Thursday, December 7, 2023

Kishore Poreddy Column: Sale, Sale! Everything is for sale in Telangana

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Everything seems to be for sale and only for sale in Telangana. Government lands to government benefits targeting the poor – everything is for sale in Telangana. The latest addition to this list is the sale of question papers for selecting the future bureaucrats of the state. The common thread connecting all these sales is corruption.

Corruption emptied the state’s coffers over the past nine years. While some in power and their associates got filthy rich; the ‘Rich State’ has been pushed to the verge of bankruptcy. The fact that the government cannot pay even its employees on the first of the month is a testament to the financial crisis facing the state. After resorting to huge debts, as a last resort, the state has chosen to put up its lands for sale officially.

While corruption indirectly forced the government to put up its lands for sale, the rest of the for-sale boards are set up by the corrupt directly to enrich themselves. Not even the poorest of the poor are spared. Take, for example, the Double Bedroom Housing scheme. Or the Dalitha Bandhu scheme. Those in power collect lakhs of rupees from the poorest of the poor, promising to enter their names into the beneficiaries’ list.

This corruption in the name of welfare schemes is even more disgusting and tragic for three reasons. Firstly, as the intended targets of these benefits are the poor – ones in no position to pay – the deserving lose out. Secondly, even the deserving, the most vulnerable sections of our population, are forced to pay for fear of losing out. Finally, the government does not deliver at all on its promises or delivers at a meagre scale.

These last few days’ happenings in our state have driven even the most incorrigible optimists into despair. Those who had hoped that a change in political leadership through the fast-approaching elections could provide an opportunity to improve the current state of affairs received a rude shock.

The cause for this shock was the news of competitive examination question papers leaking from the Telangana State Public Service Commission (TSPSC). Through these competitive exams, the TSPSC recruits the state’s future bureaucrats: the steel frame of any government administration. If entry into the steel frame itself is for sale, one can rest assured that those who bribe their way into the system will be corrupt. While periodic elections can change political leadership, the steel frame persists much longer-a corrupt steel frame can corrupt our present and future.

The initial news was that question papers linked to one job notification were leaked and sold for lakhs of rupees. But, as further details emerged, the TSPSC had to cancel multiple exams, even those conducted many months before, establishing that the leaks were not an exception but the rule. It would have given the public some solace if TSPSC had caught the leaks. But no. If there were any such, the system’s counter checks had no role to play.

The causes for the repeated leaks are easy to find. Corruption, intentionally rigging the system so that those in power can exploit the loopholes to benefit themselves and their own, using appointments to boards like the TSPSC as political rewards, inefficient political and administrative leadership, and finally, lack of political will to get at the root causes and fix them top the list.

If not for these reasons, any administration need not look far to find systemic solutions. For example, without such leaks, the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) conducts similar kinds of competitive exams yearly, like clockwork, across India and enjoys a squeaky-clean track record. UPSC: The time-tested organisational structure, the qualifications for its members, the processes it follows ensuring leak-proof conduct of exams, and the early warning systems that are built-in into its operations to detect any mischief are all openly available to be copied by TSPSC or any board in the state that conducts exams.

Similarly, organisations like the College Board and the Educational Testing Service (ETS) conduct the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) exams not just in one country but globally and enjoy a stellar track record.

While lakhs of government job aspirants who had taken the earlier exams and those preparing to take the upcoming ones were having a harrowing experience as a result of the leaks, the entire top leadership of the administration, on the other hand, was focused on just one thing: defending the daughter of the Chief Minister in the Delhi liquor scam-related case. The Delhi liquor scam concerns the DelhiExcise Policy that was made available for sale. It’s no coincidence that a top political leaderis alleged to have masterminded that scam. It’s natural to expand and conquer other markets when one has succeeded in the local market.

(The author is BJP TS spokesperson)

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