The scene is not new. Few years ago, there used to be a big tent in front of the UPSC on Shah Jahan Road in New Delhi. The big tent, which somehow got a quasi-permanent structure over a period of time, used to house the protestors those were protesting for Making Hindi a compulsory language of instructions in various UPSC examinations.
Inside the tent, protestors were busy in sitting on ‘Dharnas’, sleeping, discussing, planning, gossiping, having tea and even using it as a makeshift arrangement for short stays in Delhi, for the students, student leaders, IAS aspirants, and the small time netas from Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh.
The tent is not there anymore, but the protest has been revived! Just a month before the IAS Preliminary examination, to be held.
The Bone of Contention
Based on recommendations of the UPA Government appointed, Prof. S K Khanna committee, Union Public Service Commission of India (UPSC) has revised the Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination syllabus to introduce a Civil Services Aptitude Test in 2011.
Paper I of CSAT contains General Studies.
Paper II comprises of the questions on Comprehension, Logical Reasoning, Inter-Personal Skills, Analytical Ability, plus Basic Numeracy, Decision-Making and Problem Solving.
It includes, General Mental Ability and English Language Comprehension Skills (up to Class X level).
Precisely, out of these 80 questions in Paper-II, only 8-9 questions are related to English Comprehension.
Some IAS aspirants, predominantly from the Hindi speaking areas of Bihar and UP are demanding scrapping of CSAT-II arguing that it is biased against Hindi (and vernacular medium) students, also the students coming from rural background.
Politicians from Hindi-speaking States, specially from Bihar and UP, are vehemently backing the students’ demand and have raised the issue vociferously in the Parliament.
But the moot question is, this particular pattern is in vogue since 2011. So, why such a big protest has been raised at just a month before the examination, when the aspirants should have concentrated more on their studies!
Long Drawn Out
On 10 March, 2010, Minister of State for Personnel Prithvi Raj Chauhan informed the Lok Sabha that Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh had approved the proposal for introduction of CSAT replacing the existing Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination. CSAT was scheduled to come into effect from 2011.
As the pattern revealed: In the new pattern, the Preliminary Examination would be two objective type question papers common for all the candidates. Both these papers would have equal weightage. The stress would be on testing the aptitude of the candidates for the demanding life in civil service, as well as, on the ethical and moral dimensions of decision making.
UPSC argued that it would provide a level playing field for all the aspirants, as every candidate will have to attempt two objective-type papers, which would be common for all.
After long deliberation with various UPSC members and the relevant Ministry, UPSC Chairman, Prof. D.P. Agrawal had formed the high powered Committee under Prof. S.K. Khanna, the former Vice Chairman, University Grants Commission (UGC), to work on the IAS Prelim syllabus for the two papers.
The committee was expected to submit its report by the end of April, 2010, which it did accordingly. UPSC then vetted it and declared the syllabi of two objective-type papers of CSAT.
Civil Service Aptitude Test (CSAT) was first suggested by Dr. Y.K. Alagh in his Civil Services Review Committee Report, back in 2001.
Dr. Alagh recommended vital changes in the structure of the Public Service examination system. He suggested tests for a common subject in place of optional subjects. Alagh Committee Report prescribed the arrangement of CSAT in the the following way:
(1) Basic Awareness (Nation and the World)
The general awareness of Current Affairs having a bearing on public life in India.
(2) Problem solving and analytical skills
Logical Reasoning and Decision Making Skills (Situations from Civil Service arena be taken to test reasoning and understanding of problems related to the same).
(3) Elementary Arithmetic
- Data Analysis ability
- Data Interpretation / Graphics / Charts etc.
- Quantitative Analysis
The Alagh Committee suggestions helped to a large extent in constituting the S.K. Khanna Committee report.
The change made effective only for the first stage of the Civil Services Examination. The nature and pattern of the second and third stages, viz. Civil Services Main Examination and Interview remained the same.
What the mass scale protesters are overlooking that, in a continuous improvement process the Committees and Commissions formed by UPSC and the Government have emphasised on the Aptitude of the Candidates than their Knowledge of the subject.
The specialised bodies and experts have emphasised that specialisation and knowledge in any particular subject, alone is not the ultimate for an ideal Civil Servant.
They have argued that the recruitment process, apart from being objective, fair transparent and equitable, should also safeguard that the right candidates get selected for Civil Services by giving new orientation and perspective to the bureaucracy in a changing milieu.
One wonders, if the protesters are saying that they are fighting not only for Hindi, but also for all vernacular languages, why there are no protesters from say Kerala, Maharashtra, Odisha, Gujarat or West Bengal!
In the Parliament three Yadavs, Sharad Yadav from JD(U), Mulayam Singh Yadav from Samajwadi Party and Pappu Yadav from RJD, along with some other SP, JD(U) and BSP Parliamentarians expressed deep concern about the ‘conspiracy’ against the Hindi speaking IAS aspirants!
The Lok Janshakti Party Chief Ram Vilas Paswan, the Union minister and an ally of NDA, said that he and his party was always favouring Hindi’s supremacy over languages like English.
The picture got clear when the members of the Bihar Assembly cutting across the party lines, urged the Central Government to concede the ‘maangs’ (demands) of Bihari students holding dharna in Delhi.
