New Delhi

Two more attempts for civil service aspirants

Print edition : March 07, 2014

Rahul Gandhi reading a copy of Frontline given to him by protesting civil service aspirants outside his residence in New delhi. Photo: fdaf sdfgsdfds

THE Central government, giving in to the demand of civil services aspirants, has allowed them two more attempts for clearing the civil services examinations while relaxing the age limit to 32 years. The government announcement came after an assurance from Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who met the protesting students and assured them of sympathetic treatment.

At present, a candidate can make a maximum of four attempts, with the age limit fixed at 30. Candidates belonging to Other Backward Classes can make seven attempts, while there is no limit for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

The government’s decision will benefit aspirants who have exhausted six attempts and are under 30 years of age. This year’s exams for the selection of officers for the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), the Indian Police Service (IPS) and the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), among others, are scheduled to be held in August. The examinations are conducted in three stages—preliminary, mains and interview.

The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), which conducts the examinations, announced major changes in the main examination format in March last year, taking lakhs of aspirants by surprise. It proposed to do away with one optional subject and increase the number of general studies papers to four from two.

The course content was designed in such a manner that general studies became the most important subject in the main examination as opposed to optional subjects earlier. This, in fact, was one of the main features of the report submitted by the Y.K. Alagh Committee which had examined the issue in detail. The aim was to neutralise the advantage for candidates who take the so-called high-scoring subjects as optionals (see Frontline issues dated April 19, 2013, and February 7, 2014).

The syllabi of the four general studies papers suggest that the commission expects a civil services aspirant to be a widely read person. Studying by rote, which was mostly the case with the optional subjects earlier, is sought to be done away with. A candidate is expected to be well read in diverse subjects and knowledgeable about developments in diverse fields ranging from agriculture and animal husbandry to industry and technology. Environmental issues, environmental impact assessment, and the concepts and means of attaining sustainable development also figure prominently. Understanding of ethics, which implicitly requires an understanding of social issues and legal implications, also figures prominently. The new format requires one to have analytical skills and be able to take a position on controversial issues.

Civil services aspirants had demanded that for candidates for whom this was the last attempt extra attempts should be allowed with the required relaxation in age so that they could prepare well for the changed format of the exam. The UPSC, however, remained unmoved and the government, too, maintained that it could not interfere in the decisions of the UPSC. The protests intensified and the aspirants took their agitation to Rahul Gandhi’s doorstep, following which he assured them of action.

Purnima S. Tripathi

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