The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust lakhs of civil service aspirants across the country in the lurch and silence on part of the authorities concerned, they complained. They alleged that they are struggling to cope with lack of study material, coaching facilities and general anxiety in the run-up to arguably the most important examination of their lives.
Among those who had travelled to their respective hometowns for a break or to spend Holi with family are those who await word on postponed interviews — uncertainty about whether or when they will be allowed to travel to the Capital. There are others who were to appear for their preliminary examinations scheduled on May 31 and are stranded without study material.
Left job to study
Gourav Sharma, an IIT Bombay alumnus who worked as the Chief Data Scientist at the Mumbai airport, left his job to study for his Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) preliminaries in October last. The 28-year-old Aerospace Engineering graduate then moved to Old Rajinder Nagar in Delhi and was in the midst of his preparations for his second attempt when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out.
“There are major issues that are not conducive to preparation. A major part of the day goes into chores; coaching was shut several weeks ago and the mental, as well as economic stress, are problems in themselves. One of my friends who is a fellow aspirant is stuck in Udaipur, another is stuck in Bhopal. All we are asking for is clarity,” Mr. Sharma, who initiated an online petition seeking the postponement of these exams on change.org, said. “We, the aspirants, support our government and its efforts in tackling this pandemic. However, adequate attention must be paid to our issues as well,” his petition stated.
“UPSC prelims require dedicated preparation of 3-4 months and looming uncertainty over extension of lockdown is hampering our preparation...Anxiety and stress are preventing us from performing at our best,” the petition, addressed to the UPSC, Department of Personnel and Training, Union Minister Jitendra Singh and Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, stated.
Other aspirants like Mr. Sharma, complained they were facing similar problems. “I went back to my hometown in Kerala before the flight operations stopped. Back in Delhi, I was going to the institute and was on track. Now I have lost it and I’m trying to get back on track,” said Pranoy Maxwell, 27, who is studying at a coaching institute in the city said. “There is a lot of uncertainty right now. My exam centre is in Gurugram and I don’t know whether I will be quarantined if I come back to Delhi. The exam should be postponed,” he said.
Swati Singh, 25, who lives in west Delhi, had passed her 2019 UPSC preliminary examination and was waiting for her interview on April 3, when the lockdown happened. “Now my interview has been postponed, which would take place only after May 3. I have registered for the prelims, which is to be held on May 31, but right now we are not able to give mock tests and then meet our teachers for feedback like we used to do and it is affecting our preparation. The exam should be postponed,” she said.
Gopika Gopinathan Pillai, who is studying at a coaching centre in the city said that her preparation has been affected because of the lockdown. “There is no clarity at this point on whether the exam will be postponed or not that increases the pressure on us. Also, how much can a person study when she is locked inside a room for the whole day? My studies have been affected by about 60% since the lockdown,” she said.
In a statement issued after a special meeting of the Commission on April 15, the UPSC said dates for all interviews, exams and recruitment boards where candidates and advisers are required to travel from all parts of the country “will be reviewed from time to time.”
“...A decision on fresh dates for the remaining Civil Services-2019 Personality Tests will be taken after May 3, following the second phase of the lockdown will be notified on the website of the UPSC,” it stated.