Thursday, April 25, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



It’s shuffle and reshuffle

For the past many days newspapers are writing about Capt Amarinder Singh’s mass transfers and choices for high positions in the Punjab government. On April 20, Mr PPS Gill ably took up the subject under the heading “It’s shuffle and reshuffle”.

Capt Amarinder Singh has said that in choosing men for the jobs he has gone by seniority, gradation list and merit. Except for a few officers, the presence of seniority for the coveted posts is nowhere in sight which indicates that experience holds a low value for him. Some of the key positions have been given to officers who are low down on the gradation list and generally belong to other states even though they are allotted to the Punjab cadre. In comparison to the neglected officers, it does not bear out that the selected ones had a better track record in service.

An officer of the government is not the same as an OSD. In selecting an OSD, the Chief Minister generally goes by proven personal loyalty and social acceptability as well as understanding of the political background. The OSD’s post is one of the spoils of office that the Chief Minister can hand out at his pleasure. The whole idea of a permanent administrative cadre is that it stands against the swings of political fortune and provides stability and continuity to the functioning of the executive regardless of which party controls the legislature. In this sense it is one of the checks and balances of the system. There must not be any “favourite officers”.


There are, however, some drawbacks inherent in an administration under a democratic set-up. Pressures by trade unions, by class, religion and caste groups. It is in the correct balancing and management of these pressure groups that administrative ability of the Chief Minister is tested. In this regard, it cannot be said that Capt Amarinder Singh has emerged in flying colours during his first six weeks in office.

Representation to Sikhs and the Dalits is hardly seen. Even women officers have been passed over by and large. The choice has largely fallen on officers known for their “networking and social skills rather than for their uprightness, efficiency or ability.

It would have been better had Capt Amarinder Singh, on becoming the Chief Minister, held a meeting of seniormost officers and decided on transfers keeping in mind suitability to the job. Collective wisdom would itself have left less scope for error and displaced lobbying for position by the “fast operators”.

Chief Ministers such as Badal, H.S. Brar, or even Beant Singh had by and large left the officers to function according to rules while promoting the interests of a few. Capt Amarinder Singh is a thinking man and can improve on this by providing direction to his officers.

As late as the 80s when Darbara Singh was Chief Minister, the office of an officer on special duty was unknown and no need was felt for such a post. It was the creation of such extra-constitutional power centres that ultimately undermined the credibility of Mr Badal. Now Capt Amarinder Singh has clearly shown his preference for coteries, not only of politicians but of bureaucrats. He clearly needs to get away from this feudal tendency!


Multiple entrance tests

The need for reducing multiplicity of entrance tests for admissions to professional and technical courses has been well-acknowledged by one and all. With this objective, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) is conducting from this year an All-India common entrance exam for engineering/pharmacy/architecture courses (AIEEE) offered in the deemed universities, central institutions etc.

However, the various universities of Punjab, due to their rivalries, seem to be moving in the opposite direction.

Last year one common entrance test (CET-2002) was conducted by Punjab Technical University (PTU). This year there are contradictory advertisements/announcements by various universities of Punjab suggesting that every university is going to hold its separate entrance test. This is a very terrifying and alarming situation for both students and their parents.

A candidate residing in Punjab desirous of seeking admission to engineering courses in Punjab and Chandigarh only will have to appear in the following seven entrance tests: CBSE’s AIEEE (For Thapar Institute of Engg & Tech. and Punjab Engg College, PU, Chandigarh), PTU, Jalandhar, GNDU, Amritsar, Punjabi University, Patiala, PAU, Ludhiana, and Sant Longowal Institute of Engg & Technology, Longowal (SLIET).

Such a large number of entrance exams would simply wreck the students and their parents, both mentally as well as financially. After toiling hard for their plus two exams for months, it would be too strenuous for students to prepare for and appear in so many entrance tests and they would not be able to bear such a heavy burden.

I, therefore, on behalf of thousands, of worried students and parents, request the Chief Minister and the Education Minister to intervene and save the students from a mental breakdown.


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