Policing UP’s police recruitment

Published in: THE INDIAN EXPRESS, 2 October 2007

Policing UP’s police recruitment
Sandeep Pandey
Tuesday, 2 October 2007

As uttar pradesh chief minister Mayawati continues with the drive of suspending police constables and officers, the questions her action raises don’t go away. Political bosses have always had a predetermined list of successful candidates.

The 55 recruitment boards in the state had to decide how to play around with a selection process involving about 15 lakh young aspirants, to arrive at a list of about 22,000 ‘fortunate’ ones. Such manipulation is by no means unique to the selection of constables.

It probably happens in most selection processes, especially those involving positions that do not require specialised skills. This is also the reason why students lose interest in the education process quite early and rely on unfair means like copying to clear their examinations. They and their parents know that when it comes to getting jobs, it is recommendations and money that clinch the matter, not individual capability.

In this case, too, aspirants for a constable’s position followed the ‘norm’ and paid large sums to secure a seat. A few women candidates were also reported to have been forced into doing sexual favours. Credit must be given to the erstwhile socialist government. It did not forget its commitment to social justice: SCs had to pay only half of the amounts ranging from Rs 2 to 4 lakh compared to upper caste candidates, in order to secure a berth. It is this subtle, or not-so-subtle, bias that proved the undoing of the process. Complaints were filed that there appeared to be too many Yadavs — especially from Etawah region — among those recruited for the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) and police.

Mayawati, looking for opportunities to embarrass Mulayam Singh Yadav, promptly instituted an inquiry, headed by one of the strictest police officers in the state, Shailja Kant Mishra. Mishra, who has been biding his time in insignificant posts for quite a while — an experience familiar to honest officials anywhere in the country — now got a chance to prove his mettle. Besides annulling the selection of two-thirds of the constables, 25 officers from the ranks of SP to ADG, mostly from the IPS, who had executed the orders of their political bosses, were also placed under suspension. Recruitment of 42 out of 55 Boards were found to completely faulty.

Mention must also be made here of the nine Boards which resisted political pressures, thanks to the upright officials who constituted them. Considering the extent and nature of corruption, it must have required tremendous courage to counter the pressure.

The inquiry has created an upheaval in the administration of what is arguably the most criminalised and corrupt state in the country. After a long while, there seems to be some determined action from a government against irregularities committed by one of its departments. A clear message must now emanate from Lucknow that the government is against all corruption and irregularities at every level. Since corruption has become institutionalised, an institutional response is required to fight it.

What are the implications of such an inquiry? What will those police personnel who paid hefty sums to get their jobs now going to do? If they do not make it in the revised recruitment process that they have been promised, will they fall prey to criminal or terrorist gangs? After all, they would make ideal recruits for such groups — young men trained by the police department!

Given the propensity of all mainstream political parties to make money in government schemes and recruitments, what guarantee is there that the next set of candidates will pass the credibility test?

Also, will the real culprits in this sordid episode face punishment — the new recruits, after all, are only soft targets? And the biggest question of all, how can this trend of accepting hefty commissions for government contracts and bribes in government recruitments be reversed? What will be the alternative source of funding for political parties?

Unless these basic questions are addressed and a solution found to the various issues raised, the present exercise of exposing irregularities in the police-PAC recruitment process in Uttar Pradesh will only appear as yet another instance of political vendetta and little else.

The writer, a Lucknow-based social activist, is a Magsaysay awardee.

Published in: THE INDIAN EXPRESS, 2 October 2007