I am afraid Kankipati Rajesh, IAS has got his arguments about the changes the Union Public Service Commission proposes to make in the civil services wrong.
He speaks of the right of equality, but where was the equality when Mains allowed two optionals, written in multiple languages, not to mention about 18 language literatures as optionals? Where was the yardstick to evaluate Expression when candidates like doctors, engineers etc. who until then, never had any interest in literatures, suddenly opt for them and learn (read: mug-up) the syllabus in 2-3 months with guidance (read: coaching classes) and fetch insanely high marks and get through the exam. The Literatures optional was turned into a fraud on the system; where the evaluators of literature papers tend to award high marks as the
candidates would belong to their state. This could be the reason why, as the author himself says, ‘90 per cent of the candidates clearing the exam qualify with a language as an optional subject, and write the exam in a regional language’ and that this is true for many States.
Coming to the point of not allowing candidates to write Mains in regional languages, the author mentions that many students shift to English medium for their college education, but are not very proficient in English. Now why would students shift to English medium? It’s because they believe that English is inevitable in their future careers and without English, their prospects would be grim. Why should the same thinking not be applied when applying for government jobs? Is public service fair game to be filled with those who are not good at English? These are the people who would make policies, become bureaucrats and represent India’s interests. Though English is not the indicator for a good administrator, this nation deserves people who are comfortable with English and who do not shy away from it. Sixty years of visceral bias against English in government service has produced a large number of highly placed officials who struggle to clearly articulate in English what then intend to convey, as we see on television these days.
Kankipati Rajesh writes that ‘During the training of IAS officers at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie, 40 per cent of the time spent in Phase-I of the programme is for the language of the State where the officer will serve.’ When 40 per cent of training time is spent learning the regional language -- and the trainee officers are fine with it -- is it excessive to ask candidates to write the exam in the medium in which they did their graduation? The reason they do not complain about spending 40 per cent of time learning the local language is that they are already selected and they don’t really care what they are asked to learn. The fight is all about getting through the exam, when, all of a sudden, they fall in love with Literatures and their mother tongues. Strange, isn’t it?
When there are loud calls for the UPSC to make the exam more common and make it an equalizer for all the aspirants, these reforms were a step in the right direction. There is some merit in asking ‘when Hindi is allowed as a language medium for the UPSC mains examination unconditionally, why not other languages like Tamil, Telugu, Gujarati?’ The UPSC should think about only this one point and make some changes to address the concerns here. All other changes are in the right spirit and should not be reversed.
Aditya Deekonda is a civil service aspirant from Hyderabad