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

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!

You must be to comment.
  1. Adi

    Mr Tushar Sharma, I think your understanding of UPSC exam is one sided and lacking analysis. 1st of all I ll ask you one question. Let two candidates A and B appear the IAS Prelims exam. A scored 120 in GS. and 120 in CSAT.So A secured a total mark on 240. Now B scored 55 in GS snd 190 in CSAT. B has already appeared in CAT, XAT so it is quite easier for hin to score 190 out of 200. So total score of B is 245. The cut off mark of PRELIMS 2013 was 241. So now you tell me, who is more deserving candidate. Whose knowledge is balanced. So please dont harp over something which you dont analyse substantially.

    1. George Washington

      Dude if you can’t solve the fuckin class 10th math English logical question you want such people to become IAS/IPS. I know lot of guys from Hindi medium who was seriously against the previous pattern where one have to opt for an optional paper in preliminary exam. Also if you are not an aspirant please don’t speaking shit everywhere.

    2. Arati Nair

      I fail to understand the fear of a certain section of applicants towards the CSAT paper. While debates on numerous forums vehemently point to the irrelevance of a test to evaluate the aptitude and attitude (ethics) of prospective civil servants (giving greater importance to the premordial practice of mugging up facts and regurgitating the same), it would be prudent to voice the reasonable demands of a greater section of serious candidates.
      The UPSC examination is inherently a rejection test. Please understand that those who do not possess the basic elementary knowledge of Mathematics and English will face greater problems in the Mains qualifying paper (English) in which a minimum score of 100/300 is mandatory.
      The people who have only just woken up to the reality of the ‘English-Regional language divide’ in the CSAT exam, should have come to the fore after the 2011 prelims or even after the exams in 2012 or 2013. Making a mountain out of a molehill in this manner when the examination this year is just round the corner will not only lead to complete waste of useful time for the protestors, but also make a mockery of the continuous struggle of thousands of candidates who’ve toiled for years to clear the exam. Moreover, as the writer rightfully highlighted- the UPSC is not anyone’s puppet to act on the whims of a minority with vested interests.

      P.S.: All this thamasha for 8 questions out of 80 that are of high school standard. The Hindi translation of the remaining questions should indeed be simplified, but scrapping the entire CSAT paper, on the other hand (at this point), is totally unreasonable.

  2. Prashant Kaushik

    Those protesting against UPSC, near coaching factories of Delhi, Allabahad etc are only a microscopic community of the entire 3-5 lakhs of aspirants.
    The larger chunk of aspirants which overwhelmingly supports these reforms and CSAT papers, are busy preparing for the exams. Key point is those who want the exam to be on time are extremely busy and occupied with preparations. Obviously they don’t have time to come out on roads and show solidarity towards UPSC.

    Simple questions- If protesters say they are fighting for poor and rural aspirants, why are all the protests centered around Delhi – Mukherjee nagar – which is hub of coaching factories. Why are there no protests from the hinterlands ? The reason is simple the matter is all politicized.

    It’s a myth that math questions favour urban folks. If Aptitude paper is replaced by the erstwhile optional paper(subject paper), the demand of coaching factories would increase. For any rural guy or any aspirant who can’t afford to come to Delhi for coaching and wants to be in home town/village, It is obviously easier to prepare, sitting at home, for maths till 10th class rather than preparing for History, Geography etc upto Graduation level.

    UPSC needs to come strong and don’t let this matter undermine it’s independence guaranteed by the constitution itself.

    Lastly, to clarify further, UPSC’s CSAT question paper is very different from aptitide paper for CAT, XAT or GMAT.
    The maths questions are very elementary in nature. Basic NCERT books of class 6th- 10th are more then enough to prepare. Personally, i have also met lots of Hindi medium guys whose maths is fabulous and far better to average English medium boys.
    The English portion of paper, doesn’t check your vocabulary or your level of sophistication of English. English passages are also very elementary in nature.

    Lastly, neither English nor Maths . counts anywhere in preparing the final merit. These are only qualifying. The final merit or rank depends only on your performance of humanities subjects.

  3. Shakthi

    Spot on, wonderful article. Any change in the pattern or postponement would set a wrong precedent. I’d be disappointed if the UPSC heeds to the government’s advice, but if it did, then there is a bigger problem – need for a overhaul in the manner in which UPSC members are appointed, which as of now is not transparent.

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