More than three years have passed and the Public Service Commission (PSC) is yet to announce the final result of the 38th BCS exams, testing the patience of over nine thousand university graduates to the limit.
The frustration over the lengthy recruitment procedure of the attractive public cadre service jobs were quite evident among the aspiring candidates. A graduate from Department of Social Welfare at Dhaka University, who appeared in the 38th BCS exams, summed it up precisely.
"Universities once had awful session jams. Now there is no such thing, and we are graduating in four years. But then it takes three to five years just to get a job. It's unbelievable... a waste of youthful energy. Nobody is thinking how to resolve this."
The process for the 38th BCS started following a Ministry of Public Administration requisition to the PSC on March 5, 2017 for the recruitment of 2,024 cadre officers.
The preliminary exam of the 38th BCS involving over 3.5 lakh candidates was held on December 29, 2017. The preliminary exam results were published on February 18, 2018 with 16 thousand passing it.
The written tests ended on August 13, 2018 and the results were published on July 1, 2019, setting a record for delaying. The PCS then took viva tests of over nine thousand candidates until February this year.
Contacted, PSC chairman Mohammad Sadiq said, "We were taking preparations to publish the results by the end of March or the first week of April. But the coronavirus has changed everything. We are really helpless."
The PSC members are retired government secretaries or additional secretaries who are mostly aged over 60, he said. The exam controller and other officials are also over 50. Since the BCS result is very sensitive, everyone's presence is needed, which is not possible during the pandemic.
"I would have been the happiest man if I could publish the results today. But we cannot do much because of coronavirus. I request the job seekers to understand the situation," the PSC chairman said.
Recruitment through BCS exams have always taken two to three years that include lengthy police verifications, health check-ups and issuance of gazette notifications.
The civil service recruitment process does not take this long in developed countries or even in South Asia countries including India.
Government jobs in Bangladesh have increasingly become more coveted for young graduates over the decade due to social security, handsome salary and transparent recruitment process. The 41st BCS appointment circular published in November last year saw 4.75 lakh candidates applying for the exams.
THE DELAYS OVER THE YEARS
In last 18 years, it took PSC two to three years to announce the final result of 16 BCS batches.
The 27th BCS took 39 months, the 28th took 27 months, the 29th took 26 months and the 30th took 20 months. It took 16 months for the 31st BCS, 14 months for the 32nd Special BCS and 20 months for the 33rd BCS.
An additional 8-10 months were needed for police verification and gazette notification.
It took PSC 30 months to publish the results of the 34th BCS.
PSC took the shortest time for publishing the 35th BCS, which was 18 months. The final results and gazettes of the 36th and 37th BCS also took nearly three years.
However, the 38th BCS has surpassed them all.
PSC Chairman Mohammad Sadiq said, "It has often been seen that many competent candidates get low marks. To avoid this in the 38th BCS, we decided for the first time to have two examiners evaluate the scripts. But in many cases, the marks of the two examiners varied so widely that we had to send it to a third examiner. As a result, it has taken a year to publish the written result. That was the main reason for the delay."
He also said that the viva voce started from July 29 last year and it took eight months to take the tests of 9,000 candidates.
HOW TO REFORM
The demand for government jobs is not so high in many developed countries. India's civil service is the oldest in South Asia. The country's civil service recruitment process takes about 12 to 15 months.
The Union Public Service Commission of India conducts the Central Civil Service Examination. They take the preliminary examination in June of each year and publish the results in August. Then the written test in October and the results are published in January. The final results of the viva are published in May. Those who are finally selected go for the foundation training which starts from September.
Ikram Ahmed, the immediate past PSC chairman, said, "During my tenure I have had the opportunity to see how public service commissions of various countries in South Asia operate. Things here are very complicated. In fact, it takes the longest time in our country because of advertisements, applications, preparing questions, moderation and then waiting for the government press to publish it. After the exam, again you will have to wait for the evaluation. If a single examiner is late in submission, the whole result is delayed."
Asked what could be the possible solution, Ikram said that the PSC could call the examiners in the commission and request them to evaluate the papers in their office.
"If necessary, their transportation costs and honorarium can be increased. Then like India, there should be a system of 'deducting marks' in both preliminaries and written tests. This will help reduce the number of candidates. I think we should not take more than one year for this," he added.
Former cabinet secretary Ali Imam Majumder said, "Youth is the most important time in life. But a considerable time of the educated youth is spent just for the BCS exams which is not the case in any other countries. Even after the final results, another seven-eight months are wasted in the name of police verification. It is unnecessary."
Citing the recent appointment of an additional 2,000 doctors from the 39th BCS, the gazette of which was published in November last year, without police verification, he said, "That means it is possible and it is the practice in India. ICS, CSP did not take such a long time. I think it is still possible to solve the problems. And for that we need some reforms"
Asked what the PSC was thinking about reforming to reduce time, current Chairman Mohammad Sadiq said, "I have overcome a few challenges. There was not a single incident of question leak in the last five years. Transparency has been established and more candidates are coming than ever before.
"In Bangladesh, we work with 26 types of cadre appointment while in India its Central Service Commission works with only general cadres. We have general, technical and mixed cadres. Only in the education cadre, we have to take exams on nearly fifty subjects. As a result, it takes more time. To reduce time, we need to think about whether there will be so many cadres in the civil service, and if so, how to recruit them and what reform we really need is our future challenge."
[The writer is head of migration programme at Brac]