Long wrestling with allegations of corruption and nepotism, the Bihar Public Service Commission (BPSC) has introduced radical reforms over the past 18 months, the most important of them concealing the identity of a candidate through a code system. Public Service Commissions of at least seven states have approached the BPSC seeking to replicate the system, while others have expressed interest.
Recently, the BPSC held prelims for its 65th combined services exam for 2019 vacancies, thus putting on track a schedule that had been running behind by years.
Under the new system, each candidate is allotted a code, which is then placed on his/her answersheet instead of the roll number. The evaluation is done under CCTV surveillance, and an examiner cannot leave the premises till checking for the day is done. Even the BPSC Chairman and the Controller of Examination do not know the questions, and the former randomly selects a question set from among seven sets.
The interviewers too receive only the code number of a candidate, with no details of his or her name and family details, nor are they allowed to ask any questions regarding this. The composition of the interview panel is decided just half an hour before an interview.
The BPSC, like the UPSC (Union Public Service Commission), now includes former diplomats, retired bureaucrats, and ex-IPS officers, including generals, CBI, CRPF and IB, RAW directors, as members. Its seven members, including the chairman, are selected by the Governor in consultation with state government. In the existing body, three members retired recently.
BPSC Chairman Shishir Sinha said, “The commission had been witness to several protests and litigations. We needed a completely transparent system.”
In 2009, the Patna High Court ordered had rescheduling of the BPSC’s 52nd prelims exam following a plea alleging anomalies. Earlier, in 2005, former BPSC chairman Ramsinghasan Singh and eight others had been arrested on the allegation that 184 candidates had been elevated to the Bihar Administrative Services.
Haryana and Odisha are among seven states which are keen to replicate the BPSC reforms, and chairmen of their PSCs recently visited Bihar. Earlier, a former chairman of the Uttar Pradesh Service Commission had visited the BPSC.
Role model for other states
Public Service Commissions of at least seven states have approached BPSC seeking to replicate the system, while others have expressed interest. Haryana and Odisha are among the seven states that are keen to replicate the BPSC reforms, and chairpersons of their PSCs recently visited Bihar. Earlier, a former chairman of Uttar Pradesh Service Commission had visited BPSC.
Sinha said their first challenge was to regularise examinations, using the same workforce and resources. Between April 2018 and October 2019, the BPSC released pending results of its 56th to 59th combined services examinations, while simultaneously conducting examinations for 60th to 62nd lists and releasing the final results. Last week, it announced the final results of its 63rd examination, with a Madhya Pradesh resident emerging as the topper. The written test for the 64th exam has been conducted and the interview would be held in the coming two months, while the BPSC just held the prelims for the 65th exam.
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“Earlier, the chairman decided the members of an interview panel. We introduced a software with names of the experts, and while we call all of them an hour before the interview, the names for the panel are picked by the software with half an hour to go. The panel gets a sealed envelope with codes of 10 candidates. This ensures that till the last moment, neither candidates nor panelists nor any other staff of the commission knows who is interviewing whom,” Sinha said, adding, “The printer alone knows the questions selected, and can be held responsible for a leak.”
The BPSC’s evaluation rooms and its entrance are monitored by 30-plus CCTV cameras, while the strongroom holding the answer sheets is now just next door, to minimise human involvement in transfer of papers. The rooms are being further fortified.
As it places its house in order, the BPSC has seen a change in the profile of applicants, with many of them graduates from IITs, NITs and BITS-Pilani, the BPSC said. Administrative services are now the first preference against police services earlier. Over 20,000 applicants were from Delhi alone for the 65th prelims.
Admitting that they faced initial resistance from within, but “zero interference”, the Chairman said, “Why should interviewers know a candidate’s surname and family details? This has got us praise from the UPSC.”
BPSC Secretary Keshav Ranjan Prasad recounted his own experience, saying while he gave the prelims in 1984, he got a job only four years later. “I can understand the pain and frustration of a candidate through the prolonged process. We are aiming at completing the entire process in a year. We are pretty close to doing so.”
In the last fully completed exam (the 63rd), 90,697 candidates appeared for the prelims, 4,277 cleared the exam, 4,161 gave the written test, 924 appeared for the interview, and 355 got through. This process was completed in 15 months.