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Why the Uttarakhand Selection Commission is under the scanner over ‘irregularities’ in recruitment exams

Allegations of paper leak lead to multiple investigations, 35 arrests, demand for CBI inquiry by Oppn

The case pertains to a written exam conducted by the UKSSSC on December 4 and 5 last year, in which nearly 1.6 lakh candidates appeared and 916 were selected for different departments. (File/representational)

The Uttarakhand state cabinet, last Friday (September 9), passed a proposal to transfer the under-process recruitment process for 7,000 vacancies by the Uttarakhand Subordinate Service Selection Commission (UKSSSC) to the Uttarakhand Public Service Commission, in the wake of allegations of irregularities in the recruitment exam conducted by the Commission. On Sunday, the state government ordered a vigilance inquiry against six persons, including top state officials, over the alleged irregularities.

What is the UKSSSC?

The Uttarakhand Subordinate Service Selection Commission, set up in 2014, is meant for direct recruitment for all vacant Group ‘C’ posts in various state departments, and the posts falling under the purview of the Public Service Commission.

The UKSSSC prepares guidelines on the method of recruitment, conducts examinations, holds interviews and makes the selection of candidates. It also selects and invites experts, and appoints examiners.

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As per the process, the appointing authority has to determine and intimate to the Commission the number of vacancies to be filled up, as well as the number of vacant posts reserved for candidates belonging to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other categories.

Paper leak allegations in last year’s exam

The case pertains to a written exam conducted by the UKSSSC on December 4 and 5 last year, in which nearly 1.6 lakh candidates appeared and 916 were selected for different departments.

After the exam results were announced, representatives of unemployed student organisations and several other students met Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami and submitted a memorandum alleging irregularities in the conduct of the test. It was alleged that the examination papers for a few tests were leaked and sold to the examinees before the exams.

Following these allegations, CM Dhami asked the director general of police to take strict action against those responsible, and an FIR was registered on July 22 this year. The secretary of the Selection Commission was also removed from his post and the case was later handed over to the Special Task Force (STF).

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The investigation revealed that more than 50 candidates were selected due to the leaked paper and the selection of several others was found to be suspicious. According to the STF, question papers for the UKSSSC exam held last year were sold for Rs 15 lakh each. The UKSSSC question paper was allegedly leaked by a staffer at a Lucknow-based printing press, which was tasked with printing and sealing the question paper.

Since the matter came to light, the Opposition has also been attacking the state government and has alleged its involvement in the scam. Congress’s state unit president Karan Mahara has alleged that those arrested so far are the ‘smaller fish’ in the game and they were working under the shadow of ‘much bigger politicians’. The Congress has demanded an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the case.

The investigation so far

Earlier this week, the STF made its 35th arrest in the case. The state DGP has also announced cash rewards on two absconding accused. A reward of Rs 2 lakh was announced on the arrest of Sadiq Moosa, and of Rs 1 lakh on Yogeshwar Rao.

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According to police, the latest arrested accused, identified as Sandeep Sharma, used to take many candidates from the districts of Udham Singh Nagar and Haridwar to a flat in Ghaziabad and help them solve the exam papers in connivance with the other accused. The accused runs three ayurvedic and para-medical colleges in Jaspur and Thakurdwara.

Earlier this month, the UKSSSC also sent a show-cause notice to Lucknow-based company RMS Technosolutions, which helped the Selection Commission organise written exams for UKSSSC. The notice mentioned that prima facie, the STF investigation has found the company’s involvement in the paper leak and two of the accused arrested in the case – Jaijeet Das and Abhishek Verma – are its employees.

How the ‘paper was leaked’

The investigation has also revealed that Abhishek stole the exam papers from the printing press and sent them to Jaijeet via different means on November 29 last year, four to five days before the exams.

Jaijeet, a programmer at the printing press, allegedly gave the papers to Manoj Joshi, a former ad-hoc employee of UKSSSC. Manoj allegedly gave the papers to Manoj Negi (who goes by the same name and was junior assistant at the Sitarganj court in Udham Singh Nagar district), one Gaurav Negi, and his brother-in-law Himanshu Kandpal. Manoj Joshi and Gaurav Negi allegedly got the papers solved at a resort in Ramnagar and a banquet hall in Kashipur.

Other than these people, the STF also arrested BJP member and Uttarkashi district panchayat member Hakam Singh Rawat, who was allegedly taking money from candidates in exchange of providing solved question papers. Hakam Singh, considered to be one of the masterminds in the case, contested the district panchayat member election as an Independent but joined the BJP after his victory. Starting out as a cook, he gradually rose to become a successful politician with high-level contacts.

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In August, the Uttarakhand BJP expelled Hakam Singh from the party after he was arrested in connection with the UKSSSC case. In a statement, state BJP general secretary Kuldeep Kumar said Hakam Singh has been expelled from the party for six years on the instructions of state party president Mahendra Bhatt.

Action taken by the Uttarakhand government

Amid the allegations and the ongoing STF investigation, a proposal to transfer the under-process recruitment of 7,000 vacancies by the UKSSSC to the Uttarakhand Public Service Commission was passed by the state cabinet on Friday.

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Stating that the state government will take all possible steps to maintain ‘transparency and dignity’ of the recruitment exams, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami directed the authorities to announce a calendar of the recruitment exams and start the process. He also asked all the government departments to prepare a list of vacant posts to be filled by direct recruitment and submit it to the Commission.

According to the state government, for the exams the UKSSSC has already organised and announced results for, the remaining recruitment process will be done by the Selection Commission itself.

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For the exams the UKSSSC has already invited applications for, but not organised, no application fees will be taken from the candidates when the Uttarakhand Public Service Commission publishes a new advertisement.

“Organising exams at the earliest through the Uttarakhand Public Service Commission, and giving jobs to the youth while maintaining their morale, is the main priority of the state government. The government is determined to give unemployed youth an environment of healthy competition,” said CM Dhami.

Other than that, the Uttarakhand government has also ordered a vigilance inquiry against six persons, including top officials, over the alleged irregularities. According to government officials, the vigilance inquiry has been ordered against former UKSSSC secretary Santosh Badoni and former controller of examination Narayan Singh Dangi, among others.

“The STF investigation is already going on in the case and a vigilance inquiry is now ordered against the government employees found involved during the STF investigation,” said Additional Director General Amit Kumar Sinha.

The Enforcement Directorate has also sought details about the properties of prime accused Hakam Singh, Chandan Manral and owner of RMS Technosolutions, Rajesh Chauhan. It is also gearing up to take action against them under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

First published on: 13-09-2022 at 19:01 IST
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