HYDERABAD: The Sindh Public Service Commission (SPSC) announced combined competitive examinations (CCE) 2018 after an interval of five years this week, causing many aspiring candidates bemoan that the upper age limit has denied them the opportunity to attempt the exam. Dozens of candidates gathered outside the SPSC's head office in Hyderabad on Thursday and Friday for a demonstration to register their grievances and to demand the authorities to relax the age limits.
The SPSC, which on February 19 announced 229 vacancies of BPS-17 in four departments and 18 of BPS-16 in another department of the Sindh government, set the upper age limit at 30 years by September 1, 2018, for general applicants. Scheduled caste candidates of up to 31 years can apply while government servants of up to 35 years of age are eligible to sit for the exam.
The BPS-17 vacancies include 82 posts of assistant commissioners, 123 posts of section officers, 15 posts of excise and taxation officers and nine posts of assistant registrar cooperative societies. Three posts of BPS-16 district food controllers and 15 of additional district food controllers have also been advertised.
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"Thousands of aspiring candidates who have been preparing for the CCE have been rendered ineligible for no fault of their own," contended Khalid Salleh, who led the demonstration, while talking to the media. He argued that under the law and recent order of the Supreme Court, the SPSC is stipulated to hold the CCE exams every year.
"But due to their [SPSC] incompetence, a long interlude of five years follows every CCE and candidates like us have to suffer as we cross the age limit." Samiullah, who also wants to take the exam, demanded that the age limit be increased by five years. He warned that if the provincial government failed to respond the candidates will take the matter to court.
Ram Odh, a government teacher who was appointed in the service in December 2014, also complained that both the 35 year age limit and four year experience in government service requirement has left many aspirants ineligible. "Earlier, government servants with only three years of experience were allowed to apply for the CCE," he claimed. According to him, hundreds of teachers who were appointed along with him three years ago have been affected by the two restrictions.
SPSC Chairperson Noor Muhammad Jadmani told The Express Tribune that it is the prerogative of the chief minister to decide the eligibility. "The upper age threshold has already been increased to 30 years from 28 years, which was set for CCE 2013."
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He said the SPSC can only forward the aspirants' demands as recommendations to the chief minister. The chairperson said the commission has now planned to hold the CCE every year.
A similar situation surfaced when the SPSC advertised the CCE in August, 2013. However, the candidates' protests forced the provincial government to relax the age by three years for the general candidates and 10 years for government servants.
In March, 2017, the apex court directed the Sindh government to intimate the SPSC about vacant seats as well as upcoming vacancies on a regular basis so that the commission can hold the CCE yearly. The court gave reference of the Federal Public Service Commission and the public service commissions of other provinces who annually conduct the exams. The court also noted that since 1989 the CCE exams were conducted only six times in 1992, 1995, 1998, 2003, 2008 and 2013.