Assam is again on fire, this time over the series of appointments to government posts of the Assam Public Service Commission. Four very powerful organisations of the state, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), a non-political organisation Assam Public Works (APW), Asomiya Yuva Mancha (AYM) and All Assam Students Union (AASU) have been castigating the Commission’s (APSC) Chairman Rakesh Paul for his alleged involvement in these.
KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi was sent to jail in 2015 by the then ruling Congress because he had demanded of Paul’s resignation. The former two-time Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta says there are a few indicators that shows the ongoing investigations will be a dud.
“The first thing is that we cannot expect any positive result from this enquiry, which is run by officials of the state government. The second thing is, it is also proved that there was a relation between the Paul and the leaders of some organisations. If the investigative officer gets clues of their relation, then why are these not being brought for interrogation? The third thing is, why, in the first place, has the government appointed candidates of dubious status at the services? The fourth thing is that only CBI can investigate the enquiry without any obstacles. So, the enquiry should be handed over to CBI,” he added in good measure.
On the other hand, the state police chief Mukesh Sahai says: “Everyone who has used unscrupulous ways to secure a rank in the exam conducted by APSC would be interrogated by us. Those who have already been appointed too will come under our scanner, If he or she is found to have used unethical methods during selections. We will complete our investigation within ninety days and the people of Assam should not have any doubt about that. The culprits will be punished.”
It all started with a complaint raised by Dr Angshumita Gogoi, who was asked to pay Rs 35 lakh for the post of doctor under APSC to a middleman, Naba Kanta Patir. After Patir’s arrest, he confessed that he was asked to collect bribes for different posts of APSC.
He said he had already collected more than Rs three crore on behalf of the Chairman. On the basis of his confession, Paul was arrested, along with three other members, Samedur Rahman, Basanta Doley and the examination controller Pabitra Koiborta. Presently they all cooling their heels in jail.
APW chairman Avijit Sharma says “We have to congratulate Dr Anshumita Gogoi for this development. Only because of her honesty has the culprit Rakesh Paul and his team been caught .Though the BJP party and the government has tried to take the credit for this, they played no role in this at all. Our organisation had disclosed the irregularities of Rakesh Paul for the first time on June 1, 2015."
"We had met the Governor and requested him to take up the matter seriously. Accordingly, a committee was formed under the guidance of Subhas Das, but no solution had come out. Paul was arrested only because he disregarded the order of the present CM. As we all know, the CM had ordered that the results of the viva voce be declared within three hours of completion, but Paul had ignored it. The present CM, Sarbananda Sonowal is not a mature politician, so he fails to judge between good and bad. This is why the CM attended an Assam Police event, though as many as 56 appointments of officials are under the scanner. Most of the APS who had recently appointed had used unfair means to get selected,” he further added while talking to TSI.
Most of the organisation in the state has accused Ram Prasad Sharma, MP of BJP, because of his good relation with the Chairman Rakesh Paul. Excerpts from an interview
What will you say regarding the APSC scam, because your name is mentioned again and again?
The investigation is going on in full swing .We hope we will get a good result after it is over.
But most of the organizations like KMSS or Asomiya Yuva Mancha have demanded that you have maintained a good relation with Rakesh Paul and accordingly, your daughter got selected for APS. What is your comment on this?
As I am an advocate, Paul is junior to me at the court. So it is true that we had a good relation but I never wanted any help from him. My daughter has a brilliant carrier. Her appointment is justified. I have seen most of the media has dragged my name related to APSC. So I had filed a defamation case against those newspapers and news channels.
As your name also comes to light in this issue and you are an MP of the ruling party, so some organisations and leaders mentioned that this investigation will not get true momentum because of political pressure. What is your comment?
No, the main motto of our government is to remove corruption from society. As soon as Dr Anshumita Gogoi had filed the complaint,our government has been cooperating with this investigation. Even investigative officers have said that they have not felt any political interference at the time of investigation .
KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi had an allegation against you .He says that you have introduced Chairman Rakesh Paul to the present Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, which will help Paul to continue his ‘business’, and as a token gift, he has offered APS to your daughter. What do you say?
It is a baseless allegation. Did I need to introduce the Chairman of a Commission like APSC with the Chief Minister? The court will look into this. I will not speak more in this regard.
