Even as the March 5 notification of the UPSC Civil Services Main
examination is put on hold due to pressure lobby within the
Parliament, the latest revision of the pattern of examination
leaves ample scope of discussion and debate among the
intelligentsia in the country.
The new pattern of the UPSC Civil Services examination was first
introduced in 2011 with the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) in
the preliminary examination. Now in 2013, anew pattern is
introduced in the Main examination that has triggered a heated
debate in the country particularly from the regional satraps.
First debate is on the language controversy that revolves around
Hindi verses other linguistic groups in India. The second on is on
rural urban divide being promoted by the UPSC through its new
pattern of the Civil Services examination.
The voices from non Hindi linguistic group have become shriek,
calling the coveted examination favoring the Hindi medium
candidates while discriminating the aspirants from the regional
There is equally a sharp criticism about the new pattern of
examination alleging that it tries to create an unhealthy and
unequal competition among rural and urban candidates.
UPSC, in 2011 had introduced the CSAT pattern in the Prelim
examination involving reasoning and mental ability test requiring
speed and accuracy.
The questions were printed in Hindi and English and were seen as
advantageous to Hindi medium students because they can grasp the
question reading in their mother tongue and answer them faster
than the other linguistic group who can only follow through
In 2013 with its March 5 notification, UPSC has done a pattern
change for the Main examination, doing away with language paper of
qualifying nature, besides brining in few other changes.
Earlier, students had to qualify in English and regional language
paper in the main examination whose marks were not counted but
passing them was mandatory.
As per the new pattern, the candidates will no longer have to
qualify in regional language paper, but this is seen as giving
advantage to urban youth educated in English medium. According to
reports, , even after qualifying the Prelims, 5-9 per cent
candidates flunk in regional language paper while writing the
Further changes UPSC has brought in the Main examination 2013 is
that if a candidate has done his education through a regional
language medium at the degree level is only eligible to write the
Mains examination in that language. A minimum of 25 candidates is
required to write the Main exam in a given regional language.
In addition, according to new Civil Services pattern, a candidate
cannot choose a regional language as ‘Optional Paper,’ unless
having a graduation degree in a particular regional language or
have studied it as an optional subject.
The new UPSC norms have created a furor among the linguistic
groups in India. Agitations have already begun in Maharashtra,
Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.
The arguments against the new UPSC pattern is, many candidates may
be deprived of writing the exams in a regional language even being
more comfortable in that language because they have not done their
studies through the regional language medium.
The UPSC mandatory a quota of 25 candidates writing the Mains exam
in a regional language is also being flayed. It’s argued that the
necessary numbers may not be obtained, in that case depriving the
students who aspire to write the exam in regional language.
Similarly, baring choosing language as ‘optional paper’ may
deprive many candidates who may like to opt for it even though
they may not have studied that language at the graduation level.
The language issue is a sensitive matter and there are differences
of opinion. Before going further, one has to understand the
outlook of the central government services like UPSC Civil
Services examination where two languages formula works, one Hindi,
the national language, and English the link language.
Civil Services being a central government services with an all
India character, it would be really difficult for the UPSC to
cater to the demands in 22 regional languages mentioned in the 8th
Schedule of the Indian constitution.
So when it comes to provide a level playing field for all
languages in the country, it is true that the Hindi medium
candidates have definite advantage in writing the UPSC Civil
So the option before the UPSC is to print question papers in all
the 22 regional languages and allow it to be answered in the 22
Setting it aside on the grounds of being unwieldy may not solve
the problem of regional aspirants and therefore maybe be
considered as an option to create a level playing field.
Now coming to the scrapping of the regional language in the Civil
Services Main examination, is UPSC discriminatory?
This is not necessarily so, because the regional language paper
was only of qualifying nature and its marks were never counted in
the main examination.
In any case a candidate after qualifying the civil services is
posted in different sate carder and has to clear the exam in the
state language carder. So doing away with language paper have
neither made positive nor negative impact on the Civil Service
The other big objection is on UPSC’s restrictions on writing the
Main exam in regional language and on choosing language as an
The allegation is that UPSC through its new pattern of examination
has opened the slush gate to urban aspirants who have studied in
Hindi or English medium. It’s argued that such norm has come as a
“big blow” to rural aspirants opting to write the exam in regional
languages and this will certainly tell on the number of in takes
from rural background.
Keeping emotions apart, the new pattern of the civil services exam
is not discriminating the regional language candidates. They are
allowed to write the exam in regional language provided they have
studied in that language medium.
However, the quota of 25 could be convenient for administrative
reason, but its bit too harsh for the regional language candidates
and can be considered by the UPSC for revision.
With regard to taking regional language paper as the ‘optional
paper’, UPSC has done right thing in restricting it to only those
students who have studied the language paper in their
undergraduate level. It was found that many candidates with
science and other professional degrees were taking a regional
language as an optional paper and qualifying the UPSC Civil
At the same time UPSC has tried to create a level playing field
between rural and urban divide increasing the weightage of the
general studies paper. This move has to be seen more realistically
to bridge the gap between social sciences students and other
streams, with former representing the rural and later the urban
The subject specialist mostly in commerce, pure sciences and
technical stream may now find it difficult to cope up the 4 papers
of general studies, while the students with social sciences and
humanities may have an advantage. This may help the candidates
from the rural background who may have been bereft with technical
degrees due to their socio- economic background.
The UPSC has done a right thing by retaining English as a paper in
the mains examination and its marks being counted because the
proficiency in the link language is essential in all such all
India services. At the same time it has done no harm to regional
aspirants by scrapping the language paper of qualifying nature,
even though some urban aspirants may find this to be advantageous.
In the end, it could be recommended that the UPSC may consider
printing the question papers in all the 22 languages. It may also
allow a candidate to write the main examination in the language of
his/ her choice. The quota of 25 should be withdrawn and allow the
personality test to be held in the preferred language of the
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be
contacted at email@example.com