Asserting that the nearly 15 months long recruitment process wastes candidates' prime years besides taking a heavy toll on their physical and mental health, a Parliamentary Committee has asked the UPSC to reduce the civil services examination's selection cycle.
In its latest report, the panel also asked the Union Public Service Commission to examine the reasons for the low turnout of candidates in the civil services examination.
The examination is conducted annually by the UPSC in three stages — preliminary, main, and interview — to select officers of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS) and Indian Police Service (IPS) among others.
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The Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice said according to the data provided by the UPSC, the average time taken for civil services examination from the date of issue of notification to the date of declaration of the final result is nearly 15 months.
"The Committee is of the opinion that the duration of any recruitment examination should not ordinarily exceed six months as long and protracted recruitment cycles waste prime years of a candidates’ life besides taking a heavy toll on their physical and mental health. The Committee, accordingly, recommends that UPSC should take steps to reduce the duration of the recruitment cycle significantly without compromising the quality," the report said.
On the low turnout, it said out of approximately, 32.39 lakh candidates who had applied for examinations conducted by UPSC in 2022-23, only 16.82 lakh candidates, (51.95%) actually appeared for examinations.
For instance, 11.35 lakh candidates applied for the civil services examination in 2022 but only 5.73 lakh candidates (50.51%) actually appeared for the examination.
The Committee recommended UPSC furnish the details of examination fees collected from the candidates during the last five years.
"The Commission may also provide the details of expenditure incurred by it on the conduct of the examinations for the same period. The Committee also recommends UPSC to examine the reasons for low turnout of candidates and share the findings thereof with the Committee," the report said.
The panel has recommended forming an expert committee to assess if the present scheme of recruitment through civil services examination provides an equal opportunity to both English-medium-educated urban candidates and non-English medium-educated rural candidates.
While UPSC has changed the pattern of civil services examination from time to time on the basis of recommendations made by various expert committees, no study has been commissioned to assess how such changes impacted the aspirants, nature of recruitment and administration at large, it said.
The panel said an expert group or committee should be appointed to assess the impact of changes made in the scheme, pattern and syllabus of civil services examination in the last ten years on the quality of recruitment and administration at large.
"The expert group so constituted may assess if the present scheme of recruitment provides an equal opportunity to both english-medium educated urban candidates and non english medium educated rural candidates," said the report tabled in Parliament recently.
This group may also assess whether the existing pattern of preliminary and mains examination provides a level playing field for all candidates irrespective of their academic background, it said.
The Committee is of the considered opinion that the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) and UPSC should consider making further changes in the scheme and syllabus of civil services examination in the light of the findings of the impact assessment study, the report said.
The panel was also apprised that the UPSC releases the answer key of the preliminary test of the civil services examination only after the completion of the entire process of the said examination.
In other words, the Commission is depriving the candidates of an opportunity to contest the answer key before progressing to the next stage of the examination, the report said.
"This practice not only demoralises the candidates but also compromises the validity and fairness of the examination process. Although recruiting agencies exercise utmost caution to ensure that the answer key is foolproof, the possibility of errors cannot be ruled out.
"The Committee, therefore, recommends that UPSC may take steps to publish the answer key right after the preliminary stage of the civil services examination and allow candidates to raise objections," it said.
The Committee said UPSC may also collect feedback from the candidates and effect improvements in the examination system from time to time to ensure more transparency, fairness and candidate friendliness.