'English marks may deter IAS aspirants from small towns'

UPSC notification condemned by political parties and babus alike

Do English skills of bureaucrats impact their work? The UPSC notification giving more weight to English in the civil services examination and government’s decision to put the move on hold has triggered a furious debate.

IAS officers say emphasis on English is useful but it should not affect prospects of candidates from small towns and rural areas.

The civil services examination that selects candidates for the Indian Administrative Service, Indian Foreign Service, Indian Police Service among others is one of the most sought-after tests in the country with lakhs of students giving it a shot every year.

The changes in the examination format brought about by Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) through a notification on March 5 triggered a political storm in the Lok Sabha on Friday with parties, including BJP forcing the government to hold back the move. The UPSC had proposed that the English language paper of 100 marks in the civil services main examination would be added to a candidate’s overall score. Earlier, the candidates had to pass the English test but the marks were not added to the final tally.

Most of the civil servants said skills in English were useful in an All-India service. They said any effort to improve linguistic proficiency should be made without affecting the prospects of rural candidates.

A woman IAS officer of Himachal Pradesh cadre said skills in English were important for a civil servant to discharge his duties. “The qualifying examination in English can be made tougher. The pass marks can also be increased, from, say 35 per cent to 50 per cent, but marks of English paper should not be added to the total tally,” the officer said.

She said if English marks were added to the total tally, “some candidates can be seriously disadvantaged”.

An IAS officer:

The qualifying examination in English can be made tougher. The pass marks can also be increased but they should not be added to the total tally

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