TNPSC scam: ‘No age limit’ in Group IV jobs attracts candidates

The recent unearthing of a scam in the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission (TNPSC) examination has brought to fore key issues in the conduct of the test.

At least 99 candidates were banned for line from taking the TNPSC exams for indulging in malpractices in the exam held last September.

These candidates had taken the test from two centres in Rameswaram and Keelakarai in Ramanathapuram district on the advice of middlemen.

A probe revealed that these candidates used pens whose ink disappeared within a few hours after they completed the test. Later, officials within TNPSC marked the correct answers.

Former TNPSC chairman R Natraj said strict measures need to be taken to ensure transparency.

“During my tenure, we introduced web casting of the exams. If there are 1,000 centres, we had web casting for all those centres which would be monitored from the headquarters in Chennai. After the exams, the supervisors are required to show the sealing of the answer sheets with time. Even the district collectors along with the flying squads visited the exam centres to check,” he said asking why such procedures are not followed now.

He recalled that in the headquarters, where the answer sheets are processed, examination officials were given smart cards to enter particular sections of the building.

“Even I couldn’t enter that section. We had such stringent measures. The transparency should go extra mile,” he demanded.

The Group IV exams was held for 9,398 vacancies of posts that include Village Administrative Officer (VAO), stenographers, typists, on September 1, 2019. About 16.29 lakh candidates took the exams and the results were announced in November, based on which scrutiny of certificates for final enrolment is going on.

It was learnt that some officials in Chennai and tahsildars in southern Tamil Nadu acted hand in glove.

Interestingly, the scam surfaced when Thiruvaraj, 46, a shepherd from Sivaganga district, came to know that he stood first in the state with 289.5 marks out of 300.

As per recent amendment of TNPSC rules, a candidate can seek other candidates’ answer sheets for cross verification. It is during such process that candidates who wrote exams in other centres discovered that many who wrote the exams in the two centres attained ranks within 100.

Those candidates also had the answer sheet copy of Thiruvaraj, who is now absconding.

Following allegations, the TNPSC also ordered an enquiry into the 35 candidates who got first 35 ranks for an enquiry.

While the scam has hit the credibility of TNPSC, youths are still preferring TNPSC exams, especially Group IV jobs.

Raja Bhoopathy, who conducts coaching classes for competitive exams, reasons that while the other three — Group I, II and III — exams have some kind of eligibility limits, the Group IV has no such limits. “A candidate can write this exam even at the age of 57.”

Group IV exams have age limit of 30 years for forward communities, but comes with relaxations up to 35 years for persons from SC, ST, MBC, BC, DC (denotified communities) who completed their SSLC alone. For those from these communities who have qualifications higher than SSLC, the exams can be taken lifelong.

Bhoopathy reasoned that earning through corruption is another lure of government jobs.

“If a candidate gets selected, he or she will be paid a monthly salary between Rs 20,000–25,000. But they can get a chance of getting bribe, which can amount to Rs 50,000 in a month. If they get a good rank, they can get a chance of being employed in departments which bring more revenue such as registration and commercial sales tax departments. So most of the candidates resort to malpractices by bribing officials or using political influence,” he said.

TNPSC officials and Thiruvaraj were not available for comment.