By Sharon Thambala
Scrapping the interview stage of all Andhra Pradesh Public Service Commission (APPSC) examinations has come as a surprise, eliciting mixed reactions from leading competitive examination trainers and aspirants.
Not just interviews, APPSC has also scrapped the preliminary examinations for all its recruitments on Friday, save for Group 1 selections and will also implement the 10 per cent Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) reservation.
According to AP chief secretary Aditya Nath Das, the interview move is aimed at bringing complete transparency in the state public service commission recruitments.
He said the move is aimed at gaining complete trust of the competing candidates in the entire selection process.
Back in 2011, after much deliberation, APPSC cancelled interviews for all jobs except those in the state services which required articulation skills and had a public interface.
It is a known fact how several times APPSC examinations could not see finality and went to languish in the Courts for years together, shaking the very resolve and hope of unemployed aspirants.
There were allegations of nepotism, casteism, bribery and other forms of manipulations.
It looks like the latest move is aimed at obviating all these unwanted repercussions for a state government recruitment agency which seldom follows a regular annual recruitment cycle such as the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).
However, Hyderabad-based Sosin Thayyaba, a leading Anthropology trainer for UPSC examinations disagreed with the wisdom of annulling interviews.
“Just because you want to control corruption, this may not be the way. There are certain ways in which recruitments have to be done. Higher services definitely need a personal interview to gauge the personality. Interaction with the public is always important in civil services,” Thayyaba told IANS.
She said a clerical job’s selection process may be sufficient with a desk exam but not for Group I Services from where recruits enter elite Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and Indian Police Service (IPS) cadres through the conferred route.
“Perhaps there has to be an ombudsman kind of a system to oversee the public service commission’s work,” she said.
The Anthropology trainer questioned: Can we think that just because there is not going to be a personal interview that kind (corrupt) of a situation would not arise?
Thayyaba said, “Why can’t we compare the APPSC recruitment system with UPSC to learn a thing or two from the latter, considering the nature of duties and functionality being similar, except for the geographical extent of their influence.
“When somebody (UPSC) sitting up in Delhi can do, why can’t we (APPSC) do here,” she observed, about successful conduct of examinations with interviews.
According to Thayyaba, rescinding interviews is not a sureshot guarantee to plug corruption in the recruitments.
“We are only trying to shift the problem to the future. Is it that we totally don’t want to go in for interviews in the future? Or is that only for this particular attempt we are doing? Incomplete assessment of the student would happen, that’s what I feel,” she noted.
Besides ombudsman, Thayyaba suggested that interviews with two boards or maybe combining interviews with some kind of a situational analysis on the lines of defence services could be tried.
Documenting or recording interviews for comparison and future analysis are Thayyaba’s other suggestions.
“I think the chairman of the board would have the opportunity to go through the interviews vigorously or some standing committee should be able to see how the marks were awarded,” she pointed out.
Deekshith Chowdoju, a history coach for UPSC aspirants and founder of Civil Vidyapeeth in Hyderabad echoed Tayyaba, saying that demerits are higher in doing away with the interviews than merits.
However, he noted that India is a diversified society where an average person’s thought process is refined to a certain extent, after which the individual’s personality starts affecting.
Chowdoju said some people are good at articulation and drove home the point that a bureaucrat should be in a position to correctly explain the government schemes.
“Execution is not just signing documents, it is also letting the people realize the worth of a scheme. Best example is Divya who worked as Adilabad collector and learnt the Gond tribal language to solve the tribal’s problems. Then how would you figure out that Divya has that kind of a personality once you do the interview,” he observed.
The history trainer highlighted that personality is not just showcasing what one can do in the interview alone but the rest of his life as well.
“Personality is not just for clearing the interview alone. However, interviews have their own metrics, such as measuring a candidate’s transparency, dedication, commitment, discipline and other attributes,” noted Chowdoju.
He said there was a time when the ethics exam was known as the written personality test and hinted that something like that could be introduced in the APPSC examinations now in the absence of interviews.
Whether UPSC or APPSC, no system is foolproof, evident by the fact how candidates who went on to become senior officers openly argued at a polling booth recently in AP.
Of late, a few IAS officers launching physical attacks on common people were also caught on camera, raising questions on the UPSC selection process.
Vijayanand, a one time civil services aspirant who is now employed with a Bengaluru software firm wondered what is the guarantee that a written exam without an interview would not be rigged or manipulated?
However, there are also cases where RTI applications have revealed that candidates who did well in the written exams surprisingly went to score very less marks in the interviews.
Meanwhile, Andhra is yet to conduct APPSC exams applying the new rules and the outcomes are yet to be scrutinized.
On Friday, APPSC member S. Salam Babu said a notification will be issued for filling 1,180 posts in August, which will emerge as the first testing ground for government recruitments without prelims and interviews.
(Sharon Thambala can be contacted at [email protected])