NPSC: Trail of Error

It has come as no surprise to read about the recent public outcry with regard to the controversy surrounding the manner in which the Nagaland Public Service Commission (NPSC) has once again shown how inefficient it has become in conducting examinations as important as the Nagaland Civil Service (NCS). As the premier recruiting agency of the State for induction into the public service, the NPSC it has to be said has lost even the little credibility it had left remaining by its sheer folly. And that too, not only once or twice but up teem number of times over the last couple of years. The hullabaloo with regard to question and answers as appearing in the Nagaland Civil Service (NCS) Preliminary Examination 2007 and the mistakes detected is clearly an embarrassment for the NPSC. This is not the first time that it has been caught napping. While to err is human, what is disturbing in the case of the NPSC is the frequency with which such cases of error has been occurring and that too quite blatantly. Whether it is tabulation of marks, listing of results or the nature of question and answers put up during examinations, not a year goes by without the NPSC getting embroiled in its own misdemeanour.

Coming to some of the question and answers and the mistakes therein, the NPSC appears to have got its basics wrong, especially in the manner in which some of the questions had been asked in the first place and also the source it has relied upon for the answers. For instance, the correct answer for Q No 190 (Global warming occurs due to…) is neither the ‘depletion of ozone layer’ as is made out to be by NPSC nor any of the other three options. While Option B comes closest to the answer, however technically, the correct answer should be ‘emission of Green House Gases (GHG)’. Interestingly for this answer the NPSC has referred to a manual published by McGraw Hill Companies and not to any text book on the subject. Similar is the case with Q No 115 (What is the tenure of the Prime Minister). It is again ridiculous that the NPSC in its clarification issued to the media has stated Option C (Till he remains MP and the leader of the majority party in Lok Sabha) as the correct ‘Logical’ answer. And what is the source of the NPSC? A website maintained by the PMO, which is quite absurd. Any student of civics even at the school level will give the technically correct answer as Option B (Till he enjoys the confidence of the majority party in Lok Sabha), which is what is taught to students of political science universally. It is another matter that the NPSC kept mum on Q No 131 (SAPTA has been established to help…), which is another blatant error. NPSC has given Option B (Check Terrorism) for the correct answer without even knowing the simple fact that SAPTA stands for SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement and has nothing to do with terrorism. 

While innocent students will bear the brunt of such costly mistakes, hopefully, NPSC will learn a few things here before it undertakes such serious responsibility of conducting public service examinations in the future. Firstly, it is suggested that next time the NPSC rely on more authentic sources for facts and figures instead of adopting such short cuts of referring to study materials literally flooding the market. Here, the NPSC must understand the nuances of what is fact and fiction and particularly in such objective Q&A; it is the technical knowledge as stated in the subscribed text books of the respective subjects which must be referred to for arriving at the answers. Secondly, it is advised that NPSC remain sensitive to the fact that it is an objective based examination at the preliminary stage and the nature of questions and answers must be clear, precise and without ambiguity. 

The State government on its part has done very little in terms of substance to reinvigorate the NPSC as a professionally run institution. Merely appointing a new Chairman or Secretary with such regularity will not improve the running of the NPSC. Rather such frequent changes at the top will not be healthy for maintaining the efficiency of the recruiting system and clearly it is this inefficiency which is dogging the NPSC at this juncture. Our political leadership in the State should stop treating the NPSC as a government run department. While appointing the Chairman and members of the NPSC is the prerogative of the State government, every effort must be made to ensure that only those with sufficient knowledge and experience are considered. The NPSC cannot be turned into a platform for vote bank or tribal politics. It has to remain above board of all these unsavoury things. Only then will it be able to reflect the independence and demonstrate the efficiency that is demanded of it.