Ruling party member Neeraj Kumar told in the Assembly that the new CSAT syllabus of the UPSC has jeopardized the future of Bihari students. He also informed that over 1000 Bihari students under the banner of ‘Rashtriya Adhikar Manch’ have been sitting on Dharna in New Delhi.
BJP member Harendra Prasad Pandey and CPI’s Kedar Nath Pandey urged the Bihar State Government to intervene and convince the Centre to withdraw UPSC’s CSAT to ‘end discrimination’ against Bihari students.
Mulayam or Lalu Yadav and Sharad Yadav reportedly inspired by the Socialist ideas of Ram Manohar Lohia, whose anti-English movement is a part of India’s politico-lingual history.
All these Yadavs mentioned are from the Hindi Speaking belt and never tried to learn any other language, forget about English.
Mulayam Singh Yadav’s anti-English tirade is well known. He almost tried to banish English from the schools of Uttar Pradesh. The irony is that his son Akhilesh went to study in Bangalore and ultimately Australia. But the good news is that Akhilesh Yadav, despite studying in Australia, expresses almost nothing in English.
When Mulayam Yadav became the Union Defence Minister in 1996, the officers in the Defence Ministry was largely burdened with the duty of translating, crucial Defence files and documents into Hindi, for Mantriji… as English was a foreign language to him!
There is an interesting episode. While Mulayam Yadav was the Chief Minister of UP, the State adopted ‘Hindi Only’ policy, an in an inter State communication, it sent a letter to the Kerala Government in Hindi.
The Kerala Government, headed by E.K. Nayanar, duly sent a reply, but in Malayalam!
They are Comfortable only in Hindi, but expect others from different lingual zones to learn and express in Hindi too!
The RSS’s preference of Hindi has encouraged most of the BJP Politicians from the cow belt to converse only in Hindi. Look at the instances of Rajnath Singh or Sushma Swaraj. As if they represent just the Hindi Speaking India!
There was a recent Home Ministry circular for stepping up the use of Hindi in Central Government communication, which was later denied after loud protests from the Southern States.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi started using Hindi in his initial foreign trips. But switched over to English in Brazil.
Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee delivered his historic Hindi speech in the UNO, but while meeting the US and European Heads of the States, he just switched over to English!
In the early 80s, while speaking in a meeting in Bangalore, his Hindi speech was instantly translated into Kannada. While he mentioned the word line …Congress needs Shock Treatment’, the translator ended it with ‘Chikitse’. Vajpayee stopped and asked the audience, was that the appropriate word? The people answered in negative and told Vajpayee the actual word. How many leaders from Hindi belt have that perseverance!
In fact, many IAS and other Civil Service aspirants from South India has complained that they are at a disadvantage in competitive exams compared with those from Hindi-speaking areas, because, with growing emphasis on Hindi in various competitive exams and government jobs, more people from the Hindi heartland get into All India Government jobs these days, as compared to South Indians or Bengalis, who once dominated the Civil Services.
Questions Not Answered
The new syllabus is in vogue for a few years now. Even any aspirant would’ve known it, at least, for 15 months. If they had realised the paper was biased to them, why they had not protested earlier! After all the new Syllabus was prescribed and approved by the UPA Government.
Why just UPSC! Why they don’t protest against SSC, Bank PO and other All India exams, which have more English usage and obviously harder than CSAT. CSAT has just 6-8 questions in English only pattern, out of 80, that also upto Class X Standard.
OK, let us think for a while that this protest it not only for Hindi but for all the Indian languages. M S Gill, the Congress MP himself has expressed surprise that India has 22 recognised languages and is it possible to change the pattern including all these languages, for the sake of just 22 Marks out of 200! His party which got the new UPSC syllabus into circulation in 2011, hurriedly termed it as the Member’s personal comment!
If one is not able to understand just 6-8 questions that haven’t been translated into Hindi, and that also of 8-10th standard, how should one aspire to be an All India Service official, who has to deal with scores of circulars, rules, interstate documents, communication, and rulling of various courts, deal with national and multinational corporates, NGOs, the Social Media…on a day to day basis!
It’s the most important exam for All India postings, also for the Foreign Service and the CSAT requires only a basic knowledge of English. What are the only-capable-in-Hindi candidates going to do when they are posted outside the Hindi belt or in a foreign country?
The Test is scheduled for August 24. Last year it was held in May. The exam is already late by more than three months, due to long Election Schedule and new Government formation. Why only a few students from the Hindi belt suddenly started protesting, instead of concentrating on their studies, for the crucial exam they have applied for!
Are these aspirants over confident that their Political Masters will stall the Exam Schedule further or postponed it, while the Final Exam for Civil Service is scheduled in December!
The three-member Aravind Varma committee is a Court decided body. Can the Government ask it to submit its report in a jiffy? And that also in favour of a particular section of the aspirants!
All these questions remain unanswered.
Also it’s a fact that in the Social Media and on Ministry’s Facebook Account, more and more aspirants from all over India are expressing their strong objection, reservation and suspicion over the politically inspired spurt of protests by some groups, just a month before the crucial Test.
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