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Flutter in Assam around whether young officer's resignation is linked to state public service examination scam

By Nava Thakuria*
The mainstream media in Assam, as in India, faces enormous credibility crisis, but has it turned such low that a young state civil service officer could outrightly slam the ‘men in the media’ with the help of a social media post? Questions are being asked whether this is the beginning of the end of media, particularly the free-to-air news channels in Assam.
It all began with a video statement being posted in Facebook by Ramanuj Hazarika, a 2015 batch Assam civil service officer, who declared that he had lost his respect for “Assamese media” and claimed that he is “not among those who will keep quiet” and digest the media’s slander silently.
Hazarika’s video was in response to a small news item that Hazarika, then election officer and executive magistrate of Dhemaji district in eastern Assam, had resigned. The news, mostly telecast by local (read Assamese) television channels, added that Hazarika had decided to prepare for the next Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) examinations.
Till this point it was fine. But one or two news channels said that Hazarika’s resignation at the time of astounding ‘cash for job’ scam under Assam Public Service Commission (APSC) run examinations is important, as it happened when over 25 young Assam Civil Service (ACS), Assam Police Service (APS) and few allied service officers were in government custody for probing their selection processes.
An ACS officer can reign and prepare for a better opportunity by virtue of his democratic rights in the country. When Hazarika resigned on November 23, 2017, it could have been a simple news item for media outlets. But the speculation raised by a section of television reporters made the issue murkier, and suspicion grew if Hazarika had tried to escape the anti-corruption police actions.
Speculations cropped up primarily for two reasons. First, the public opinion in Assam today is in favour of scanning all the answer-scripts of APSC run examinations under the chairmanship of Rakesh Kumar Paul (who is also facing trials after arrest) since 2015. Secondly, one may generously question why an ACS officer should resign from his job for preparing the UPSC examinations (meaning that he could have applied for a longer leave).
Hundreds of Assam government officials were arrested on corruption charges soon after the BJP-led government took power at Dispur by May 2016 under the leadership of Sarbananda Sonowal, who maintains in his repeated public statements that the authority would not compromise with any kind of corruptions. Even Hazarika also supported the crusade against corruption and insisted on a free and fair investigation process to unearth the truth in the APSC scam.
In his Facebook statement, Hazarika even proposed for a special investigation team (SIT) under the supervision of the Supreme Court to proceed further on identifying the corrupt practices. He also did not forget to mention about his bright academic career since his childhood in his statement. According to his own declaration, Hazarika was nurtured by his mother (a teacher by profession) after his father’s untimely demise and passed the 10+2 standard examinations with the first ten positions in the state. He cleared the graduation in Political Science from Hindu College, Delhi University, and completed his Master’s and M Phil from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
Expressing angers over the media, Hazarika stated that he would approach the court against the speculative and defamatory news items soon after consultations with his friends from the legal fraternity. He proclaimed that he had no respect for the media because of cheap contents that turned the media outlets into circus groups. He even dared to prove him guilty (in APSC cash for job scam). Nevertheless, he asserted that he would not leave the state to evade police action.
“There is nothing unusual in resigning from a job anytime and hence the local media should have reported the matter judiciously,” said Rupam Barua, a senior journalist and president of Journalists’ Forum Assam. He however admitted that the reaction of Hazarika over the development was voluminous.
Appreciating Hazarika for his brave statement, Barua pointed out that a meritorious (read carrying good marks in examinations) certificate does not always ensure that the particular individual remains honest all along his/her life or be a good human being to contribute substantially for the society and the nation. Only the combination of both merit and honesty makes a man all time great, affirmed Barua.
Meanwhile, urging the news channels to restrain over reporting on sensitive issues, the Electronics Media Forum, Assam, expressed dismay at the way Hazarika slammed the media as a whole. The forum in a statement argued that the investigation process to identify all the tainted state civil service officers is still on and hence he ‘should wait for the logical (legal) conclusion of APSC cash for job scam’ before launching a crusade against the media.
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*Guwahati-based journalist and media analyst

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