Where The UPSC Is Going Wrong With Its Decision To Restrict Language Choices

Posted on March 13, 2013 in Education

By Raghawendra Deo:

In the beginning, the Indian bureaucratic class was not an all pervasive one. It was heaven for the pass-outs of public schools perched in some serene hill stations or the metros. The reason being – English was the only language for answering the Civil Services examination paper. The skew in favour of elite was removed by allowing regional languages also as medium of expression in Civil Services examination after the recommendation of Satish Chandra Committee. That is why we find that since 1988, a growing percentage of candidates qualifying for the highly coveted services hail from moffussil towns.

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UPSC’s recent decision to restrict other regional languages as medium of expression will not only have a negative impact on the number of applicants from the interiors of the nation but could also have the potential to vitiate political climate on the language issue. To make the matter worse, the exam board has kept open – the option for writing the exams in Hindi. Sure, the aspirants from the hinterland of Hindi belt have an edge over the similarly placed non-Hindi candidates, but the option to write the examination in your local language is there, only if the aspirant is a graduate in the literature of that language. This rider is ridiculous!

It does not hold true that only a graduate in literature of a language is always a good writer in that language and can express his thought concisely, coherently and with brevity as required by UPSC – and that the one who does not have a graduate in literature of the language cannot. There are umpteen examples of people qualifying the UPSC examinations by writing in their preferred local language but not necessarily graduate in that language. Have they proved to be bad administrators?

Language has always been a thorny issue in the Indian polity. The two language formula has proven to be disastrous and divisive in a multi-lingual India. The discontent caused by the perceived threat to non-Hindi people and their culture was somehow settled by adopting the three-language formula whereby other regional languages were given equal importance. Hindi became a matter of persuasion rather than compulsion. At the same time, Hindi also set its foot in non-Hindi belt and became a pan-India language and established itself as linking language for India; thanks to Hindi cinema and TV serials. The official language policy has not had a desirable effect on the propagation of Hindi as yet. Let the cinema and songs do their job of popularizing the language. Let the Govt not commit the lingo mistake. The option should be open to take exams in all the major regional Indian languages.