Putting hurdles

With the change in Civil Services Examination rules, getting success in this exam is becoming a distant dream for rural youth.

After changing the rules of Civil Services (preliminary) Examinations in 2011, the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) has now changed the rules for the main examination too. Aspirants who have been preparing for this examination for years are highly perturbed. Aspirants are not only giving memorandums to the government, demonstrations are also going on at various places. Aspirants are demanding increase in number of attempts and relaxation of age limit, as new changes require them to make preparations afresh. Amidst these demands, the human resources development minister’s statement that there is no proposal for increasing the number of attempts or raising the age limits, has increased the worries of the aspirants and they are grossly nervous. 

However, the issue is much more deep rooted. Fact of the matter is that changes being mooted are directed against aspirants from rural background and aspirants from rural background will be at great disadvantage. According to the statistics published by Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy, which imparts training to top rankers of Civil Services Examination before the Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination rules 2011 were made applicable, between 2009 and 2011, 63 per cent to 67 per cent top rankers used to be from rural background. In 2012, after the new rules were made applicable, this number has come down to only 27 percent. Among male candidates it is 31 per cent and for females, it is a mere 16 per cent. Changes introduced and being introduced are not only directed against candidates with Hindi and other vernacular languages medium, they are also against students who have not studied mathematics and science.

Economic policies initiated since 1991 have been so biased in favour of corporates, mainly concentrated in the urban areas that rural incomes have continuously been coming down. The share of agriculture in GDP -- the main occupation in rural areas -- which was 38 per cent in 1980-81, has now come down to merely 13.7 per cent. Villages lack in facilities like education, health, sanitation, transport, drinking water etc. Despites all these deprivations, children and youth from rural areas have been working hard to achieve heights in education and other fields.

If we talk of civil services, students with rural background used to be at par with their urban counterparts. Given the fact that the share of urban population in India is 31 per cent and the share of successful candidates with urban background in civil services was also around 32 per cent to 35 per cent. However, with the change in Civil Services Examination rules, getting success in this examination is becoming a distant dream for rural youth. With the introduction of new Civil Services Aptitude Paper in 2011 in preliminary examination, a candidate has to pass a test comprising mainly of mathematics, reasoning and civil services aptitude. Justifying the new rules, UPSC’s argument is that due to changing expectation from the civil servants in the country these changes were called for.  

Widespread criticismFor this reason, testing of required aptitude becomes imperative. After changing the rules for preliminary examination, now even rules of main examination have been changed. For a long time, the exercise for change in syllabus of main examination was going on, which were under severe criticism. Main objection to the rules proposed therein was that test of English language was not only being made compulsory, marks obtained in this test were also supposed to be included in the result for making merit list. But due to widespread criticism of these proposals, the government had to do away with compulsory English language paper; however other changes were adopted almost ditto.

According to new rules, Civil Services (Main) Examination will comprise of seven papers, out of which four papers would be of general studies, two of the optional subject and one of essay. All seven papers would carry 250 marks each, totaling 1,750 marks for the main examination. It may be noted that in the previous syllabus, main examination comprised of only two papers in general studies. But there are four general studies papers now --the Indian Heritage and Culture along with the History and Geography of the World and Society, second is,  Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations, the third paper is, Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management and the fourth paper is named Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude. In place of two options, with two papers each, now there will be only one optional subject, with two papers.

Main argument of the government is that since there is no fundamental change in the main examination, in terms of maximum marks and the quantum of course, there is no justification for increasing the number of attempts and raising the age limit. But the basic issue is not that simple about giving or not giving these reliefs to the aspirants. Issue is much larger and serious. The proposed scheme of examination and the new curriculum is so designed that it is not suited for candidates with rural backgrounds. Subjects such as ethics are generally not taught in rural schools and colleges. With the introduction of such subjects, rural background students will fall behind their urban counterparts. Detailed analysis of the curriculum shows that the type of information required from candidates necessitates their access to the computer and the Internet, which are generally lacking in the village infrastructure. 

Apart from this, rural students would also fall behind in terms of references and reports of the government and international agencies, which are required to be given as references for the case studies so included in the syllabus; as it would not only require access to internet, but also urban infrastructure. One can say that the proposed scheme of examination and curricula would widen rural-urban divide further and the hopes of the rural aspirants would get a big setback and government's claims of inclusive growth would also be negated in the process. 

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