I. There were vacancies in the cadre of medical officers in the ESI Corporation and a proposal was mooted to recruit them. A political heavyweight who came to know about it, pressured the Head of the Department to select people as per his choice. He wanted the selection process to have only the mode, i.e., interview, to facilitate his nefarious designs. But, the pressure was resisted, very courageously, by the Head of the Department. Yet, the politician won the day and the Head of the Department was shifted out abruptly and prematurely. Same pressure was brought on the next incumbent also. But, he also resisted the pressure, admirably, and did not agree to dispense with the Written Test. Interview was only for those who came through the Written Test, he said. Now, it was the turn of the politician to lose. Advertisement was issued, applications were processed and written tests were held in a transparent manner and the evaluation was a computerized one. But, that was not the end of the story.
II. The process of interview was the next part of selection. It was, now, attempted to be hijacked by the political leader. An elaborate net was woven in the political circles to hijack the interview process. Action was taken to frame even a new Recruitment Regulations for that purpose, i.e., to hijack the interview board. But, the Head of the Department was so clever that he just kept watching the game (played by the people within and outside the ESIC) and very simply and effectively checkmated the game ultimately. The end result was least interference in the recruitment process. Besides, the ESIC came to have a Recruitment Regulation which had not been used at all. The incident proved that clever and honest bureaucrats could always stop the corrupt politicians.
Organised mischief by the interview board
III. There was an advertisement inviting applications for the post of para-medical personnel in Group-D in a hospital. More than 7000 applications were received. Appointment was to be made on the basis of the performance of the candidates in the interview. That was the only mode of selection.
Interview was conducted for so many weeks. Complaints were received regarding the interview. On investigation, it was found that the interview committee did not only do its work in a transparent manner but did not have even the intention to do so. The very method adopted by the Committee from the beginning ‘for entering the marks’ was intended to facilitate manipulation, it was found. (The details are not narrated here). It was a clear case of bureaucratic mischief. The Head of the Department swung into action and the entire process was cancelled. Selection was ordered to be made only through written test. It ensured that no injustice was done to the candidates. The ESIC could derive the legitimate satisfaction of having set right the institutional wrongs against the public. It was demonstrated that the system could and would work and safeguard public interest.
Scandals galore in Regions
IV. There was a very big scandal in a region in recruitment of the Group D staff in which the Regional Director was also actively involved. (The details are not narrated here). The facts came to the notice of the Hqrs. Office which had to intercede in the matter. These were a few cases where the culprits were caught. But, as it always happens, the abuse of the interview process was rampant and people who were clever but dishonest had a field day. The scandals in Tamil Nadu in the Sixties, the scandal at lower levels in Orissa in the Nineties which the Regional Director had successfully unearthed and stopped, the circumstances under which a Director of the Administration was shifted out for not having toed the line of the politicians to dispense with the established system of selection, are not explained here, for the sake of brevity. When interview was being done for recruitment to a cadre, how employees and politicians from various departments of the Central Ministry also used to pressure the ESIC administration is also not explained here.
Resistance by vested interests
V. In order to remedy this entire malady, the ESIC abolished the mode of interview and introduced Written test for all the appointments in Group D, from the cadre of Peon and above. There was resistance to this procedure from vested interests. But, the honest leadership saw through the game of those who opposed the proposal. Recruitment Regulations were amended to provide for selection only through written test. The scope for nepotism was totally eliminated.
Administration got rid of one headache. Common public developed confidence in the system. People had the confidence that one who worked hard to learn things and performed well in the examination would be able to land in the ESI Corporation, without looking for any godfather or middleman. That is a basic expectation of a citizen of a nation. ESI Corporation radiated that aura and derived legitimate pride and satisfaction that it was assuring the public that there would be justice and fair play in the selections. The recruitment procedure in a public organization is not the concern of a few in power but of the entire Indian society. It affects or benefits all the people in the nation.
Equality of Standards and Transparency
VI. Written tests ensure equality of standards in testing the suitability of the candidates. Even in the posts in which interview is the additional mode of selection, the weightage for interview is not permitted to totally upset the score in the Written Test. There are judgments citing heart-wrenching incidents. The ESIC had witnessed questionable interview processes and the extent to which vested interests were abusing that process. Such people do not treat all Indians as Indians. They divide them as “My men” and “Not my men”. It is a clear case of abuse of the authority the persons in power happen to wield. Yet, such persons in power do not bother about it. They think they are ‘powerful’. But, what they do is, in fact, nothing but snatching food from one man’s mouth and feeding another who did not earn it.
