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A Critical Assessment Of The UPSC Notification

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By Mahitha Kasireddi:

The UPSC has been recently caught up in the language row following its March 5th notification for taking students for a ride. The recruiting board known for selecting highly deserving candidates in the clan of bureaucrats has been put in the dock lately. As it was rightly pointed out by a politician- “UPSC may be a very powerful institution but definitely not above the constitution and rule of law”. I may sound like a detractor of the UPSC, which is not my intention at all. This is an effort to focus on the pros and cons of the entire nexus which keeps the aspirants guessing till the eleventh hour.


The Pattern:
The year long debate on the changing pattern had finally ended when the notification was released. The UPSC indeed deserves applauds for putting aspirants under real test and giving them tougher competition. The changed pattern has indeed induced a step-up in the respect, glory, prestige and responsibility in holding the posts of All Indian Services.

The decision to revise the standards of UPSC was majorly to defy the profit churning coaching institutes who cash on dreams of young aspirants and their parents. The 5 new papers introduced in the mains examination, focusing in depth on varied topics exhaustively have now downgraded hundreds of coaching institutes.

I live near RTC X roads, Hyderabad. This is a famous area for the number of IAS coaching centres and so called study circles which have been running since the past 30 years. The institutions-induced beneficiaries around this place are Xerox shops which sell away ready-made spiral binded copies of materials of an XYZ institute or ABC study circle etc. The equally ignorant aspirants take these for a Bible for cracking the UPSC.

Delhi needs a special mention regarding the coaching institutes. It is called “the market”, where the minimum amount would be 75000 and maximum would be 1 lakh for one time coaching for both prelims and mains. People from all over the country flock there and decide to stay there, bearing the cost of living of that place till they qualify or their number of attempts are over. Students hailing from weaker financial background definitely are in the disadvantage induced by these institutions.

But these institutes are no different from the ones in Hyderabad or any other place in India. A similar stereotype material of some institute keeps circulating around the students. Down the years, the UPSC has revised the standard of the exam but the standard of coaching offered in these institutes is still at the old levels albeit charging high amount of fees. Today, the questions asked in the UPSC exams are not of mere listing the articles in the constitution, which is a crammer’s task, but of analyzing and an ultimate testing of intellectual ability required for becoming an administrator.

Talking of optionals, the previous pattern of testing in two optional has been cut down to one. The weightage for the optional allotted has also been decreased drastically. Every move by the UPSC has a reason. The reason behind changes in the optional is to take away the undue advantage from highly capable students like those graduated from IITs. What is the difficulty in scoring in an engineering subject for an IITian? He/she need not worry about mere 600 marks in GS as against the 1200 marks in optionals. UPSC has done away with this discrimination.

The real test is in paper 5 which is a test in ethics, integrity and aptitude; it is an ultimate tool to explore the character and attitude of the candidate towards the weaker sections, crisis situation and the service as a whole. This is something which totally eliminates the role of coaching institutes. This gives a chance to the candidate to actually put him/herself under a deep introspection and a great opportunity to prove his ability completely on his/her own terms. Of late, we have known how the cancer of corruption has sneaked into every corner of the system not sparing even the civil servants. The new pattern introduced from this year is a welcome move to eliminate any undeserving candidate who cannot be honest in a sustained manner.

What is in the language?
With the new restrictions imposed in the medium of expression, the UPSC has simply entertained fringe groups in the country. Leave alone discussing the good and bad in this move, the politicos beyond party line have banked on this issue. A new vote bank in their favor- “Regional languages”.

The emphasis on English by the UPSC might be an over pragmatic approach. The intended results of this move cannot be expected in just one year but it would take another 6-7 years. For a student who undergoes schooling in his mother tongue in his native village, taking up English as a medium in later levels of education should solve all purposes of development, even writing the UPSC exam in English.

All those arguing that children from backward sections are in the disadvantage as they are not so fluent in English, are actually expressing their hypocrisy. In pan- India, improvement in English is still considered a benefit and prestige. We need our children to talk in English and contend equally with those brought up in cities in impressing the babus from corporate companies. But, coming to UPSC, we demand considerations in regional languages. When there is no warranty of going to be posted in his/her state upon being selected, this argument stands invalid.

May be the UPSC was doing away with the partiality shown by evaluators hailing from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu where there is a great pride and loyal admiration for their regional language. Students who answer in these mediums of Kannada, Marati, Tamil or Gujarati will definitely have an undue advantage compared to those answering in English.

If the protagonists of the regional languages are true in their intention of saving them (languages), they should actually not oppose this move. If somebody is very serious about becoming an IAS officer, he would take up all levels education in his/her mother tongue. The glory of UPSC will never wane out and number of aspirants will only increase every year. This would actually help in restoring the lost glory of many regional languages.

But, the counter argument is equally stronger. Many educational institutes do not offer graduation courses in regional languages. Graduation in regional languages is not available in case of all languages. The old students who have been preparing since many years will suffer an irrevocable loss if it is their last attempt. UPSC should at least announce relaxation in age and number of attempts.

It has been very harsh in announcing that answering in regional language would be allowed unless there is at least 25 % representation. How would aspirants be responsible and pay for the loss of weak representation of a language? The UPSC has wronged the aspirants by actually allowing students to express in Hindi. This step would gravely affect the North-East and South Indian students where Hindi is not as prominent as in North Indian.

Well, after all the speculation that sparked around the new notification, it is finally stalled. Hoping the decision on the new changes would be fair and announced as early as possible and spare the aspirants from anxiety and guessing game instead doing what they actually need to do- studying !

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  1. Himanshi

    I think you’ve made a mistake. You don’t need a 25% representation. Here’s what the UPSC Examination notice says:
    “…in the interest of maintaining the quality and standards of examination, a minimum number of 25
    (twenty-five) candidates should opt for a specific language medium for answering the question papers in that
    language medium. In case there are less than 25 (twenty five) candidates opting for any approved language
    medium (other than English or Hindi), then those candidates will be required to write their examination either
    in Hindi or in English only.”

    I don’t think that is too much to ask for. You can’t really expect them to find a separate examiner for correcting the copies of 5 students. Also, the point about the examiners from certain areas being biased may be excused as your personal opinion but the same can be forwarded by the Bhagwa-brigade against the English-medium examiners.

  2. mahitha

    I havn’nt made any mistake, if an assam student prepared in assame, how do you expect him to suddenly change his medium of expression within a few months..since this is the first year from when the changes are implemented he should be given more attempts to compensate….. but, hopefully this language issue should be resolved !…

    1. Himanshi

      I was talking about this particular sentence:
      “It has been very harsh in announcing that answering in regional language would be allowed unless there is at least 25 % representation.”

  3. aadil

    Compared to previous year this year UPSC general studies was more unique as one could solve 20-30 questions based on general knowledge & newspaper. Students were more prepared this year and the paper lacked in depth conceptual questions.Questions asked on polity were more obvious except the ones with combinations of options. But that shouldn’t trouble IAS aspirants as one could score high without even attempting them. Polity questions related to Prime Minister, Supreme & Rajya Sabha without combinational options were very easy and one should have scored them.You can find more on

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