Recently, the Union Public Services Commission (UPSC) released the results of candidates who successfully cleared the Civil Services Exams (CSE) 2021. Around 685 candidates qualified for various services including the IAS, the IPS and the IFS. Almost all media outlets carried news stories about the toppers’ background and their success stories, leading to glorifying the exam and toppers.
Can this glorification be justified? This question might give readers the impression that I am against the CSE. Not at all. I had started a Civil Services Club in a college I worked in and have also helped others start such clubs in their institutions. What I am against is the glorification of UPSC exams and the toppers, as it perpetuates certain myths and has a negative impact on society in general and young minds in particular.
Certain reports and articles in various newspapers and magazines perpetuate the myth that only exceptionally intelligent people can crack the CSE, which is not true. Not all those who cracked the exam are extremely intelligent. Many have failed to clear the exams for more reasons than one. Exceptional intelligence and success in the CSE are not correlated. In other words, not all bureaucrats are exceptionally intelligent people.
Another myth is that bureaucratic jobs are the best career option for dynamic youngsters. On the contrary, in the 21st century, there are numerous career options for youngsters with adequate knowledge and skills in different fields.
The third myth being propagated by coaching academies is that only those trained by them can crack the exams. Again, many successful candidates prepare on their own and do not approach any academy for coaching.
The glorification of CSE toppers has had a negative impact on society. Many youngsters, lured by media reports and advertisements given by coaching academies, shell out a lot of money to prepare. Recently, one candidate’s viral tweet said: 10 years of hard work ended in ashes. 6 UPSC attempts over. 3 times prelims failed. 2 times mains failed. In my last attempt, yesterday I succumbed due to low score in interview. Missed by 11 marks. #upscresult “And still I rise.”
Yet, some parents and even teachers think that the Civil Services are the best career option and push youngsters into attempting it. A couple of years ago, a friend asked his 15-year-old nephew, “What do you want to become when you grow up?” The answer was ““I want to become an IAS officer. I want to serve the country.”
However, in the recent past, there have been reports about the nexus between corrupt politicians and bureaucrats and also instances of the latter misusing power for personal gains. We need to look at the Indian bureaucracy critically. Those who glorify the CSE are doing a great disservice to the nation. It is time people asked: What is the contribution of the CSE toppers to the nation in the past two decades? As American radio talk show host Dennis Prager once said, “More harm was done in the 20th century by faceless bureaucrats than tyrant dictators.”
The views expressed in this article are personal.
The writer is an ELT resource person and education columnist. email@example.com