Why is Postal Department Silent?

As JKCB exposes malpractices, GoI must probe Limited Departmental Examination
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Recently Lok Sabha MP Mohammad Akbar Lone shot a letter to Union Communication Minister asking him to handover case of alleged examination malpractice in the limited departmental examination of Department of Posts to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Several national and local papers had carried detailed news reports on this issue.

In his letter Union Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, who also holds the portfolio of Railway Ministry, the Lok Sabha MP from Baramulla Mohammad Akbar Lone said that results of the Limited Departmental Examination conducted in June last year in Jammu be declared null and void as many candidates were allowed to adopt unfair means by the officials of the Postal Department J&K. The Lok Sabha MP demanded that a CBI probe be held in this matter.

What had happened ?

In May 2022, the Department of Posts which functions under the Ministry of Communication issued a notification to hold a limited departmental exam enabling Postal Assistants to be promoted as Inspector of Posts. Through an official communication issued by Director (DE) Ranjeet Kumar Sinha through Postal Directorate’s letter dated 09-05-2022, nine posts for Jammu & Kashmir Postal circle were advertised along with vacancies for other postal circles of the country.

Technically the Departmental Examination should have been conducted in Srinagar as Postal Circle headquarters is in Srinagar. The same was conducted on June 25 and 26th 2022 in Jammu. Govt Higher Secondary School Gandhinagar Jammu was chosen as the exam centre. Instead of holding the exam in a single hall the candidates (Postal Assistants) were seated in several small rooms. This was a deliberate attempt of the postal department officials to allege an aggrieved candidate Irfan Rashid Khan who has now turned into a whistle-blower. The letter from MP Mohammad Akbar Lone to the Union Minister mentions this in detail. Pertinently on 2nd June 2, 2022, a notification was issued by the Ministry of Communications, Department of Posts in New Delhi to video record the written examination. The notification mentioned that the videography of the exam was to be done besides installing CCTV cameras, but only CCTV cameras were installed in the class rooms of Govt Higher Secondary School.

The news reports reveal that at least ten candidates sitting in three rooms used unfair means while writing the exam. They were seen copying and talking to each other which was recorded by the CCTV camera. The invigilators were seen busy playing with mobile phones.

Irfan Rashid Khan, a postal department employee who was also appearing in the examination objected when he saw his colleagues were adopting unfair means. He raised his voice and reported the matter to the invigilator, but nobody took it seriously. This author had a detailed discussion with Irfan some weeks back and I had reported this issue through my weekly Inkishaf. As the Member of Parliament has also intervened in this issue and national newspapers, news portals have reported the issue, I thought to write a piece about this issue so that the Ministry of Communication and Department of Posts would take steps to make their limited departmental examination more transparent.

Inspite of the fact that Irfan wrote to Chief Post Master General and other top brass of his department, nobody bothered to act over the complaint. Irfan was thus forced to seek judicial intervention by way of filing a petition before a local court in Srinagar. The court directed the Crime Branch to investigate into the entire case last year in August.

Interim reports of Crime Branch

On August 27th 2022 the Srinagar Court directed the J&K Crime Branch (CB) to investigate the matter. The Economic Offences Wing of Crime Branch took up the investigation and came up with three interim reports. The latest report was issued on 23rd November 2022. MP Lok Sabha Mohammad Akbar Lone has mentioned about these interim reports as well. The author has also gone through these reports and the Nov 23rd 2022 report says that two candidates, namely Sandeep and Naresh, were talking to each other in the examination room, which should not have been allowed. The report also says that Anchal Singh Chamyal, Assistant Director Postal Department Jammu has been shown as an authorised person to visit the examination hall, being Assistant Director (Recruitment) J&K Postal Circle. The Crime Branch’s report reads:

“This “contradicts” the earlier information provided under the Right to Information Act (RTI). The perusal of the CCTV footage has revealed that most of the candidates were gossiping with each other, including Sandeep and Naresh and the invigilators on duty in the examination rooms on June 25 and 26, 2022. The invigilators were found busy on their mobile phones, and no proper supervision was found, resulting in inside talks and gossip by the in-service candidates. There are instances where few students have been allowed to talk freely without any intervention by the invigilators. The students have been allowed to visit outside examination rooms freely. It has also been noticed that the invigilators and other examination staff are reading the question papers, which should not have been allowed. The probe is in progress and will be taken to its logical end.”

What MP wrote to Union Minister?

Member of Parliament ( Lok Sabha) Mohammad Akbar Lone in his letter to Union Minister for Communications Ashwini Vaishnav says that recently a delegation of some employees from Postal Circle J&K met him and narrated a story which is of a very serious nature. The letter reads :

“I could not have taken the matter seriously as I get to hear lots of such complaints, but when I went through the J&K Crime Branch’s three interim reports, I thought I must bring the matter into your notice  with a copy to the Hon’ble Prime Minister as well. The said reports are attached with this communication”

The MP, while expressing his dismay over the entire exam process in his letter, told Union Minister that it was quite evident that the Postal Department had not at all conducted a fair investigation. The MP requested the Minister to constitute a special team to Investigate this issue afresh. The letter further reads as:

I would appreciate it if the investigation is handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)& the result be declared null and void and fresh exams be conducted in a time bound manner.  I would suggest that Departmental Exams in the Postal Department be conducted by an independent agency in future so as to ensure more transparency & accountability”

Conclusion

This is a matter of serious concern that the departmental exam in the Postal Department for promotion of its officials is conducted by the department itself ? If these exams are conducted by independent agencies like the Public Service Commission in states and UTs , why cannot the Postal Department adopt similar procedures? Irony is that the officials who were involved in unfair means and indicted by J&K Crime Branch have qualified the exam and recently they were even promoted as Postal Inspectors. Whistle-blower Irfan instead of being heard was only a few days back transferred from GPO Srinagar to an unimportant destination. Now the letter from MP Mohammad Akbar Lone  has given some hope to Irfan , let us see how things unfold in future days and weeks.

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is an Acumen Fellow. He is also the Anant Fellow for Climate Action

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