“What are the challenges to our cultural practices in the name of secularism?” – UPSC asks candidates to answer in 150 words
Some questions framed by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) in Civil Services Main Exam 2019 have turned controversial.
One such question was about an allegedly distorted question on secularism.
“Challenges to our cultural practices in the name of secularism”
The highly esteemed recruitment body, UPSC, entrusted for selecting candidates into top bureaucratic positions like IAS, IPS, IFS etc received flak from many quarters for asking the question “What are the challenges to our cultural practices in the name of secularism?” in General Studies Paper 1 of Civil Services Examination, conducted on 21-09-2019.
In Hindi, the question was: धर्मनिरपेक्षता के नाम पर हमारी सांस्कृतिक प्रथाओं के सामने क्या क्या चुनौतियाँ हैं (Dharma nirpekshta ke naam par hamari sanskritik prathao ke samne kya kya chunautiyan hain?)
Many aspirants felt surprised and disappointed to be asked to write against a core value of Indian Constitution – secularism. The question came with prejudice that there are some or many challenges to our cultural practices in the name of secularism.
Unfortunately, UPSC didn’t phrase the question with any directives like ‘critically examine’, which should have been there – to present both sides, if it has.
Journalist, Ajaml Aramam strongly criticised the above question, even mentioning that this is the fall of the great Indian Civil Service. He was pointing fingers at the seemingly right-wing bias of the question.
“Steady GDP growth of India”
General Studies Paper 3, conducted on 22-09-2019, had another question which raised a few eye-brows. This was the question:
“Do you agree with the view that steady GDP growth and low inflation have left the Indian economy in good shape? Give reasons in support of your arguments. (Answer in 150 words)”
This question too prejudges. It predisposes two ideas (1) India has steady GDP growth (2) India has low inflation. Aspirants were given only a choice to mention if they consider the Indian economy as in good shape or not and then give their arguments.
Well-read aspirants who know that Indian GDP growth was down to a 6-year low in Q1 of 2019 found this question strange.
However, these questions were exceptions; there were a lot of deep thought-provoking questions
After analysing all papers of UPSC Mains 2019, I feel the above two questions were exceptions. Most of the other questions were meticulously-drafted and spot-on.
You can read our analysis of the UPSC Question Papers (2019) from the below links:
UPSC has a high reputation for being unbiased and impartial in selection. In the same exam, this year, UPSC has even asked a question in the Ethics Paper (General Studies Paper 4) to write about the consequences of this ‘politicization of bureaucracy.
Given a choice between Indian Culture and Secularism, how would you answer?
Commenting on the matter, Kannan Gopinathan – an IAS officer who quit the services recently over the clampdown in Jammu and Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370, commented on Twitter: “Indian secularism is a positive concept, taking along and encouraging all the cultural practices while instilling a scientific temper against superstitions and harmful practices”, would have been the first sentence of my answer!”
“Indian secularism is a positive concept, taking along and encouraging all the cultural practices while instilling a scientific temper against superstitions and harmful practices.”, would have been the first sentence of my answer! https://t.co/MUsCYlh0OZ
— Kannan Gopinathan (@naukarshah) 22 September 2019
How would you answer the “Secularism Question”: The ClearIAS challenge to our readers
As a patriotic Indian, what is your opinion about the ‘Secularism Question’ asked in UPSC Civil Services Exam?
Given a chance, how would you answer it?
Post your answers in about 150 words in the comment section below.
The best answers will be highlighted and rewarded.