Thursday, August 11, 2016

UPSC exam - a mirror to the Nation

Recently, the preliminary stage of renowned civil services exam of Union Public Services Commission was held across India. Lacs of young women and men, desirous of getting into the topmost services like IAS and others, participated enthusiastically. These youngsters, full of passion and hopes, have a heartfelt desire to contribute positively to a transformation of the nation.The number of aspirants is growing by the year, and it is interesting to observe that in an era of rapid privatisation of economy, the longing for government jobs is growing! I analyse this exam each year, and try to decipher and learn/explain the trends behind the questions.

UPSC, IAS exams, Civil Services, Narendra Modi, transparency, UDAY scheme, Aadhar card, PT's IAS Academy, PT education, Sandeep ManudhaneWe will now focus on a special aspect of this, which is the fact that the flavour of questions included this year in the examination clearly reflected the changing parameters of administrative services in the country. The manner in which the present government, in keeping with a changing world, is trying to inculcate a completely new paradigm, was visible through the questions. A sincere student, and every citizen for that matter, should try to understand this.

Five aspects related to this become clear.

First : Environment and ecology has not only become a sensitive issue, to keep pace with the various global treaties and institutions has become essential for India. A nation that would always listen to other, proposed the creation of an "International Solar Alliance" headquartered in India, and this was quite stunning for not only the common people, but also world powers. The manner in which India, bound by various complex treaties and conventions of the United Nations, is having to modify its laws, is interesting to watch. Many questions reflected the complex nature of the environmental issues confronting the Western Ghats in India.

Second : The government is connecting administration with technology to enable faster processes, and this has become a ground reality now. The multiple elements of Digital India are not just showcased in reports, they are entering our lives. An example is "Digilocker". Who could have imagined just 10 years ago that school certificates of students would be stored in authenticated digital lockers which they'd be able to use anytime, anywhere? The manner in which neem-coated Urea (fertilizer) will reduce corruption and increase productivity, is interesting to watch. Core-banking is now an established technique, and students were reminded of Payment Banks also. It is clear that the government wants future civil servants to not only be sensitive towards grassroot realities, but also have the courage to accept technology to deliver quick governance processes.

Third : The Modi government, on one hand gave a huge platform to Aadhar authentication services, and at the same time launched a list of Schemes (Yojanas) with the potential to transform India's administrative and current framework. Questions were asked pertaining to many schemes, indicating the UPSC's desire to select students aware of them. Examples include the "UDAY" scheme for power distribution companies, "SWAYAM" scheme for large scale online courses, Stand-up India scheme for the backward classes and women, crop insurance scheme for farmers, Rashtriya Garima scheme for Dalit-dignity, etc. That India's administrative discourse will revolve around these schemes in the coming future, is certain.

Fourth : It was clear that global developments are leaving their sure marks on India, and we have no choice but to engage with them. How the "Project Loon" of Google could deliver 4G-internet through balloons was visible, how China's renminbi made it to the IMF's SDR, what are the controversial subsidy 'boxes' of WTO, how does the European stability mechanism work; what's the relationship between RCEP, ASEAN and India, India and the Ease of Doing Business Index, China's One Belt One Road prohject, etc. - were enough for us to understand that the coming years will be quite different from the decades gone by. Indians, and civil servants, will have to be ready to tackle these issues.

Fifth : We cannot afford to forget out roots, in the midst of all these changes. Our history, world history, our cultural legacy, our our democratic and parliamentary framework and rules, procedures to make new laws - all these hint at the fact that Indians can never turn away from their roots. More so for UPSC IAS exam aspirants!

In addition, the reading comprehension passage and basic aptitude questions in the second paper ascertained the ability to successfully battle with numbers. Hindi medium students had, through protests in 2014, ensured that the second paper was made qualifying, rather than scoring. The allegation was that the English reading comprehension passages being asked (not the bilingual ones), were doing injustice. Also that the logical reasoning and mathematics questions were favouring students from the engineering background. If you observe the working style of top administration officials today, you'll find that preparing Schemes based on facts/numbers and logically argued reports, and getting them executed using technology has become the government norm now. The numbers of all departments are being fed into online dashboards, for transparent public scrutiny. It is important to love one's own languages, but we should not deprive ourselves from learning English. Youth desirous of making a career in any field should not try to escape maths and logical reasoning. Sooner or later, they'll confront you for sure.

So we see how an exam can judge not only students' static knowledge and bookish insights, but also their grip on national developments and the intense desire to contribute to nation-building. One hopes that these talented students will, in the coming years, avoid being victims of corruption and longing for favourable postings, and will contribute to making India a great nation in the 21st century.

I have prepared a comprehensive question-wise analyses of both papers. Check here!

My Hindi article on the same here -

IAS exams, IAS coaching, PT's IAS Academy, PT education, Civil Services in India, Sandeep Manudhane, IAS articles, UPSC

Jai Hind!

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