF UNFAIR MEANS) ACT, 2021

Miffed at repeated incidents of irregularities in recruitments and opposition’s persistent attack, the Haryana Vidhan Sabha in August passed a Bill proposing jail term up to 10 years along with a fine of Rs 10 lakh for offences related to paper leak. The Bill also proposed attachment of property of the convicted persons for the recovery of fine.

“The recruitment examinations are often compromised due to deceitful means and measures. Unfortunately, the issue has assumed dimensions of organised crime and involves huge pecuniary advantages to nefarious persons,” Khattar had said after the Vidhan Sabha passed the Bill. On September 10, the Act was notified. In the recent HPSC cash-for-job scam, the accused including Anil Nagar and others have also been booked under Section 8 (3)(4) of this Act, which calls for a 10 year jail term and Rs 10 lakh fine.

OPPOSITION’S CHARGE

INLD’s Abhay Chautala alleges that there are at least 40 such recruitments that are under scanner and should be thoroughly probed. These recruitments include several where examination-papers were leaked, a few where recruitments were cancelled or postponed or another few that have got stuck due to various administrative reasons or due to Covid-19.

“The list is very long. The examination papers were leaked in recruitments of police constable, gram sachiv, B Pharmacy, excise inspectors, clerks, all india pre-medical test, primary teachers, education board’s Hindi and English examination, agriculture inspectors, assistant professor (college cadre), NEET, HCS (Judicial), Naib Tehsildar, and HTET,” INLD’s MLA from Ellanabad, Abhay Chautala, told The Indian Express.

He added: “The recruitments that were cancelled include – PTI teachers (1,983 posts), drawing teachers (816 posts), Group-D (Sports quota) (1,518 posts), junior lecturer assistant (61 posts), PGT (Sanskrit) (626 posts), TGT (English) (1,035 posts). Similarly, screening is pending in various examinations. Several recruitments are in litigation in the court that include ITI instructors (3,206 posts), while recruitment of Assistant Lineman (1,329 posts) was cancelled due to Covid-19 pandemic.”

Haryana’s Leader of Opposition and former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda, AICC general secretary Randeep Surjewala and Haryana Congress chief Kumari Selja had been lashing out at BJP-JJP government and demanding a complete overhaul of the Haryana Staff Selection Commission and Haryana Public Service Commission. All top Congress leaders from Haryana had been accusing the government of not taking action against the real culprits.

RECRUITMENT AGENCIES DEFEND THEMSELVES

Bhopal Singh, who was appointed as chairman, Haryana Staff Selection Commission, in March this year, told The Indian Express, “Since October, 2014, when Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government took over in Haryana, we have appointed nearly 85,000 people on various posts. Apart from this, recruitment of nearly 25,000 people is yet under process out of which 10,000 shall be recruited against various ranks in state police department.”

Talking about the paper-leaks, Bhopal Singh added, “So far, there were three incidents of paper-leak. These include a police constable recruitment, village secretary (gram sachiv) recruitment and ALM (electricity department) recruitment. While there were 5,500 posts in police recruitment, there were 2,000 posts in gram sachiv recruitment and 1,200 posts in ALM recruitment. The examination of ALM recruitment has already taken place in which 65,000 candidates appeared. The examination for gram sachiv posts will be held on December 26-28 for which over 10.35 lakh applications have been received. The examination for police constable has also been conducted”.

About other controversies marring recruitments, Bhopal Singh said, “There is difference between ‘paper-leak’ and ‘paper-out’. While all candidates can get undue benefit in the case of paper-leak, one or two get benefit with paper-out. For instance, the question paper of a particular examination was taken out by a candidate, or a picture was clicked and sent out of the examination centre, got it solved and then circulated the answer key on mobile phones of other candidates. That is called paper-out. Then, there were incidents where parchi was supplied to the candidates during the examination, which is called ‘unfair used material’.”

He said that in recent examination for SIs, 400 (male) and 65 (female), in several cases the thumb impressions of the candidates did not match, which is being probed.

About the transparency adopted by HSSC, Bhopal Singh said, “We have adopted a practice that all such OMR sheets that were left blank, we make it public, give it to the newspapers, to the CID. In such a case, how can anybody in HSSC fill up those OMR sheets…”

A retired IFS officer Alok Verma took over as chairman, HPSC in October this year. On the ongoing cash-for-job scam that happened under his nose, Verma told The Indian Express that, “The investigation of the case is going on and we should wait for the final outcome”.

Meanwhile, the Haryana coordinator of Lokniti — a social science research programme of Delhi’s Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Kushal Pal said the arrest of a senior officer of the Haryana Public Service Commission and “the incidents of paper-leak will certainly cause dent to the support base of BJP and image of Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, who has been enjoying image of an honest person.”

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