Amid demands by many Hindi medium Civil Service aspirants for scrapping the CSAT test (UPSC Civil Services Prelims), Government today urged the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) to postpone the preliminary exam scheduled August 24, 2014 till there is clarity on the syllabus and exam pattern. Yesterday, ABVP activists had staged protests outside the UPSC office demanding scrapping of Civil Services Aptitude Tests (CSAT), saying such a pattern was putting Hindi language aspirants at a disadvantage.
Union Minister Jitendra Singh’s response
Jitendra Singh, who is the Minister of State for Department of Personnel and Training and Prime Minister’s Office addressed reported outside Parliment. “We are also urging upon the UPSC and the committee that was constituted to look into the matter that not only a report be constituted at the earliest, considering the urgency of the matter and the concern of all sections of the society… they should also consider postponing the date of the preliminary examination,” Union Minister Jitendra Singh told reporters.
“Till the report about the final conclusions in the matter is out, these young guys and girls would not be able to make out the kind of preparation they have to do for the exam. Therefore, till there is a clarity over the syllabus and exam pattern they should be given sufficient time. It is quite legitimate on their part that we are suggesting to concerned authorities to consider postponement of the preliminary examination of IAS (UPSC) exams,” the minister added.
Hunger strike by students
A group of students also met Singh over the issue today. The Minister said senior officials would meet the protesting students and urge them to end their hunger strike.
“We were all deeply concerned when we found our students were resorting to hunger strike. We have succeeded in convincing them. They should not resort to such extreme measures,” he said.
Report awaited from a committee
“We would write to the UPSC and the committee that has been constituted to submit this report to expedite the process, address their concerns judiciously and sympathetically and not let them go with a feeling that they have been wronged on account of any bias towards any language.
“…There should be no injustice regarding the language and government does not support this,” Singh said.
Civil Services Prelims 2014 Issue raised in the Parliament
RJD and Congress members had raised the issue during the Zero Hour in the Lok Sabha. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan rejected the notice for adjournment motion on the issue by RJD members Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav.
Key Takeaways: Civil Services Prelims 2014
- The UPSC Civil Services Exam 2014 has every chance to be postponed, as every new change demands additional time for preparation according to pattern change.
- A committee is constituted for studying this issue.
- The new pattern would try to change the bias towards any language, if any.
Recent committees constituted for UPSC exam reforms
- The pattern of Civil Services Preliminary Examination was changed in 2011 as per the recommendations of the Alagh Committee, the Second Administrative Reforms Commission and an Expert Committee constituted by UPSC under the chairmanship of Prof. S.K. Khanna (Ex-Chairman, UGC).
- The pattern of Civil Services Mains Examination was changed in 2013 taking into consideration some of the recommendations of committee under the chairmanship of Prof. Arun S.Nigavekar, former Chairman, University Grants Commission (UGC). Read more about Nigavekar’s reform suggestions from the Mrunal’s website.
- Three-member panel set up under the chairmanship of Arvind Varma to look into the present issue.
Our View : There is still room for reforms in UPSC Civil Services Exam; but not in the last minute!
No human made systems are perfect. The same is true with UPSC Civil Services Exam and there is room for improvement for Interview, Mains and Prelims. We have already written an article about the subjectivity in the UPSC Civil Services exam, and our worries about the last 30 minutes (interview) determining the fate of candidate often ruining the years of effort put in this exam. The lack of transparency in the scaling process with respect to optional paper is also a matter of concern.
PS: Though we favor UPSC reforms, we don’t encourage last minute changes, that too 2 weeks after the last date to pay fees to UPSC. These changes, put extreme mental pressure on the candidates who have been preparing according to a pattern announced by UPSC only to know later that there are chances for syllabus change. Money, time and effort are wasted. Indian youth should not be made guinea pigs – that’s our stand.
The Real Issue with CSAT : Not Hindi-English Divide but Rural-Urban Divide and Engineering-Humanities Divide
No bias against Hindi; but biased against other regional languages: There are other dimensions regarding the language bias highlighted against Prelims Paper 2 (CSAT). First of all, there is no particular bias against Hindi. If there is any bias against Hindi, there is more bias against other regional languages. UPSC questions are printed only in two languages, ie. Hindi and English. Only for 8-12 questions each year from English comprehension (Class X standard), there are no Hindi versions. But how can graduates who get selected to services like Indian Foreign Services (IFS) say excuses on those. It should also be noted that there are no serious complaints so far from other regional languages like Tamil, Malayalam,Telugu, Kannada etc on the Hindi-English advantage.
Why less regional language candidates: It’s true that the number of candidates from Hindi and other regional mediums clearing Civil Services Exam is less since the introduction of new Prelims Paper 2 in 2011. A big section of candidates who clear Prelims now is from the Engineering or Science background and not from the Humanities background. Again the share is more from urban areas, where the popular medium of instruction is English. The correlation of language and number of candidates clearing should be seen in this perspective and not the other way.
Importance of Prelims Paper 1: Prelims Paper 2 which contains questions from mental ability, mathematics and reasoning gives a natural advantage to engineers, science or mba graduates, a majority of urban educated, in English medium. Yes, there are still candidates who clear this exam from rural side, but that cannot be generalized. Paper 2 should not be turn out as the short cut for clearing Prelims, neglecting the important areas for a good civil servant like Indian Economy, Polity, Indian History etc covered in Prelims Paper 1.
Is there real advantage for Engineers or is it just a matter of pure merit: But again, there is again side for the story. All of the questions in Prelims Paper 2 are of Class 10 standard. So it does not make much difference between an engineer and a humanities graduate, except the natural mental ability of an engineer to solve problems fast. Again, for mains, there is a big advantage for those from humanities background as almost all topics are humanities related and have nothing to do with engineering. Also, take the case of optional subjects, there are just 3 optional subjects available from the diverse streams engineering – ie Civil, Mechanical and Electrical. This means no Electronics, Computer or Bio-technology. Many engineers take humanities subjects like History, Geography or Public Administration and come in flying colors competing with those from Humanities background. No complaints! Yes, merit should definitely be the final ground of selection.
There is room for improvement, but the area which needs immediate attention is not Hindi language, but inclusiveness, from a whole India perspective. Expensive coaching institutes in metros like Delhi are still a deciding factor for clearing UPSC exam, though their influence has reduced in recent times. Civil Services exam should be made equally accessible and crack-able for all sections of the society – urban or rural, engineering or humanities and English medium or regional medium. And reforms are needed in Interview and Mains, not just Prelims. UPSC exams should be refined enough to find the best brains in the country, fit enough for the prestigious Indian Civil Services. There should not be any bias, but the quality of the exam should not be compromised either. A tough job indeed, but not impossible!