It was in 1977, during the Janta government at the centre, that a formal thinking was adopted by the policy makers to establish central recruitment agencies for providing services in the government and semi government departments and institutions to the people at large.
Since UPSC was already engaged in the recruitment processes of gazetted and civil service cadres, accordingly through an act of parliament, some positive steps were taken followed by setting up of a number of agencies to do the coveted job for non-gazetted cadre recruitment.
Staff Selection Commission for recruitment in the non-gazetted cadre in the central government offices came into being, Banking and Insurance Service Recruitment Boards and SBI & Subsidiary Banks Recruitment Board were also established followed by setting up of similar agencies in the states thereafter.
Jammu and Kashmir, unfortunately, has always lagged behind in such welfare measures for the public due to sham political reasons. However, one after the other, some recruitment agencies were incorporated in the state for the last fifty years. Some of them got defunct initially, some were targeted due to corruption charges and some were replaced by different mechanism by the powers that be due to the considerations which were never explained.
However, over the last some two decades, when Jammu and Kashmir Service Selection Board (JKSSB) was established for recruitment in the non-gazetted cadre employees in the then state of Jammu and Kashmir, the youth in general started feeling happy about the emerging situation in the recruitment field in the state. Though the JKSSB has also done some commendable job but generally the public and particularly the youth of Jammu and Kashmir remain criticizing the agency for reasons.
There is a common complaint that the SSB is a den of corruption, nepotism, manipulation, dilaying tactics and bureaucratic rig am role. What the agency is required to do in just one month, it takes months and years to do so. The agency indeed is not oblivious of bureaucratic shackles in and around it as most of its staff comes from the state bureaucracy and cadre. It is not an independent body the way Staff Selection Commission at the centre is.
The Chairman of the JKSSB comes from the bureaucracy of the now Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The other members of the Board also are appointed by the government of the UT. Usually, present and past bureaucratic figures are put as members of the Board, thus the erstwhile taint and flavour of state administrative machinery also travel with them in the SSB and it unfortunately remains visible through their attitude, approach and working.
There is a strong feeling among the people that the higher ups and the staff of the agency are not generally cooperative and lack sense of accomodation. The youth in particular air their views openly but are scared to get the views registered fearing vindictive action by the agency against them. The biggest complaint against the agency is that it takes the route of dillydallying tactics in conducting competative examinations, declaring results, formulating selection lists, affecting waiting lists and forwarding the same to the government for issuing regular orders of appointment to the deserving candidates.
Sometimes, where there are more vacancies available, lesser number of selected candidates are forwarded to the government and in addition to this, sometimes the selected candidates who apply for same category posts in different departments are not given an option for their first, second or third choice. This in turn creates a situation where the toppers in the selection list figure in all lists supplied to various departments simultaneously. The candidates who do not figure at the top of the lists are put to harassment and unnecessary embarrassment though the vacancies for the jobs in various departments remain unfilled.
The JKSSB is headed by the Chairman who is appointed by the government of the day. During the last two years, four chairmen have been changed. The reasons for frequent changes are not declared due to the reasons as "done in public interest". Transparency and accountability, seem unfortunately, meant for others, and not for the appointing authorities.
By the time the chairman understands the policy, working, priorities and the system of the agency, his or her orders get ready for transfer. This has happened constantly for the last two years. Over the period of last two years, the Board has seen five different chairmen, the recently posted incumbant,Khaliid Jahangir takes over from B. A. Dar who took over from Rahul Sharma only six months back. The continuity in office to establish a proper working system has always been the last priority and it many a time backfires too.
In fact, such agencies are supposed to be the autonomous bodies, but that doesn't seem the case with JKSSB. It should have been allowed to develop it's own cadre, working culture, income and Infrastructure and also mechanism for public accountability. There are complaints of varied nature regarding the agency and a few of them get published in the newspapers as well.
As a matter of general rule, the agency need not to scrutinise the validity of the required papers of the candidates at the time of competitive examinations and waste the time. It should allow as many candidates to sit in the tests as possible, manage the tests and enhance its income as well. The most important thing that needs to be taken care of at that particular point of time is the identity of the candidates who are asked to sit to write the examination. It is only when the results are out that the scrutiny of the papers and eligibility of the passed candidates need to be done and ascertained meticulously and without any compromise. Normally, the selection lists forwarded to the government for formal recruitment should be viewed from all necessary angles so that the legal issues do not crept in later forcing the agency to waste time and resources in court hearings.
A large chunk of papers and documents that the recruitment agency is required to maintain and checked can be fully replaced by digital format and thus digitalised in the current context. Even the normal office routine issues can also be modernised in this way so that the time is saved and quick result-oriented actions are initiated.
In a situation in which the government of the times propose to have a vast recruitment drive in the UT in the near future, the JKSSB needs to clear the past pending issues immediately. Those who await competitive tests, selections or formal recruitment and appointment orders should be placed on top priority. The recruitment under the PM's special employment package for the displaced people of Kashmir needed urgent attention so that the backlog is cleared and the remaining vacancies are filled at an expected speed. It is now ten years that the target of employing 6,000 young people under the package is still on papers even after a decade.
A monitoring mechanism for the JKSSB is not a bad idea and in fact, we in J&K deserve such a mechanism to make people get satisfied with the results finally. An ombudsman kind of an institution could do the duties in this connection. Hope against the hope is being optimistic about the situation. But in this case optimism coupled with action and results are key to the redressal of public grievances and outcry. Is JKSSB listening please!