Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Incivilities of the Civil Services Exam

The craze for government jobs may have receded after the opening up of our economy; but Indian Civil Services remain an exception. The popularity of civil services can be gauged by the fact that approximately 4 lakh candidates take the exam each year to get into these esteemed services willing to let go of other lucrative career options.

The civil services form the backbone of our administrative system. The power and prestige associated with these services attract candidates of all ilks. They are ready to sacrifice several years of their youth to prepare for the exam as only a few clear it in their first attempt.

However, the sad part is that Union Public Service Commission, the premiere organization that conducts Civil Services Exams is not as transparent in its proceedings as it should be. This has led to mindboggling number of rumours that can leave candidates perplexed. To its credit, the UPSC does have a website of its own where it attempts to answer questions in the FAQ section answering some, but not all the questions of the candidates. Frequent rallies and demonstrations are carried out by disgruntled candidates who seek transparency from the institution. The civil servants are expected to be honest and open in their functioning. So is it unjustified to expect a certain level of openness in their selection procedure?

Lack of transparency mars the credibility of any organization. Even the credibility of the most respected institution of the country, the Supreme Court, was doubted when the CJI refused to divulge the details relating to assets held by the judges of the court. Lot many times the results of the Civil Services Exam seem to be erratic. One can understand the erratic nature in the main examination which is written and therefore subjectivity is bound to creep in. A candidate who scores astonishingly well in his first attempt may end up scoring equally low in subsequent attempts, though having greater understanding of the subjects. However, this is not the issue I would like to go into. Preliminary examination is wholly objective in nature. When candidates feel that they have not cleared it despite performing well, it creates dissatisfaction amongst them. They may of course be wrong in their assessment. Many end up casting aspersions on the UPSC to hide their failure. This would continue until the institution continues to wear its cloak of secrecy.

My only request to the UPSC is to make the scoring procedure more transparent. Also, disclosing the marks of preliminary examination should be made mandatory. This would help candidates understand their individual standing vis-a-vis other candidates. It would help them know exactly where they faltered. Further, it would be beneficial if UPSC brings out its own set of guidelines for the aspirants of Civil Services about the general expectations of the examiners from the examinees, especially for the written exams. A large number of websites and coaching institutions that have mushroomed all across the country have different suggestions for the aspirants who end up getting more confused than ever. When conducting an exam of this scale, the UPSC needs to recognize its responsibility of acting as a guide to candidates especially for those who do not have access to expensive coaching institutes. CBSE has its own helpline to deal with queries from students. Major newspapers have dedicated columns before the exams to deal with questions from students. Considering the fact that it selects our bureaucrats and diplomats, can UPSC not have a similar set-up?

I am in no way doubting the credibility of the esteemed institution. I only wish it to be more transparent. This would leave little space for rumors to spread. Currently, people do not miss an opportunity to blame the UPSC when they fail. This is given further credence by the dark veil worn by the institution. The most important thing in a democracy is that justice should not only be done but should manifestly seem to be done. The government of India realized this and therefore the RTI Act was passed in 2005 to increase the faith of people in the government. It is time that UPSC also opens up its proceedings so that the candidates can have faith in the institution. After all, we are not China!

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