Corruptions and anomalies are almost ever present in the recruitment processes in Assam. In 2018 several sitting senior officers of Assam government recruited by the Assam Public Service Commission (APSC) were arrested for a massive cash for job scandal (https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/assam-cash-for-jobs-scam-bjp-mps-daughter-18-other-officers-arrested/article24453102.ece). In a matter of days, again surfaced the alleged scandal in the recruitment of 900 posts for the Panchayat & Rural Development Department (https://www.pratidintime.com/bjp-does-job-scam-in-assam/). After a lull, yet another recruitment scam has emerged in Assam, when the question papers were leaked, of the written test for recruitment of Sub-Inspectors (https://www.theweek.in/wire-updates/national/2020/09/25/ces23-as-police-exam-leak-ld-cong.html). These series of corrupt developments have persistently disappointed many thousands meritorious youths of the state. Amid all these scams and scandals another important recruitment that is ongoing in the state through deep anomalies without receiving any attention and news coverage. I am talking about the ongoing recruitment of the college teachers of Assam. Score of positions for assistant professors are open in the state on the eve of the assembly elections. Though this is not a case of corruption, but the anomalies associated with the process will be discussed in the following subsections.

Colleges of Assam are undoubtedly the backbones of higher education in Assam.  Therefore, the recruitment of these teachers hold much significance, for the performance of teachers will leave extraordinarily deep impacts, either positive or negative, on the careers and lives of thousands of students in the days to come.  This recruitment process is definitely crucial and meaningful; therefore, the entire process needs a critical scrutiny.

Apathy towards online mode

Societies of the world are increasingly changing towards progress, and change is absolutely important to accommodate with the dynamic societies. While the world is increasingly moving towards the digital domain, Assam has significantly remained backward in this context, among many other domains. Today, almost all the recruitment applications throughout the country take place in digital domain. But the teacher’s recruitment, that too in colleges—which are the institutions of higher education in the state, is happening in complete offline mode. So far no college except one facilitated the candidates to apply online.  We are living in a time when fees can be submitted through online mode almost everywhere. But to apply for these positions one need to visit banks to obtain a bank draft, which is a very complicated affair especially in the time of pandemic. Not to mention, even in the appointments of Assam Public Service Commission (APSC), until recently, there was no online mode of fee submission or for that matter no provision to apply online for the recruitments it undertakes. APSC generally compels the candidates to go to the district treasuries and spend an entire day or two, to pay the fee, which is undoubtedly a regressive practice to continue even today by an institution like APSC.

While online interviews are very common these days, but many colleges allegedly denied online interviews to the candidates—who could not travel to attend interviews, especially because of pandemic.  Digital world is a reality of our time and of future. The institutions which are supposed to shape the future of youths have somewhat failed to match steps even with the present.  This uncovers the dark side of the quality of our educational institutions.

Sky-High Fees

Unemployment problem is a major problem in Assam. Many youths who are unemployed even have to struggle for a good pair of dress in the absence of any income. In such situations, the colleges are charging 1500-3000 rupees, from each candidate.  This undoubtedly is an extraordinarily high amount. For example if a candidate needs to apply for 15 posts s/he needs to spend up to 45,000 rupees for applications purpose only. The question that arises is why the colleges charge such high fee from the candidates?  Many good candidates, who are financially weak, are forced, not to apply in some of the colleges because of the high fee.  These fee needs to be curtailed immediately, which otherwise has created a difficult situation for the candidates.

Excluding the PhDs

The “Guidelines for Selection of Assistant Professors/ Librarians in provincialized Colleges of Assam” , issued by the Office of the Director of Higher Education, Assam (DHE) (Dated 16-11-2018), has ordered criteria, those stand in direct contradiction to the selection criteria prescribed by the UGC for the posts of Assistant Professors in Colleges. Some glaring points are, the marks of the candidates should be counted from graduation onwards for the teaching positions in colleges as prescribed by the UGC-2018. But in the colleges of Assam, marks from matriculation onwards are counted for appointment, which is almost a non-existent practice in the country. For PhD, the mark given as per the order in Assam is—9, while UGC says that 25 mark must be given for PhDs in the recruitment of colleges. There is no mention of score about the postdoctoral qualifications, book publications—edited volumes or monographs, in the order issued by the DHE. Additionally, no score is given even for the research experiences, no matter whatever may be the quality of the certified institutions.

