Firm stand needed

It is now weeks since a section of Civil Services aspirants went on agitation, demanding some changes in the preliminary test pattern adopted three years ago.

The agitators initially focussed on what they contended to be a poor quality Hindi translation of the English version of Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) question paper that carries 50 per cent of the 400 marks allotted for the two papers to be taken in the preliminary qualifying test. 

This, according to them, put those taking the tests in Hindi language at a disadvantage.  They then escalated their case against the CSAT claiming that the entire paper, not just its English comprehension segment that carries 20 marks, is loaded against aspirants from rural India, asserting that the kind of objective questions put to the aspirants weighed heavily in favour of those who crack IIT and IIM entrance tests. So, scrapping the CSAT paper from the preliminary test became their next demand.

The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), the constitutional body in-charge of conducting the recruitment process for the country’s elite service, has rejected these claims outright. As such, the Narendra Modi government, which came under pressure from the agitators, does not have many options to address the perceived grievances of the agitators.

Yet, the government gave the agitators a false hope that their complaints would be addressed in a week’s time. In between, however, a government-appointed panel of three experts went into the grievances and came out with its conclusion that there was nothing wrong in the preliminary exam pattern.

Notwithstanding the panel’s conclusions, the government chose to make a concession to the agitators by offering that the 20-mark English comprehension segment of the CSAT would not be considered for preparing the qualification cut-off marks for the next round of test – the main exams. Emboldened, the agitators are not willing to settle for the concession. Having tasted some success and secured support of our populist politicians from all sides, they want more.

With the preliminary tests less that three weeks away, the continuation of the agitation will only create an atmosphere of confusion among lakhs of other aspirants who are preparing for the tests. While the merits or otherwise of the  agitators’ grievances may be considered,  now is not the time for settling the issue as the preliminary tests are fast approaching. The Modi government must put its foot down and convey this message to the agitators. 

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