The Secretary General of Asomiya Yuva Mancha, Jitul Deka says: ‘In 2015, we came to know through an RTI response that there was no resemblance between the known income source and the movable and immovable properties of Rakesh Paul. We have some evidence and we had informed about Rakesh Paul and his brother Rajiv Paul using the religious institution ‘Satsanga Vihar‘ as their clandestine ‘office‘ to bargain for the various post of APSC. Not only had we informed former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, we had also informed the present Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal regarding the evidence which we had against Rakesh Paul. But both the governments have not submitted an affidavit and declared enquiry against Rakesh Paul. Paul and his company are presently in jail only because of the honesty of the candidate Dr Anshumita Gogoi. The Controller of Examinations, Pabitra Koiborta, had selected six candidates from his own family. He had used APSC like his private company. The topper of the APSC Mains, Minarbha Devi, is the daughter of another APSC member, Nanda Babu Singh, and another high scorer, Dipti Moran, is the sister-in-law of APSC member Dr Basanta Doley. Now we have demanded that the government should declare the examinations held under APSC from 2013 till now as null and void and the commission should hold the examination again. Re-examination of the answer scripts will not be fruitful, because most of the candidates had appeared separately at Five Star hotels and at the flats of Rakesh Paul. It is very unfortunate that the persons who have been running our whole administrative machine are themselves criminals. Because bribery is a crime. The DGP has declared that within ninety days they would complete the whole investigation, so we will wait till the last day and after that we will start our protest again."
Meanwhile, the investigative team had sealed three rooms of the Assam Public Service Commission premises and also collected the views of different employees of the Commission. Police have recovered some confidential reports, roll numbers and answer scripts from the flats owned by Rakesh Paul. Most interesting thing is that his brother Rajiv Paul has a high quality printing machine which they had used to print question papers separately, bypassing rules. The candidates who had bribed the brothers used to write answers at other places with the same question papers. Police has recovered lots of evidences from the APSC premises. Rakesh Paul, Samedur Rahman, Pabitra Koibarta and Dr Basanta Doley, who are presently in jail, have confessed some names of ‘friendly’ politicians who had their ‘quotas, i.e., reserved seats for Assam Public Service Commission.
KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi, who was in jail for the last 78 days and who was also sent to jail by the former Congress government because of his protest against the corruption of Rakesh Paul and his company, says: “The arrest of the Chairman is a mere gimmick, a game plan of the present BJP government, to divert attention from the citizenship (illegal Bangladeshi settlers) issue .Because the leaders of BJP have realised it clearly that the Assamese people are very emotional and they can be easily diverted from any burning issue. Rakesh Paul is the main culprit, but those who had already joined in different services under APSC are still at their jobs. What will be the action against those officers? I was offered a huge amount by Rakesh Paul through his mediator. The present most powerful minister Himanta Biswa Sharma has special reserved seats or ‘quota’ at APSC. So, we should not expect a happy ending of this investigation. Within a few days Rakesh Paul will get bail. These all are a part of a drama directed by BJP. But our movement will continue till complete reformation takes place.”
Former three-time Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi says: “There have been some anomalies at APSC since the days of the former Chairman Tara Prasad Das. I had launched an enquiry in my time. But after coming to power, BJP declared that they have stopped corruption at APSC and the appointments which were made after June would be based on merit. But after the arrest of the mediator Patir, it is proved that the corruption has been continuing. I want a free and fair investigation into APSC since the days of Tara Prasad Das.”
Reacting to this, the health and education minister Himanta Biswa Sharma says: “If Akhil Gogoi and Tarun Gogoi wanted to reform APSC why did they not take any step at their time? Our government has a clear stand on corruption. So, we have cooperated with the investigative officers in this regard. Law will take its own course and the culprits will be punished.”
The Assam Public Service Commission (APSC) had come into existence on April 1, 1937, in accordance with the provision of the Government of India Act, 1935 and Mr James Hezelett, a retired ICS officer from London was its first Chairman.
After India’s Independence, the provisions in the constitution were altered to ensure the competence of the commission to deal with matter relating to the state service and enroll them to discharge their duties in a fair and impartial manner free from any influence, whether from the government or any other sources.
Though the Commission had a glorious past, it had lost its clean image since the days of Tara Prasad Das, who was Chairman. But unfortunately, though the APSC has been embroiled in many controversies for quite some time over alleged corruption in the selection and appointment of various services, including Assam Civil Service and Assam Police Service, not much had been done. But now it seems clear that either the ruling BJP comes clean, or it will face severe political backlash in the next state polls.
With inputs from KARTIK PATHAK