Virudhunagar district was the first in the State to fill 1,006 posts out of a total 1,078 in Noon Meal and Anganwadi centres. Appointment orders to the selected women candidates were issued on June 27, much before many districts had started the process of sending call letters for interview to the applicants.

While 15 posts in Anganwadi centres were reserved for differently-abled persons as per High Court order, 57 others could not be filled either due to non-receipt of application or want of application from qualified persons.

Right from the process of issuing applications to posting of appointment orders, the then Collector, M. Balaji, who was transferred early this month, had made a meticulous planning to ensure a fair and transparent recruitment process.

A centralised system for distributing applications and receiving filled-in ones was set up at the District Development Council (DDC) hall. Each of the 11 panchayat unions had put up two counters — one each for the posts in Noon Meal and Anganwadi centres — where government employees guided the applicants with all information regarding qualification and the reservation of each of the post. For all posts, the details of reservation — caste-wise and special groups such as widow and destitute — were displayed prominently at the Collectorate. This stage saw “no touts, no middlemen and no influential persons” luring poor women with false promises or preventing eligible aspirants from participation. The receipt of bulk applications was not entertained. No wonder, over 17,000 applications were received.

After scrutiny, call letters to 15,240 eligible candidates were sent along with a token for interview. A checklist of certificates already submitted by candidates and those required to be submitted was also sent. The token, bearing a seal and the roll number of the candidate, was a substitute for misplaced or smudged call letters to track the details of the candidates.

As a mark of another feature of the transparent process, three help lines were set up for the applicants to know reasons for rejection of their applications.

Candidates of 11 panchayat unions were called in for interviews on three different dates and this was done in a manner that avoided overcrowding at the Collectorate. Except for the differently-abled and pregnant women, who required assistance, no candidate was allowed to be accompanied by others into the Collectorate.

Separate panels for Noon Meal and Anganwadi workers were set up to interview the candidates simultaneously at four different interview centres. Each of the panellists was informed of his/her table number only in the morning before the interview started and shuffled every day to avoid foul play. Similarly, the candidates were sent in random, as per their arrival time, to appear before the panels. Various qualifications of the candidates were attached greater weightage while the marks given by the panels for the candidates were given the least.

The process had a human face too. Marks were awarded for three other factors such as poverty of the candidate/family, her family burden and her special problems.

“Those with Antyodhaya Anna Yojana cards were given higher marks. Similarly, candidates with daughters were given higher marks compared to women with sons. Widows, destitute and differently-abled women were given higher marks,” an official involved in the process said.

At the end, more than 35 per cent — 354 of the selected candidates were widows and 37 differently-abled persons.

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