The relevant order issued by the DHE gives an impression that, those who has drafted and passed the order do not have adequate understanding about the structure and world of higher education.

Pandemic

Like any other time-period of human history, migration is a common feature of the societies of our time. People from Assam stay in different parts of the country, and students are studying in diverse universities beyond Assam. Travelling during this time of pandemic is highly risky, and in many cases impossible. And this has obstructed many candidates to appear in the interviews. Let us discuss a case in this line.

On 20 March 2020, Margherita College organized an interview for certain posts of Assistant Professor. At that period the pandemic commenced invading the country and many candidates could not travel to the college which is located in the Tinsukia district. Some candidates, who were unable to travel to the college, made a formal request to the Principal of the college, through email and mobile, to either postpone the interview or allow the candidates to appear online. But the Principal paid no heed to such meaningful requests and went ahead with the interview denying some candidates even the chance to face the interview.

The pandemic is trying to swallow the entire state, but the good side is, some advertisements for the position of Assistant Professors are appearing in the newspapers even today. In the current scenario various branches of government have either become dysfunctional or functioning very sluggishly.  Postal service is one of them. The postal service is taking 20-30 days even to deliver a package 100-150 km. This is astonishingly slow.  But the colleges, those are advertising now, are giving only 15 days to submit applications, following the same old pattern of pre-covid days. The colleges or for that matter the DHE—a wing of the government, have not cared to understand the relaxed functioning of the postal service—another wing of the same government. As result applications of many candidates are not reaching to the colleges in time.  While the postal delay should be readily considered, many Principals are allegedly denying any consideration. Why the candidates are pushed to depend on the mercy of the college authorities, remains a question.

Repetitive Practice

In some instances, candidates are getting selected in 2-3 colleges. When such a candidate joins in one of the colleges s/he is selected, the other two colleges where too s/he is nominated remain vacant. In such cases the vacant colleges cannot appoint the candidate who stood number two in the interview, as per the existing procedure. Instead, the respective colleges need to re-advertise the positions, which means the candidates need to apply afresh and to pay the lofty fee of 2000-3000 once more. These repetitions of procedures create delay and trouble for no reasons. Whether these re-advertisements would take place or not is uncertain too.

The candidates who get selected in colleges which are located far away from home are again reapplying in colleges which are relatively near to their home. This is contributing many posts to remain vacant. The chances of re-advertisement is uncertain and thereby some selfish candidates are destroying the job prospective of some other fellow candidates.

Conclusion

I have highlighted only certain specific problems in the recruitment system of the college teachers of Assam. There are many others that need to be discussed and debated. Though there is a mention in the order of DHE that only those papers published in the journals recognized by the UGC will be counted in the interviews, but in reality in most of the colleges papers published even in the cheap journals, which are not even recognized by the UGC are accepted. Sadly, an economy of cheap academic publications has surfaced in Assam, in order to facilitate the undeserving candidates to get better API scores in the interviews. Not to mention, sailing on this cheap publications, many of the candidates have already been selected as Assistant Professor in the state. The entire spirit research has thus been turned into a joke by many in the state.

Assam is one of the poorest states of India. Educational progress is very important to achieve progress in other domains in the state. Therefore, these long pending recruitments needs to be undertaken with utmost alacrity and sincerity in order to secure a vibrant future of the youths.  We must remember that, the officers who are taking high amount of salary from the government have proportionate responsibility and duties to carry out.

Nazimuddin Siddique, PhD is an independent Researcher  fromAssam. Email: nazim10dream@gmail.com


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