UPSC

Aspirants' discontent

Print edition : April 13, 2018

CIVIL services aspirants across India are protesting against the Central government’s refusal to allow them to appear for the examination one more time although the government has granted aspirants from Jammu and Kashmir a five-year relaxation in the upper age limit this year too.

Aspirants from Jammu and Kashmir have enjoyed this higher age limit for a long time, and the relaxation was renewed every two years. However, this year, when the renewal did not happen, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti took up the issue with Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions Jitendra Singh, and he promptly obliged. The Union Public Services Commission (UPSC) , which had issued the notification for the conduct of the examinations on February 7, issued an addendum announcing the age relaxation for Jammu and Kashmir candidates.

This, however, caused a great deal of heartburning among students of other States who have pleaded with the government to provide them an additional chance to appear in the civil services preliminary examination on the grounds that they lost out owing to the confusion in CSAT (Civil Services Aptitude Test) in their attempts during the 2011-14 period when CSAT was conducted as a competitive paper.

Following a protest over the nature of CSAT, the government, after an all-party meeting, decided to make the test only qualifying in nature from 2015 onwards. Students who had appeared in the CSAT examination between 2011 and 2014 say they should be compensated with one more chance because they lost out in their attempt to qualify for the civil services mains because of the discriminatory nature of CSAT.

Discriminatory

CSAT, which was modelled on the GMAT/CAT examinations, was found, on the basis of data, to be discriminatory against students with a regional language or humanities background. According to annual reports published by the UPSC, the percentage of students qualifying in the preliminary examination in Hindi or other regional languages during the 2007-10 period was 45.70, 48.42, 45.49 and 37.76 respectively.

In contrast, the percentage of students who took the examination in English during the same period was 54.22, 51.57, 54.50 and 62.23 respectively.

Once CSAT was introduced in 2011, the percentage of students who took the examination in Hindi or other regional languages plummeted to 17.06, while that of English-medium students went up to 82.93. The trend continued until 2014.

During the 2012-14 period, the percentage of students qualifying in Hindi or other regional languages remained low at 18.14, 12.83 and 15.32 per cent respectively, while that of English-medium students remained high at 81.85 per cent, 87.16 per cent and 84.67 per cent respectively.

The same holds true for humanities students as well. Data indicate that the percentage of Indian Administrative Service (IAS) recruits with a humanities background in 2009 was 30.25 per cent, and this went down to 15 per cent in 2012 once CSAT was introduced.

It was this hard evidence that forced the government to make CSAT qualifying in nature from 2015.

However, the plea of students who failed to qualify for the mains during 2011-14 has fallen on deaf ears. The government has ignored the pleas in this regard from 32 Rajya Sabha members across parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party, and 126 Lok Sabha members, including 44 from the BJP. Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, and Telangana’s Deputy Chief Minister Mohammad Mahmood Ali have written to Jitendra Singh, to no avail.

Speaking to Frontline, some aspirants, on condition of anonymity, said they had nothing against students from Jammu and Kashmir, but pointed out that what they were requesting concerned lakhs of students. They also argued that since 2010 the government had made several changes to the civil services examinations without providing time for candidates to prepare.

“What we are seeking is just one more attempt because this is only fair. Even in the past, in 1979 and 1992, when the government introduced changes in the civil services exam pattern, the affected students had been given extra attempts/age relaxation,” one of them said.

Baswan committee

The Narendra Modi government set up the B.S. Baswan committee in 2015 to suggest changes to overhaul the civil services recruitment process. The committee was given six months and a six-month extension after that to submit its report.

B.S. Baswan, a former Education Secretary, submitted his report, apparently suggesting reduction of the upper age limit for entry into the civil services to 26 years for general category students from 32 years. The report has not been made public yet, neither has the government acted on it.

Purnima S. Tripathi

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