UPSC: Hope Lingers For Aspirants


They do not mind taking to the streets for an hour or more from their precious time. They have become aggressive and showed their anger by torching the buses, burning admit cards, and have gone as far as to consider self-immolation to vent out the pressure that hangs on their shoulder. This is the present scenario in the lives of the Indian civil servant aspirants.

With changes in the examination pattern, aspirants of the most coveted examination in India, Civil Services Examination (CSE), now feel the pressure more than ever before.

The exam is conducted in three stages – preliminary, main, and personality test. The pattern of the main examination was changed in 2013; the number of papers for general studies has doubled and thereby has increased in its weight age vis-à-vis the optional subjects. It is felt that this change will minimize the differences between optional and general studies subject, and also allow for a level playing field. In fact with such changes, the scope of the syllabus will be widened and one will be able to utilize the in-depth preparation of general studies for the preliminary; and same is the case for the mains examination as well. Although it poses a great challenge for aspirants, the new pattern can be taken as a rational step that can eliminate the redundancy of the examination as it calls for a deeper understanding of all the subjects.

Looking at the incidents of protests, the issue is related to the preliminary pattern, where a new format was introduced in 2011. This new pattern known as Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) is resented by many aspirants, as they believe it favours those who are fluent in the English language. So then, for Hindi or regional language speaking candidates, it becomes unfair.  Residing in rural areas, these non-English speakers usually are government-school educated and competing with the English language users decreases their chance of clearing the examination.

Pondering over the imbroglio of English language in CSE, it would be a mistake to whisk away a language which is used the widest in the world. While the importance of regional languages cannot be overlooked, we cannot afford to do without English. Hindi is no doubt, good for dealing with national matters but if it was to be made compulsory, it would have created a regional bias and led to chaos in the country. To discharge government duties without English knowledge is unimaginable. We as a nation have been proficient in basic written and spoken English and I’m sure we can make an effort to learn the language well, if at all situation demands.

While we look at the importance of language in the context of CSE, language should be the least important criteria while selecting a bureaucrat. Language can be learned when one attains the seat in office or even during the course of training. It is certainly not a difficult task.

It is being argued that CSAT is not essential for civil services exam; one cannot judge the administrative ability of a candidate through simple knowledge of maths and reasoning. While CSAT can be seen as a positive change, the problem lies in the fact that our education system in India never prepared us for it. So when we finally set our eye on one of the most prestigious post in India, we look lost, pressurized and are angered. Analytical reasoning and logical mind is required in every field; and more so in the bureaucratic domain. A fully developed mind can only lead the nation into progress.

Knee-jerk reactions by the government cannot be the solution. The political class should take a rational approach towards this issue instead of giving blind assurances to the protesters.

CSE is one of the toughest examinations. Let’s face the competition. Let the government work on the matter while we put our efforts in clearing the exam. Remember when the going gets tough, the tough gets going!

Valentina Telien Kom

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