The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) Civil Services Mains Exam ended on 3rd November 2017. Most candidates would now anxiously wait for the result, but for one candidate the journey has already come to an end, that too not a happy one. Safeer Karim, a trainee IPS, plan to cheat his way through what is sometimes called “the mother of all competitive exams” fell apart. Not only criminal proceedings will be initiated against him, he could also lose his coveted job as an IPS. His case raises at least two questions pertaining to the commission itself.
First and foremost is can UPSC judge a person’s integrity by merely asking them appear in an exam of ethics? Are morals and ethics something which come in a bottle sold by coaching centres? By expecting candidates to become ethical and moral by asking candidates them to write a paper on ethics, aptitude and integrity is akin to expect people to become like Socrates and Mahatma Gandhi just by reading about their philosophies! Ironically, as per some newspaper reports, the last time Mr. Karim gave the mains he had score of around 110 marks in the ethics paper, which is considered as good. There have been a few instances in the recent past which highlight that how young civil servants seem to be coming in only with a motive to mint money. In June 2016, a 2012 batch officer of Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands Civil Service (DANICS) as a Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) in Delhi was caught on charges of bribery. http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-cbi-arrests-delhi-govt-official-in-bribery-case-2219677
The second question which comes to my mind is whether this is an isolated case which was caught or it is just the tip of the iceberg? I have heard ‘rumours’ that India’s premier staff selection board way of conducting the exam suffer from certain lacuna. I will tell from my own experience. Earlier this year in February I went to Chandigarh for giving an exam conducted by the UPSC. There I met a friend’s friend who told me that to clear civil services prelims one only needs to have Rs. 2 lakh in his pocket. He explained me the modus operandi as well. I rubbished his claims, saying that such things do not happen with an exam conducted by the UPSC. But the next day I was proved wrong. He was correct on how candidates would be helped. The invigilators in our room weren’t regular teachers, they were students just like me who had come to invigilate for money. They had their mobile phones with them. This made me question, not the integrity of the UPSC, but the level of transparency in process of the exam. Does the commission know such things are happening? I don’t know. But one thing is for sure- my faith in UPSC exam process isn’t what it used to be before.
As civil services aspirants are expected to not just spot problems but also give pragmatic solutions to them, I would like to suggest a few things which the UPSC can do for making the exam more transparent and fair.
Firstly, make physical frisking of candidates mandatory before he/she enters the examination hall. No one should be exempt for howsoever honest he/she might appear. Secondly, make sure that only regular teachers of the school are authorised as invigilators in regional centres without their phones in the examination hall. Thirdly, frame a practical situation reaction test like Defence Services’ 5 day SSB to select only the very desirable of candidates. Many would argue that unethical persons would still act ethical and get through it so why add another level of complexity. But as a candidate myself who has studied the ethics paper I would like to share something I learned while studying for this paper. Ethics, morals, attitude and values are relatively permanent in nature and they have a deep bearing on our behaviour.
Most competitive exams for government jobs are notorious for their lack of transparency and fairness. I hope India’s most respected exam isn’t going down the same path.