APSC needs financial autonomy to tone up working

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Set up in 1937, Assam Public Service Commission conducts the combined competitive examinations, besides conducting direct recruitments in various departments of Assam government. With the UPSC already changing its pattern of preliminary and main examination of the civil services, the APSC too is gearing up to follow suit. Besides, the commission has adopted many new steps through the use of computers, Internet and technology in order to bring in more transparency and smooth functioning. APSC Chairman Rakesh Kumar Paul, delves deep in an interview with Smart Governance.
The UPSC has already changed the pattern of Preliminary and Mains in the Civil Services Examination? Have your PSC taken any such step?
The APSC has already moved Assam government with the proposal of new pattern in its preliminary examination of civil services. There will be two papers– paper-I would be on General Studies while the Paper-II would be a combination of General Studies and Aptitude Test. Both the papers would be compulsory papers consisting of 200 marks with two hours duration each and would be objective type multiple choices and there will be no optional paper/subject in the Preliminary Examination. We hope to conduct the 2015 examination with the new pattern in line with the UPSC.

It is an age of technology and computers. Has there been any initiative to make use of the technology in the functioning of Assam Public Service Commission?
Yes. The first and important technological initiative was taken in July 2009 when we launched our website (www.apsc.nic.in) for downloading of admit cards, declaring the results and other important announcements. With the launching of APSC’s website information with regard to recruitment etc. can be shared among all concerned in a hassle free manner and reasonably in a less time compared to traditional way of sharing information.

How are you using technology in the examination procedures?
Well, in order to achieve any sustainable excellence, we need to constantly evolve our strategy and adopt modern technology to fight the evils in the system. With this aim in mind, the Commission have started the ICR (Intelligent Character Recognition) based computerization of the examination procedures. The ICR based software automates every step of existing examination procedures right from processing of applications to preparation of result sheets and not only place checks in every step to generate fault-free output eliminating common error but also minimize
the time requirement. We have also started OMR-based screening of answer scripts too.

Will you please elaborate the OMR?
The OMR system is a human intervention free answer script evaluation mechanism which plays a pivotal role in filtering proper merit of candidates in a minimum time frame. Notably, with the implementation of the system, the number of court cases has gone down considerably. Now we are using the OMR screening system in most of the direct recruitment processes. This is a positive indication of proper technological implementation.

Can a student seeking to appear in the Assam public service examinations apply online?
Yes of course. We installed an online application system in 2013 as a part of our reform initiatives. The commission, in collaboration with National Informatics Centre has already introduced the online submission of application form in the Combined Competitive examinations. We are planning to extend this service for the direct recruitment sections to.
Any other measures taken to for use of technology.
We have recently established a full-fledged library. Accordingly, the library inventory has also been recently updated with the inclusion of variety of relevant books on literature, law, general knowledge, science and technology, art and culture etc. A modern library management system is also underway. We have also installed CCTV cameras in the office for transparency and security.

Recently you met President Pranab Mukherjee seeking his intervention for financial autonomy. Will you please share the development on that front?
During my discussion with our President, I also brought to the kind notice of His Excellency that the 9th National Conference of Chairmen, State Public Service Commission’s held at Bangalore adopted a resolution to grant financial autonomy to all State PSCs at par with the Union Public Service Commission. Some governments such as Mizoram, Karnataka, Jammu & Kashmir, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra have granted partial and full financial autonomy to their respective PSCs and that such Commissions are utilizing the amount charged in their budgets without moving the Governments for tiny requirements. But we have not been able to do so far. The president assured me of taking up the matter with the government of Assam to resolve the long-pending need of financial autonomy.

Many in Assam have said that the existing syllabus for the Combined Competitive Examination is very old. Do you have plans to revise the existing syllabus?
Well, it is the need of the hour to revise the existing age-old syllabus of the C.C. Exam. for creating responsible and able bureaucrats or administrators in the near future. Further, the revision of the existing syllabus is of utmost urgency due to the fact that these have undergone sea-change in recent times with the introduction of new concepts, new lessons by the Universities. As done by several State PSCs, the APSC has already moved the Govt. for adopting new syllabus.
In the meantime, the Govt. has requested the APSC to take speedy initiative to revise the syllabi in consultation with the Universities. The Commission has already taken up the matter with the Universities and
within a period of six months, the proposed new syllabi will be in a
shape. The Commission is proposing to conduct the next C.C. Exam., 2015 with the new syllabi.

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