VII. The officials who yielded to the political interference in appointments did not realize whether they would have been selected if there had been similar interference by politicians and others in the selection process when they applied for the posts.
VIII. Written Tests were introduced for various posts like Nursing Orderlies, Peons, etc., after proper discussions and examination of the issue. The Agenda and the Minutes of the Standing Committee and the ESI Corporation would contain all the relevant details. The references to the Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Law, etc., would explain the reasons for having modified the system. If any change is contemplated, in future, the reasons which are on record in the aforesaid documents should be referred to and deviation justified. It is justiciable too. Because, the mode of selection through interview is always viewed with suspicion. The scope for abuse is in-built in that system.
IX. The UPSC/SSC does not have any interview even for the cadre of Assistants.
Written Test resulted in Competent hands
X. The ESI Corporation has been recruiting Peons, MTS, UDCs, Nursing Orderlies and many others in the Group C and the then existing Group D posts without resorting to interview for quite some time. It will, therefore, have to explain before the Court whether its experience with the existing Recruitment Regulations (which did not necessitate ‘interview’) is a failure, before it embarks on introducing that element for the recruitment of people in these cadres. Because, the fact is that the ESIC got very competent and capable persons for these posts during the past six years.
Godfather system will emerge again
XI. When the SSC does not have the system of interview for the post of UDCs or Assistants for the past sixty years, there is no justification for the ESIC to convert its recruitment process and introduce the element of interview unnecessarily once again. Any introduction of that interview mode by the ESIC will be a departure as per Sec. 17 of the ESI Act. But, the way the wind blows, the technicalities of Sec. 17 will be satisfied and the the statutory requirement of approval by the Government will be easily shown to have been obtained.
But, public confidence in the organization will be lost, if the Administration cares for such opinion. There will be definite litigation in the Court of Law against such unwanted amendments. The ESIC can cite the Supreme Court Recruitment procedure which permits the mode of interview in the case of Court Assistants. But, the history of the ESIC is replete with various scandals when interviews were used as a mode of selection. That is not the case with the Supreme Court.
The issues in respect of the ESIC are:
- The ESIC had been following the Central Government provisions to recruit people on the basis of written test without interview all along for recruitment in the cadre of LDCs. Its experience was that it was getting very competent people and many of them had migrated to higher positions in other government departments.
- In the cadre of Group D staff, the ESIC did away with the interview mode and provided to the Indian public a corruption-free system of selection, to eliminate the proven corruption. As a result, ordinary people with competence and without godfathers could enter the organization. They remain loyal to the organization and not to any individual godfathers within or outside the organization. They work for the organization, improve their own competence and are looking for departmental examinations to go for higher positions. In the circumstances, reverting back to interview does not have any legal necessity.
XII. We find people who got recruited in Group D posts in hospitals at the behest of Ministers are diverted to work in the house of the Minister. Interview facilitates this kind of appointments and misuse by the godfathers in the category of politicians as well as bureaucrats.
Finer phrases meant only to camouflage
XIII. Whatever finer phrases are used in favour of interview, the Administration will find it hard to create confidence among the Indian public about the transparency in the selection procedure and also to convince the candidates who lose the interview about the reason for their non-selection. The ESIC has issued circular dated 16.08.2010 to provide many details to the applicants under the RTI Act. The appropriate information in the case of interviews will be, not just the marks given as mentioned in the said circular, but the complete video record of all the interviews conducted in every recruitment process. It would, therefore, be proper and just that the ESIC keeps all interviews video-graphed so that it can supply them to those who apply for it under the RTI Act, 2005. But, these are avoidable problems.
XIV. It is proper for the Administration not to fall prey to the designs of the schemers. Ordinary people of the nation who apply for the lower strata posts should not be driven to desperation, resulting in chaos in society. We hope the Ministry of Law will examine the issue with appropriate seriousness and ensure justice.
When the Bill of Rights was introduced, James Madison wrote to Thomas Jefferson on 17.10.1788,
“Wherever there is an interest and power to do wrong, wrong will generally be done”.
P.S: The following communication was sent to the ESIC authorities, the Commissioner (P&A) and the Joint Director (E.I) on 20.12.2012 at 8.27 am.:
“Please find attached a write up on the mode of recruitment in the ESIC. The article/write-up is titled “Interviews: ESIC on the Reverse journey?”. It is proposed to publish it on 21.12.2012 at 9.00 am in the website ‘flourishgesic.info’. I would be grateful if you could kindly convey your stand, if any, on the issues dealt with in the write-up so that the official view of the ESIC Administration can also be published simultaneously.”
But, we received no response till now. The paragraph captions were added later for easy readability.