Manipur Medical Entrance Test - A victim of outsourcing

Prof H Naorem *

Students attending the PMT (Pre-Medical Test) in Imphal, Manipur :: June 10 2012
Students attending the PMT (Pre-Medical Test) in Imphal, Manipur on June 10 2012 :: Pix - Bunti Ph

Though the dust of the recent medical entrance test has started settling after the clarification by the Chief Minister on the floor of the state Assembly, the public exasperation continues to be on the upsurge even as the admission committee led by a commissioner of the government of Manipur which conducted the entrance test emerged as the main villain of the whole episode.

Incidentally, this is not for the first time that such a hotchpotch in the entrance test has happened. In fact, every medical entrance test of the state has always been plagued by similar problems. This is not to blur or justify the confusion created in the select list on statistical excuses but is rather a wakeup call for serious introspection with a view to avoiding such unpleasant episodes in future.

The ostentatious public-display of the heavily guarded iron-chest that contained unfortunately the problematic question papers like a time bomb in waiting has turned out to be a cruel joke for the public of Manipur.

The genesis of the current crisis apparently lies in the violation of the pre-stated rules and regulations by none other than the admission committee that conducted the test, for reasons best known to them. Violating the condition of 'no re-evaluation', the first select-list published within 24 hours of the test has since undergone number of changes after due re­evaluations.

Why such an untenable condition in the first place? In any test or examination, the result will have to be rectified eventually in case any question or answer key turns out to be wrong in pursuit of natural justice. More important than that, why the committee outsourced the setting of the question papers to an outside agency? Are the resources available in the state of Manipur not competent enough for the job or they simply are not trustworthy?

Well, how competent and trustworthy the external experts or the agencies are anyway, its all tell tales now! Supposing the admission committee brushes the internal resources with the same shade of unworthy and unfaithful, how can they (team members) proclaim that they are the last stock of the Messiah left in the state?

If the public is corrupt and not trustworthy so also the team members because they also sprang from the very corrupt system! By that very argument, the conduct of the test right from the beginning should have been completely outsourced in order to avoid the unwanted consequences and in the process we will ultimately end up outsourcing everything including the thinking process, too!

One of the root causes for all these perhaps is the ever increasing trust deficit between the bureaucrats and the intelligentsia. However efficient the bureaucrats may be, they can never be an expert on any subject on borrowed knowledge. It just cannot be 'you must trust us though you are not trustworthy'.

Outsourcing is not the solution but a part of the problem. India started launching its own satellites with a number of failures in the beginning only to be perfected later on. Just because there were difficulties in conducting such a test with the internal resources, why do we have to outsource it to outside agencies that have scant respect for the sentiment of the people of Manipur? Imagine India outsourcing the launching of satellite at the very first failure, then no satellite would have never been launched from its own soil.

The admission committee was quick in passing the buck to the outside agency by blacklisting them. But the agency apparently gives a damn because it makes no difference to them anyway. There lies the message of effective utilization of the available internal resources in Manipur instead of going to any outside agency for such petty matters.

What purpose has it served by blacklisting them? The more pertinent question is how much of the taxpayers money has been paid to the agency for the mess they have created. In any case, the agency must be taken to task and coerced to cough up a major part of the fee they have pocketed so that they also partially feel the pinch and will be more careful in future.

And then, what about the committee that has taken the overall responsibility of conducting the entrance test? Unctuously assuring the public of every possible action with a long drawn face on shrugged shoulder without any iota of regret surely is not good alibi enough to buy them a bail out. Where would the buck stop?

Definitely not at the outside agency, but obviously, at the head of the committee! By not taking any administrative or otherwise action on the committee members, the government is unfortunately sending a wrong signal down the line. But the public surely can blacklist the committee top down - right from the commissioner to the last officer worth its position - in every possible manner that would shake their conscience otherwise such drama will keep surfacing at regular intervals.

If I were to conduct a test and face with similar problems, I would have anyway gone along with the internal resources rather than outsourcing it to an outside agency. Because in working with the outside agency, the only option available is to blacklist them.

But remember, having blacklisted one, we have to quickly look for another to keep the process on! This leaves us with little space for improvement and in the process we would end up searching for the next best outsourcing agency every time an error crops up. With the local talents however, we can constantly improve the system identifying and addressing the problematic areas towards evolving an efficient mechanism.

It is easier said than done but it is, nevertheless, not an impossible task or a utopian dream. Once such a system is developed, we can perhaps export our expertise instead of outsourcing our own ,problems. Unless we cultivate the habit of creating our own resources, it won't be long before we hop all over the country looking for the best agency to outsource even for the conduct of Nursery admission test!

Dr. Kamal in one of his celebrated poems has satirically questioned the rationale of the necessity to set out on a pilgrimage for salvation to a faraway land alien to us when the same can be attained right here in our own land provided we labor for it.

The students who have made it to the final list (if there ever is one!) owe it to their hard work plus a bit of luck and best wishes for them. But there are few unfortunate ones who had seen their names in the first but not in the final list. They have undoubtedly suffered public humiliation for no fault of them and with on one to be blamed.

Who will take up the responsibility of counseling them back to normalcy. This indeed is a very delicate issue since this ugly episode will continue to haunt at least some of them for the rest of their lives. Unless the issue is dealt with utmost sensitivity, it may have far reaching consequences.

For the sake of them, let the present crisis be not hushed up like the case of one petty thief being caught by 4 big thieves only to be tried by another bigger thief!

* Prof H Naorem wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on July 08 2012

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