In a country like India, where the functioning of the system relies heavily on the efficiency of men responsible for the execution of plans and policies, the selection of the right people for the right post is of paramount importance. The centre has the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) to recruit for its All India Group A, and some Group B services; the Staff Selection Commission (SSC) for its C and D groups; Railway Recruitment Board (RRB) for the railways and the Indian Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS) for public sector banks and others, etc. Occasional and rare incidents notwithstanding, the recruitment for posts and vacancies at the central level appears to be fair at least in terms of opportunities for the candidates.
The recent initiative to conduct a common exam for SSC, IBPS and RRBs through a National Recruitment Agency (NRA) further contributes to standardising the recruitment system. Candidates who had to hitherto apply through multiple applications to appear in the recruitment exams of various organisations can now sit for a common examination; it helps the candidates save their precious time, effort, and money. Notably, the initiative constitutes two main components — NRA and the Common Eligibility Test (CET).
What about recruitments for the state governments? Can the present set-up of having only two recruitment agencies — UPSC and NRA — at the centre be replicated in states? At present, all the states have State Public Service Commissions (PSCs), but a different system of recruiting other posts.
One Recruitment Agency
Under the system of one recruitment agency, a single recruitment and examination body is established to oversee all the recruitment tasks in the state. Uttar Pradesh is constituting a single recruitment agency. There are both gains and losses to having a single recruitment agency. One benefit is having a single point of contact for the candidates hunting for jobs as they will no longer be compelled to spend plenty of time searching and waiting for recruitment notifications from different agencies. There could, however, raise concerns about the one agency undertaking all recruitment activities getting overtasked and inefficient. The challenge would be to effectively develop a system that will proficiently cater to the recruitment of both a civil servant and a peon, without compromising on the specificity of requirements.
There are a few states like Bihar and Rajasthan, which have two different commissions for recruiting its staff. The State Public Service Commission, established on the line of UPSC for the Central recruitment and examination, caters to the civil service examination of the state and recruitment and examination of the gazetted post. The State Staff Selection Commission/Board in these states, on the other hand, manages the recruitment for Group C and D services. This arrangement of only two commissions ensures that aspiring candidates need not fill multiple forms, and most importantly, with the presence of a designated selection Commission, there is less probability of manipulating the recruitment process as compared to departmental recruitments.
Most states have PSCs for recruitment and examination related to gazetted posts and many other different recruitment processes are mostly handled by concerned departments. In such states, candidates, especially those preparing for non-gazetted posts or appearing for exams other than those conducted by the state Public Service Commission, do not know when the examination will be conducted or the results will be eventually declared. The absence of a binding regulation on the part of the department conducting their recruitments, unlike in an established selection board, towards transparency and accountability provides ground for the germination and eventual flowering of manipulative and corruptive practices. Such departmental recruitments in many states have an infamous reputation of being sold and bought in an illegal and open-secret job market.
The Challenges Ahead
A sincere and effective effort to reform the recruitment processes of states in the country is the need of the hour. Unfortunately, many candidates who have concerns about the recruitment process in states have pointed their fingers at the unholy nexuses of various stakeholders involved with the recruitment process. If there are challenges of having only one recruitment agency — the State Public Service Commission that caters to all recruitments — there should be just two agencies: one, which recruits for gazetted posts and the other, for the non-gazetted recruitments. In essence, there could be one recruitment agency in addition to the State Public Service Commission that caters to the recruitment needs of all those posts not covered by the state PSC.
Arguments such as departmental recruitments in the states are more effective in finding the right candidates with the right talent, however true they might be, cannot overshadow the multitude of advantages of having a common recruitment agency, especially from the candidates’ perspective. On the contrary, devoid of manipulation and unfair means, the chances of finding suitable candidates are more likely through a streamlined recruitment process. Also, considering the similarities of the exam patterns for various departments in the states, the single recruitment agency of each state can conduct a common exam in line with the NRA for central recruitments, except of course technical recruitments. While the feasibility of having a common examination could be chalked out based on the specific requirements, a common recruitment agency in the states promises to provide solutions to many recruitment issues. The move will play a pivotal role in reforming the recruitment process, which could change the lives of millions of youths.
(T S Haokip is a freelance writer and author)