Thursday, June 13, 2024

The Jury is still out on Ampareen


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By HH Mohrmen

The minister who is alleged to be involved in the L.P. School appointment scam, has made her stand known to the people. By doing so the issue is now pushed to the public domain. Now the minister in charge Urban Affairs, Ampareen Lyngdoh thinks that her name is cleared and the entire allegations against her are laid to rest. Let us hope that the people of the state believe every word she said and has taken her entire press briefing as gospel truth. But Ampareen will have a lot of convincing to do to be able to make people repose their faith in her yet again.

After the 2008 election Ampareen, who was elected to the state legislative Assembly on a UDP ticket, decided to resign her membership in the House and seek re-election on a Congress ticket for reasons best known to her. People appreciated her move and had only words of praise for her courage. When she retained the seat on a Congress ticket, she was not only congratulated for winning but more importantly for doing the right thing. Compare Ampareen with A.L. Hek who in 2008 was elected to the house on a BJP ticket but joined Congress without seeking re-election on a Congress ticket. Hek not only took the people of his constituency for granted, but more importantly he along with the powers that be, played with the anti-defection law of the country by allowing him to join the Congress without even resigning his membership to the house. Since her re-election from the Laitumkhrah seat Ampareen has gained the respect of the people of the State for daring to do the right thing in spite of the fact that there was every likelihood that she might be defeated in the bye-election.

Heroine she was for many; but for some who are affected by the LP School teachers’ appointment scam, the respect lasted only for a short span of time. Like any other politician it looks like she too is a heroine with feet of clay. The 13th November press conference has only thrown more light on the kind of leader she is and the press briefing has also generated more questions than answers. It comes as no surprise that Ampareen tried to come clean on the entire issue. She made it sound like the appointment scam was a mere figment of somebody’s imagination or to use her own words the entire drama was the handiwork of her detractors. But the question is, who are her detractors? Are the candidates who through RTI found out that there was manipulation in the results of the selection committee and ultimately approached the honourable court to seek justice, her detractors? The scam was unearthed and brought to light by the candidates who believe that injustice has been done to them and if everybody fighting for justice becomes a detractor of the minister then she would have to be content with having many detractors.

The other questions that begs an answer is, on whose behest did JD Sangma act? Or did JD Sangma act as per his whims and fancy, and no one actually interfered in the appointment process? The critical part of the appointment scam is the fact that there are also MLAs and MDCs involved in the scam and some of the public representatives have publicly admitted to recommending names of certain candidates. The legislators named by the CBI report which includes the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker and others have clarified that they simply recommended the names of their supporters and maintained that in doing so they have done nothing wrong. The question is to whom did they recommend the names of their near and dear once for appointment? That would be interesting to know. Did they send the recommendation to the minister or to JD Sangma? If the recommendation was sent to JD Sangma then Sangma is responsible for the entire mess. If not, then who is responsible for it? Now technology will also enable us to know who else called JD Sangma during that particular time and hopefully his call records have not been deleted by the service provider.

The first lesson that we should learn from this imbroglio is that the legislators should know that it is illegal to recommend names for appointment because in doing so they are directly canvassing for the candidates. By doing so they have abused their power! They have tried to influence the decision of the selection committee, which they have themselves constituted, by virtue of being in the government. The lesson that everyone in the state should learn from the scam is that the MLA or any public representative should do away with the practice of recommending their supporters for appointment to any job. The practice of recommending names for appointment or for gaining any undue favour is not only unjust to the other contenders who do not have the backing of the bigwigs in the government, but it also encourages appointment of wrong candidates to the post. Politicians should instead learn from the scam and make their supporters understand that is not fair for them to recommend names and if they do so, the candidates themselves will be at risk of their names being struck off from the list of qualified candidates if it is later found that they were involved in canvassing directly or indirectly for the job. Then we also need right people in the selection committee or the MPSC.

I was once approached by an MLA to be his nominee in the district selection committee. I politely rejected the offer because I know that it is a political appointment and I will have to be at his beck and call hence the selection will not be on merit. People close to me who came to know about this offer questioned why I didn’t accept the offer and help get my near and dear ones get a government job. My response was that, that was basically the reason why I rejected the offer. The scam will also make the job of the politician easier because then he or she would not have to entertain any requests for recommendation for appointment of any post anymore because the selection will be strictly on merit. The politician’s duty is to ensure that the District Selection Committees, the Meghalaya Public Service Commission or any appointing authority functions independently and does not involve in any kind of nepotism.

Coming back to Ampareen, even if she is given the benefit of the doubt that she is in no way involved in the scam, yet one expects that she at least owns moral responsibility for whatever happened in the department during her tenure as the minister of education. She cannot simply wash her hands off the matter. That is not just done. One also hopes that as a true leader, she would shoulder the responsibility and protect her subordinates till are proven guilty, but that did not happen. Instead one saw a defensive Ampareen who only blamed JD Sangma’s statement as uncorroborated. She then passed the buck to someone else, taking no responsibility whatsoever for what had happened. From her statement, it sounds like everything is hunky dory and nothing adverse has happened in the education department during her tenure. Can we say that the LP School Teachers’ appointment scam did not happen?

No one can deny the fact that the LP School teachers’ appointment scam did happen and it is not merely a creation of the media or NGOs for that matter. It matters not whether the minister was involved or not but injustice was meted out to some citizens of the country and it is only fair that justice prevails;, the sooner the better, because the aggrieved party has already suffered for so long. The government should make sure that the scam is brought to a logical conclusion and justice is delivered and those found guilty are punished. If Dr Mukul Sangma uses delaying tactics on this issue then he can rest assured that the matter will backfire on the Congress. With the assembly elections coming in less than hundred days from now, the scam will certainly become an election issue. One hopes that Dr Sangma is intelligent enough to realize the damage that this issue can do to the Congress if it is pushed to the back burner.

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