The UPSC Needs To Put Its Foot Down, And Not Give In To Unreasonable Demands

Posted on July 16, 2014 in Education

By Tushar Sharma:

The sheer often-ness with which a constitutional body’s independence is breached by the political executives, makes one cast doubts on the larger institution that runs our country. This time, the puppet is UPSC and there are no prizes for guessing the puppeteer.

UPSC protest

First it was Rahul Gandhi, who in order to please a handful of people, without even delving deeper into the issue, got some relaxations done to the selection criteria of UPSC. Now, it is the new Modi government.

Who are these people that are protesting? What do they want? Why does the government have to budge? Do they represent the whole IAS aspirants’ community? Is the government right in intervening? And most importantly, is UPSC right in letting intervention happen?

The protesters, this time, can be divided into 2 broad groups. First, those who belong to the non-hindi speaking areas and are demanding UPSC examination to be conducted in regional languages in addition to the current format where only Hindi and English are the options available. The second group is against the aptitude test (CSAT) being part of the preliminary test as they believe that rural folks are worse off when it comes to aptitude as urban students have a better grip over English and logical reasoning owing to better educational access. And the common demand of both the groups is postponement of exam as they’ve wasted lot of time protesting.

Let us look into the issues one by one. UPSC selects candidates for many services through this examination, including Indian Foreign services. I can’t imagine anyone serving the country’s foreign service without knowing the language that’s most understood, i.e. English. Having this test in more number of languages will simply lead to more demands for more languages in more such tests. No, I haven’t finished the ‘mores’. Moreover, it will create an army of personnel, serving the country at the helm of affairs, who will have difficulty in communicating with one another and would resist transfers to areas outside their linguistic comfort. Wouldn’t this further regionalism? Tomorrow, they might even show favoritism towards those ‘who speak the same language’ both in the literal and metaphorical sense.

The second demand is of scrapping of CSAT. CSAT is the only examination which tests the candidate on their aptitude. Without this test, the preliminary exam will only become a test for those who can rote better. Shouldn’t the IAS’s or the IPS’s be good at maths, interpreting data and text? It’s numbers and data that they have to deal with every day and present it in a manner that is useful for decision making. Thus, CSAT which was added in 2011 is a very important part of the exam. It tests you on logic which has been an inevitable part of Indian philosophy as well under the school of thought called ‘Nyay’. You certainly want people who can think logically in the services.

We can go on debating the rural urban divide, engineer-non engineer divide, hindi-non hindi divide, quota-non quota divide or even the male-female divide on every issue, but the main point is to select people based on merit who can serve across the nation in the right manner to a diverse range and background of people. Such demands will not only complicate the examination but will also damage the prestige attached to the services.

Every year, around five lakh students take this examination. The people who protested were not even 0.05% of the total when Rahul Gandhi intervened to relax the age limit for UPSC exam and the second time also it was more or less the same figure, just that they had better posters and props like this time. Therefore, this group does not represent the whole community which takes this exam.

UPSC board is empaneled with very capable officers who very well know the kind of candidates the nation needs and the government should show restraint in trespassing the holy territory of the constitutional bodies to further the interests of a myopic few. Delaying the exam would put in jeopardy the future of all the candidates who have been preparing for years.

Taking to the roads and burning the wax is not always the right way. For Plato once said, democracy is a form of mob-ocracy. I have very high respect for our nation’s democracy but I believe Plato on this issue in the present context.

Its ‘All India services’ after all and not ‘services for all Indians’! Rightly So!