Friday, June 14, 2024

The CBI report – shrouded in mystery


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By Patricia Mukhim

This last week has been one of drama and suspense. Many of us are still wondering how the CSWO got hold of the CBI report, copies of which are available only with the Commissioner & Secretary Education (in a sealed envelope) and by extension the present Education Minister, Dr RC Laloo. If the report has gone to the Law Department for being scrutinised, then it is possible that the leak could have occurred from there. Alternatively the leak could also have been caused by the CBI or by someone in the High Court. But who engineered the leak is immaterial. What is important is not even how the CSWO got hold of the CBI report since even their lawyer (lawyer of the complainants)was not supposed to get a copy of the report. What is important is why the CSWO organised a selective leak of only pages 104-107 of the report which indicts the then Education Minister Ampareen Lyngdoh.

There are many loose ends in this story. We in the media (and I include myself here) should have been more circumspect with selective leaks and plants from people with dubious track records. Going by the thumb rule of journalism it should have been the duty of every self-respecting journalist to ask for a copy of the full report so that he/she too could take a dispassionate look at it. After all, we in the media owe it to our readers to give them the full picture and not to insult their intelligence by allowing people with vested interest to plant a news story on us. Alas! Our bane has been that we lap up every RTI report and every expose done by someone else, shamelessly, because we are too indolent to do it ourselves.

There are very many irregularities in the 107 page CBI report on the appointment of Assistant Teachers in Lower Primary Schools. It begins not with the alleged tampering of marks but right from the violation of the norms for constitution of the Selection Committee for personal interviews as laid down by Notification dated 24.11.08. The Selection Committee should include (1) SDO/ EAC of the Sub-Division concerned as Chairperson (2) Deputy Director Elementary and Mass Education (DEME) as Member Secretary (3) Headmaster/Asstt Headmaster of any Govt Upper Primary School as Member (4) Head Teacher of the Govt Lower Primary School where the vacancy occurs, also as Member (v) Lecturer of a District Institute for Education and Training (DIET)- to be nominated by Director Educational Research and Training (DERT)

Some officers appointed by the relevant authority to be part of the Selection Committees including that of chairing the Committees were not present. In the case of Shillong, CD Lyngwa, MCS, EAC who was to chair the Selection Committee in Shillong never attended. It appears from the interrogation that another officer Ms C Kharkongor was deputed but she too did not attend. Finally only three out of five members were part of the Selection Committee. In Shillong the Selection Committee was chaired by Andreas Sun Dy Director DEME who was actually supposed to be the member secretary. He acted both as Chairman and Member Secretary. Ms R Rymbai principal in charge DIET Sohra also could not attend and sent her staff Jakob Myrten, Lecturer in her place. But Myrten too could not attend on all the days and two other lecturers K Dympep and A Sohliya represented Myrten on the next two days without anyone of them being properly notified. It can be seen therefore that there was a complete dereliction of duty on the part of the officers concerned to execute a responsible job. Interestingly C Kharkongor and J Myrten signed all the score sheets of the candidates although the former never attended any of the interviews and the latter attended only one sitting. Also Andreas Sun allotted marks to the candidates at two places – first as Chairman and also as the Member Secretary DEME. Is there not enough reason for partiality here? And why did a responsible officer of the district append her signature on something she was never a part of and only at the insistence of Mr Sun?

In the case of Jowai, although only four members were nominated to be on the Selection Committee with C Laloo, MCS, EAC as chair, M Lakiang Lecturer DIET Thadlaskein, AP Bamon, Headmistress, Jowai Govt LP School and AI Lyngdoh Dy DEME as Member Secretary, the Committee finally had six members with two more MCS officers added on. These are some of the unexplained irregularities. Only in the case of Tura all the nominated members of the Selection Committee conducted the interview. The question now is why were these irregularities allowed to happen?

The entire interview process was fraught with subjectivity having something like 22 criteria on which to mark the candidates. This is because the qualifications of the candidates ranged from Class XII passed to Post Graduation. Then there are those who have teaching experience and others who don’t. There are those who passed the State Eligibility Test (SET) and others who didn’t. Such a wide range of marking is baffling to say the least. And yes it allows scope for manipulation and subjectivity. Interestingly, candidates who had crossed the age limit and should have been disqualified at the preliminary stage managed to get to the final interview stage and were even appointed. The CBI also observed that when the full marks for teaching experience is a total of 7 marks, candidates were given up to 10 marks to make up for the shortfall. Who allowed this to happen?

Then lets also look at the top heavy bureaucracy in the Education Department from the Principal Secretary downwards. While JD Sangma the Director Elementary and Mass Education (DEME) told the CBI that he was directed by the then Education Minister to push in the names that did not figure in the original list of selected candidates and to push out others who qualified, he has not answered one fundamental question. Why did he do it? Most bureaucrats succumb to such pressures because they wish to curry favour with the Minister concerned or because they too have their own agenda/candidates. But JD Sangma is a small cog in a giant wheel. If he felt pressured he could have approached his bosses in the Department and confided in them. The matter could have been brought to the notice of the Chief Secretary for him to handle the situation in the best possible manner. But none of that happened. I am sure that the officers in the higher echelons of the Education Department must have had a whiff of what was about to happen but none chose to blow the whistle. I know of the case of a senior officer in the Telecom Ministry, an honest man who acted in good faith in the 2G spectrum auction because the Government at the time had no experience on how to assess the cost of air waves. But when the scam blew up, the officer was also hauled up and had to fight a prolonged case even though he had retired some time ago. The case against him was why he did not prevent the revenue loss as the then Secretary Telecom?

The selection process for appointment of lower primary school teachers in the instant case too has cost many deserving candidates, sleepless nights and destroyed their hopes in the system. It is a very serious crime but this is not the first time that it has happened. And such things happen because the bureaucracy sits back and watches the fun or tries to fix the politicians by leaking out information they were privy to, to selected ‘NGOs’ and the media. If something has gone wrong in any department as it has evidently gone wrong in the Education Department – and that on a large scale – then the entire bureaucracy stands indicted for not preventing the scam from happening. We should know that many bureaucrats from the Telecom Department served a jail term along with A Raja.

Hence this whole idea of nailing only the Education Minister by leaking selective parts of the CBI report smacks of political vendetta. Why were the other anomalies not pointed out? Why did JD Sangma allow himself to be used? Was it at gun point? But even if it was at gun point he had no business to do what he did. He could have put in a dissenting note in the file. And incidentally why is JD Sangma given a clean chit by the NGOs? Why file an FIR only against the Minister? Is JD Sangma not in collusion by agreeing to do what he knew was wrong? One smells a rat when such witch-hunts are unleashed only on politicians while bureaucrats are allowed to roam free. It takes both politicians and the bureaucracy to run the wheels of governance. And the CBI report was submitted and accepted by the Court way back in August. Why did the leak happen only now? Can we rule out dirty politics here?


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