The recent notification dated 5/3/2013 of UPSC, withdrawing the hard fought privilege of writing the civil services examinations in regional languages has jolted the candidates preparing for IAS, IFS, IPS exams, which are to commence in May 2013.
This sudden decision has rudely disappointed the candidates and drawn protests from opposition parties like BJP, SHIV SENA, DMK etc.
UPSC is an autonomous body established under the Constitution of India, to recruit from stenographers to the chief administrators for central government. Since 1968, the candidates have got the right to write the exams in their regional languages. But for the IAS, IFS, IPS candidates, this privilege has been granted from 1993.
What the new notification says?
For the IAS, IPS, IFS exams, candidates cannot write the examinations in their regional languages unless they have studied and secured the degree in such languages.
Earlier, irrespective of the medium of instructions for his degree, a candidate can take up the exams in his regional language. But this is not possible from 2013 exams.
Secondly, even if a candidate has secured his basic degree in a regional language, he cannot write the Civil services examinations, unless the number of such candidates is 25 and above.
Thirdly, one of the optional subjects was the literature in the regional language. For instance, a Tamil candidate who secured his engineering degree through English medium can opt for Tamil literature as an optional subject. But now it is not possible. Only the Tamil literature graduate can exercise such option.
Thus, when the application has to be submitted on 4thApril 2013 and the preliminary exams are to begin from May 2013, suddenly the UPSC notification has come into effect as a bolt from the blue, despite the fact that the Tamilian Mr. V. Narayanasami, Hon’ble Union Minister for state for ministry of personnel is in charge of UPSC.
In a year, over 5 ½ lac candidates (2010 data) appear for these examinations and only about 1000 candidates become successful. Thus the competition is extremely intense.
What other changes?
In 2011, the new pattern for Civil service preliminary exams (Civil Services Aptitude Test – CSAT) has been introduced.
This has two compulsory papers of 200 marks each.
All are objective type answers Paper – I – General awareness (2 hours) which includes various topics like current events of national and international importance, Indian and world geography, Indian national movement, Indian polity, constitution, panchayat raj, public policy, economic and social development, environment etc.
Paper – II – testing the logical reasoning skills, decision making skills, problem solving, communication skills, mental ability, comprehension, numerical aptitude (x standard level) data interpretation and a section to test the candidates ability to understand English (x standard level)
The English skill test is considered to be tough for students who studied in regional languages including Hindi.
In 2010, out of 980 candidates, 122 cleared the preliminary test in Tamilnadu. This was 68 out of 910 candidates in 2011. The main reason for fall in number of successful candidates was English test.
Yoginder Alagh Committee and others:
To improve the standard of exams, avoid rote learning and coaching classes, the above committee was set-up. In fact the first set of recommendations were made by Kothari Committee, based on the recommendation the objective type preliminary examination of one optional subject and general studies, a main examination that included a series of written papers and also a personality test were introduced. In 1989, based on the recommendation of Sathish Chandra Committe essay papers were re introduced and interview marks increased. This is in vogue till now. Yoginder Alg Committee made some suggestions which, interalia, included, selection of candidates with sharp intellect, objective analysis and excellent communication skills.
S. Nigavekar, Prof. Arun (Former UGC Chairman) Committee, submitted its report in August 2012, which emphasised on higher level of general knowledge and testing communication skills.
But it should be admitted that UPSC has been informing the public about the impending changes, objectives etc, for quiet sometime, though in bits and pieces.
Nobody bothered to know about those changes including top politicians till the notification was issued.
Earlier, paper I was an essay type question which can be answered in the regional language and secondly there was an English comprehension and English précis writing paper carrying a total of 600 marks for both. It was sufficient to pass this paper but marks would not be counted for ranking.
But now the change is essay writing carries 200 marks and English comprehension carries 100 marks. This will be taken into consideration for ranking.
Since English paper has become a subject for ranking even Mr.Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, has taken strong objection and written to the Prime Minister that their candidates, who studied in Hindi medium would not be able to score good marks and hence the status quo ante has to be restored.
Earlier, there were two general papers carrying 300 marks each and four optional papers carrying 300 marks each.
General papers require very high level of general knowledge. Out of Four optional subjects, one could be the regional literature. These four subjects were given complete focus by candidates to secure maximum marks (1200 marks) neglecting the general papers – (600 marks)
But now there are four general papers which include science and technology, bio-diversity, environment, Indian economy, ethics, integrity, social justice, international relations etc. Which are very important topics, each paper carrying 250 marks.
The sixth and seventh papers are optional subjects, viz the subjects in which they have specialised like commerce and accountancy, public administration, economics etc. The optional literature paper can be taken only by those who studied literature in graduation. These papers carry 250 marks each.
Personality test carries 275 marks and the total marks would be 2075.
Thus the weightage for optional paper has been reduced to 24% from 52% (500/2075) and the general studies weightage has gone up to 48% from 26% (1000/2075). This is quiet in order and would improve the standard of exams.
While these changes are well intentioned, the opposition is that the candidates can’t write the main exams in the regional language unless they have the degree in such language. Other objection points have already been highlighted,including compulsory English paper for ranking.
All the 22 regional languages have been brought under Eighth Schedule of the Constitution and are also brought under Official Languages Act, 1963 and the rules made thereunder.
Hence, these are actually national languages of India and are not to be branded as regional languages.
Secondly under Article 14 of the Constitution, there should be Equality Before Law, as fundamental right. Likewise, this is also a violation of Right to Expression under Article 19 of the Constitution.
Forcing people to write the exams only in English or in Hindi is against the Constitutional Rights. Candidates, thus cannot be forced to take up the competitive exams only in English or Hindi.
Hence, the right already granted to write the examination in regional language can’t be taken away.
A candidate may not be proficient in English initially but the intensive training he gets after clearing the main examination and interview will certainly make him proficient in English and even in Hindi.
This new notification is likely to be opposed by a spate of writ petitions by affected candidates.
Thus, it remains to be seen whether the preliminary exams will commence in May 2013 or a stay obtained and direction by the court to conduct the exams in 2013 as per the old system.
P.S: After writing this article, an announcement came from the Government of India that the new UPSC rules have been put on hold and the old system would be continued for the time being.
His comments as under are noteworthy. “By no means am I underestimating any regional language. But in the present-day scenario, global boundaries have disappeared and language has become the unit of currency. It is the light and sound of communication. We cannot close our windows to the winds of change and at the same time, we should not get swept off our feet.”
He regretted that “these days, if you ask students to express themselves in a concise manner – be it any language – most of them will fail. A civil servant’s job is becoming increasingly demanding and a prospective bureaucrat would now be introduced to a comparatively more challenging work environment and hence an examination pattern is suggested that tested the candidate’s ability to employ his knowledge at the operative level.”
Now is the cooling time. Let all stake holders sit together, discuss and finalise a new pattern of tests which will be in tune with the sweeping changes within the country and the world.