Update regarding the evaluation of Essay paper of UPSC examination, 2016

UPSC Civil Services Essay Paper 2016 turned out to be controversial as it had a confusing question. Now there is an update on the evaluation of essay paper of UPSC CSE 2016 – from the Union Executive. Minister of State for Personnel, Jitendra Singh in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha has said that UPSC will consider all ‘acceptable’ interpretation of the same.

What was the controversial essay question in UPSC CSE Mains 2016?

Confusion Regarding Essay Paper UPSC CSE 2016

The confusing question is highlighted below.

Write any one of the following essays in 1000-1200 words.

ClearIAS Prelims Online Test Series
  1. If development is not engendered, it is endangered.
    स्त्री- पुरुष के सामान सरोकारों को शामिल किये बिना विकास संकटग्रस्त है |
  2. Need brings greed, if greed increases it spoils breed.
    आवश्कता लोभ की जननी है, तथा लोभ का आधिक्य नस्लें बर्बाद करता है |
  3. Water disputes between States in federal India.
    संघीय भारत में राज्यों के बीच जल-विवाद |
  4. Innovation is the key determinant of economic growth and social welfare.
    नवप्रवर्तन आर्थिक संवृद्धि और सामाजिक कल्याण का अपरिहार्य निर्धारक है |

Several representations from candidates of civil services (main) examination, 2016 were received by the UPSC pointing out that the Hindi translation of the essay topic “If development is not engendered, it is endangered” was different from the English version. As this created confusion, many important personalities including former bureaucrats and sitting MPs have taken the matter to the UPSC and the government.

Updates on this matter

T.P Sreenivasan

Former Ambassador of India and IFS officer T.P Sreenivasan’s letter was published on 09-12-2016 in the ‘The Hindu’ newspaper with the subject line ‘ Know Your English’.

TP Sreenivasan

Here is the letter:

The first section of the “Essay” paper of the UPSC main examination for the civil services held on December 3, 2016 (where candidates have to write two essays out of ten subjects in two sections of five each) had the topic “If development is not engendered, it is endangered”. It made no sense, as the word “engendered” means “caused” or “produced”. But the intention of the questioner is revealed in the Hindi translation of the topic as it translates “engendered” as gender balanced. By using the word “engendered” in a sense it does not have, the candidates must have been misled. No dictionary suggests that “engendered” has anything to do with gender and it cannot be expected that the candidates will read the Hindi version to get the meaning of the topic. I do hope that the examiners will give credit to those who did not write about gender balance in development. Incidentally, in my search for the meaning of “engender”, I discovered that a feminist organisation in Scotland is called “Engender”. Was the question set in Scottish?

T.P. Sreenivasan

Shashi Tharoor, MP

Shashi Tharoor wrote a letter to UPSC on 14-12-2016 on the subject. UPSC replied back assuring that all ‘acceptable interpretation will be considered valid’. He had posted the same in his Twitter handle as well.

Shasi Tharoor

Please find the copy of the letter to Dr. Shashi Tharoor from UPSC.

Shashi Tharoor letter to UPSC

As per Shashi Tharoor – a renowned speaker – “engendered” just means “gave rise to”.

To give an example of the usage, he in wrote on Twitter, “this question engendered (gave rise to) controversy and concern, prompting an MP to intercede”!

But clearly, this was not the meaning of the Hindi translation, which was about Gender Equality. Many candidates who knew both Hindi and English, read the Hindi version of the question and wrote the essay with the focus on Gender Equality. Those who didn’t know Hindi wrote the essay in a different angle.

Interestingly, it seems UPSC lifted the topic from a sentence in 1995 UNDP Human Development Report, which was about Gender Equality and Empowerment.

T.G. Venkatesh, MP

TG Venkatesh

T.G Venkatesh’s unstarred question with subject ‘Fault in essay paper of UPSC examination, 2016’ was answered by Minister of State in the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions and Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office. (DR. JITENDRA SINGH) on 02-02-2017.

Questions from the MP

  • (a) whether it is a fact that the essay paper of 2016 UPSC examination has become an issue as the statement given in the paper is posing different meanings in English and Hindi versions;
  • (b) if so, the details thereof;
  • (c) whether UPSC accepts the blunder occurred in the paper and if so, the details thereof and if not, the reasons therefor; and
  • (d) whether UPSC has taken any steps to rectify the fault and made any insertions in the evaluation of English and Hindi papers to obviate such misrepresentations in future papers?

Answers from the Minister

  • (a) & (b): Several representations from candidates of Civil Services (Main) Examination, 2016 were received in Union Public Service Commission pointing out that the Hindi translation of the essay topic “If development is not engendered, it is endangered” was different from the English version leading to confusion amongst the candidates.
  • (c) & (d): The representationists have been intimated by the Commission that the Question papers are prepared and evaluated by the experts. The Commission has further informed that it has noted that there could be different interpretations of the term “engendered” and the different acceptable interpretations would be considered valid during the evaluation of the Essay paper to protect candidates’ interest.

Advice to candidates

UPSC and government had confirmed that different acceptable interpretations would be considered valid during the evaluation of the Essay paper to protect candidates’ interest. But, candidates are still tensed and wonder what interpretations will be considered acceptable. For that, one may need to wait till results are out and marks are published.

It’s a great sign that our representatives raising valid concerns of civil service aspirants before UPSC and Government. UPSC has acknowledged the same. Now, there is no choice here, but only to remain positive! All the best for mains and UPSC interview! Clear IAS!

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