The court quashed the 2016 MPSC exam due to irregularities in the selection process Credit: EastMojo image

Imphal: The Manipur Civil Service Combined Competitive (MCSCC) examination is considered to be one of the most coveted state competitive exams. Each year, thousands of aspirants apply with a dream to get through the civil service exams, but only a handful succeeds.

For 32-year-old Mercy (name changed), the eldest among her eight siblings, cracking the state civil service exam in her second attempt was not only fulfilling her childhood dream, but it was her route to a better life. Unfortunately, her dreams came crashing down with the abrupt termination followed by the quashing of the main exam of the 2016 MPSC. The episode even cost her marriage.

“While I was pregnant, so many things happened emotionally. Because of the court case, my husband’s family somehow knew that I was going to lose the job, and they made many attempts to make me leave the house. My husband was residing outside the state when I lost my job, and he refused to communicate with me. None of his family visited me when I gave birth, not even financial assistance,” said Mercy as she tried to control her emotions.

She was only eight months old pregnant when she lost her job. Left with no other option, this young single mother has to juggle between paying off her loans, taking care of her baby and the court case. As if, the problems were not enough to tackle, she also has had to deal with trolling on social media. With all this happening at the same time, every day is a battle for her.

Mercy (name changed)

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Survival is also a challenge for differently-abled Suraj (name changed) as he has the responsibility of being the head of the household of feeding his family of four; provide education to his three children, manage the basic needs and continue fighting the legal battle.

Eventually, this 47-year-old former sub-deputy collector (SDC) took up home tuitions for neighbouring children to make ends meet and provide for his family.

“After the High Court quashed our exam, it effectively annulled my two job appointments, one in Horticulture and Soil department, which I had to leave before joining the civil service. And when the civil service appointment was annulled, I was left with nowhere to go. And without any financial backup, I had to feed my children and wife,” said Suraj.

Now with the increased cases of coronavirus, the situation is even more difficult for Suraj. He is in dire straits financially since the meagre income from the tuitions has also stopped as parents are reluctant to send their kids out of their homes.

“I used to give tuitions to students as low as Class 6 standards and teach the basics of Maths, Science and English. Sometimes I pitied myself that my life has gone down this low. Somehow, I motivated myself with a thought that giving tuition is participating in the moulding of society in producing better children in the future. At the same time, I am getting some means of livelihood for sustenance,” added Suraj.

Suraj (name changed) at his residence in Imphal

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Johnson (name changed) reading books

When the 26-year-old Johnson (name changed) cracked the MPSC examinations in his first attempt, his family thought that their prayers were finally answered. Born to a big family with both parents unemployed, Johnson was raised by his grandparents. His significant success story without attending any coaching institution but purely based on his self-preparation was heart-warming and inspired many youngsters in the town.

However, the things moved quickly and changed for the family since 2016 and Johnson is now subjected to harassment on social media alongside the struggle to his responsibilities.

“The High Court judgment has landed heavily on the innocent candidates. This has impacted us in terms of our livelihood. For some people, cracking the exam is prestige and dignity, but people like me coming from a poor background, it is more of a livelihood. Because we are a big family and since my parents are both unemployed, I need to look after my siblings. This judgment comes with a shock to my family, including my grandparents since they raised me,” said Johnson, the youngest candidate who cleared the MPSC exams 2016.

For Sarita (name changed), getting a job in her home state does not only mean that she could stay closer to her family but it also gave her a sense of responsibility and opportunity to financially sound. When her appointment notice was revoked by the court, only a few days were away from her marriage. After losing the job, this newly become mother is now finding it hard to pay off her student loans.

“It drastically changed my life. I literally stopped going out and attending social gatherings because I feel that people are looking at me with such impression that I have done something wrong. But that is not the truth. I have invested so many years of my life to clear this exam,” she said.

Sarita (name changed) and her newly born baby

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John (name changed)

Just like many youngsters who cherished to work in their home state after completed their studies in metro cities, John (name changed) decided to come home after he left his prestigious job of an assistant professor at Delhi University. A short stint at Manipur police service before the forced termination was a harsh reality that followed him.

“I appeared the exam on my own choice, and I followed all the instructions, I cleared the exam on my own, and I took the posting because I wanted to come here. Now I don’t see what I did wrong in those things, so I find it very unfair that there is a misunderstanding of such a wide-range that in every aspect you would find that you are stigmatised, slandered and see a lot of unsavoury comments on social media,” said John.

The Manipur civil services exam 2016 fiasco came to the limelight after 42 aspirants approached the Manipur High Court alleging irregularities and serious lapses in the selection process. This led to the cancellation of appointment letters issued on April 18, 2017, after their two and a half years of service.

A total of 9,188 aspirants appeared for the prelims in 2016 of which 1,130 qualified for the mains but out only 1,069 appeared. Of them, 168 were selected for an interview, and 82 were selected.

The inquiry committee constituted by the High Court found that 7 out of the 8,163 answer sheets missed the signature of the examiner and the signature of the supervisor was missing from 15 papers among several other anomalies.

Longjam Tony Singh, an aspirant
Manipur Public Service Commission secretary Ngangbam Roben Singh

Over the past three and a half years, the petitioners got bifurcated into two groups. While one group is in favour of writing the 2016 exam from mains, the other demands re-conducting of the examination right from the prelims.

Longjam Tony Singh, one of the petitioners, says that quashing of the exam has only partially fulfilled their demands. He also demands that re-examination should be conducted from the prelims itself rather than the mains.

“When the preliminary exam was conducted there was no examination controller and one can imagine as to what could have happened if the exam was conducted without the presence of the full-fledged examination controller. With the absence of examination controller, it creates or leads to many opportunities to MPSC officials and other staff to indulging into such massive malpractices and unfair means. Had the examination controller being appointed on time, this irregularities and malpractices of such massive scandal would not have occurred and I would not have come out in the public,” said Tony.

Student bodies of the state have also opposed the decision of re-conducting just the main round of the MPSC examination and demanded MPSC to be thoroughly cleaned and punish the culprit(s) at the earliest before it conducts any examinations.

Ngangbam Roben Singh, Secretary of Manipur Public Service Commission says the decision was made by the Supreme Court of India and they don’t have any other option but to adapt to the system.

“My pleading is that if you give me the opportunity or a chance, I will get to decide what I want and what we should be doing. But the High Court of Manipur has already decided the matter that it should be quashed and I don’t have any authority to question the wisdom of the judges of the HC and the Supreme Court. Yes, I do sympathise for those people who lost their job and livelihood and I am also not happy with that. MPSC itself has gone to the court to place the case but SC has already decided that the exam has to be conducted,” said MPSC secretary Roben Singh.

In another major turn of events, petitioners found three of the candidates who could not make it through to the mains are related to the two-member fact-finding committee. The fact was kept from the court. The petitioners have now approached the High Court to review the order of quashing the examination.

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