Civil Services Officials play an important role in the Centre and states; this is a a reality prevalent since its inception in the 19th century when IAS was known as ICS (Indian Civil Service).
This elite civil service of the British Empire assumed pre-eminence starting from 1858 to1947 and its members ruled over more than 300 million people of our country.
Lord Cornwallis is called the father of modern Indian Civil Service. The Britishers used to call ICS the steel frame of the Indian Administration.
When the British government took over India from the East India Company and a common service became essential for seamless administration, then rulers appointed these officials to enforce British rule and laws in India.
For this Lord Cornwallis wanted to catch educated (graduate), intelligent and energetic youth, hence he proposed the Indian Civil Service. For recruitment in this prestigious service the exam was held in London. UPSC was founded and given this task in 1924.
Looking at the contribution and nature of ICS in administration, India moved on with this service after Independence. After many changes from time to time, it is still with us and deemed to be most prestigious service of India.
It may amount to being blinded, if someone believes that bureaucracy does not rule the centre or states, a sight witnessed on a daily basis.
Success of any regime depends upon the handling of the members of this elite service, an impression which has been inherited from British Raj and remains unabated and unchallenged even today.
It is a fact that the majority of politicians who become part of governance may not have experience, decision making capabilities, knowledge of file work, technicalities, rules and regulations etc., hence bureaucrats become their guiding stars, which leads to their dependence on them.
Experts feel that any regime will become successful if it gets committed, dedicated and honest IAS officers but if it is otherwise, then failure is imminent.
It was women all the way in civil services results as three toppers are females which include Shruti Sharma, Ankita Agarwal, Gamini Singla. Of the total candidates who cleared the examination – 508 are men and 177 women in 2021 as against 216 in 2020. Shubham Kumar was the first place holder in the examination, second was Jagrati Awasthi, and third was Ankita Jain.
Non-English speaking making to the top
Owing to abundance of talent, ingredient of hard work embedded in non comprising ambition, commitment and zeal, introduction of Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) since 2011, a large number of candidates from non English speaking background, especially from small towns and villages have cracked preliminary and main examinations to be amongst the lucky ones who figure in the final list after facing gruelling interview of UPSC.
Experts say that the success of candidates from non-English speaking universities and small towns has become a permanent feature in the civil services examinations though it is not very encouraging due to several inherent weaknesses and disadvantages.
According to one assessment, the intake of candidates from non-English backgrounds has dropped from 48.4 per cent in 2008 to just 8.7 per cent in 2017 but UPSC officials refused to confirm these numbers.
Reforms in UPSC needed
Experts, academicians and educationists opine that the UPSC should carry out an exercise of the candidates they select wherein they study the profiles including regional, linguistic and educational.
They feel that it is essential because on one hand, the government is pushing for domain expertise within the civil services whereas subsequently it keeps taking engineers or doctors from similar backgrounds.
SPSCs need to switch to IAS pattern
Government of India can play vital role in advising the state governments to introduce new syllabi which is on the analogy of union civil services thereby laying the foundation of IAS aspirants who will be better equipped besides having confidence.
As of now the state commissions not switching to IAS pattern have been doing disservice to crores of aspirants who have to abandon several years’ preparations based on old pattern as it is completely irrelevant for next level of civil service examination.
Civil services aptitude
Introduction of civil services aptitude test has changed the scenario, as aspirants with engineering degree do get some benefit. It was in 2011 that the central government first introduced the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) and the result is very encouraging.
The data shows that now it is not just Delhi, but English-speaking candidates from all urban centers are performing better in the exam.
Similarly, a decade ago, candidates from small universities and from small non-English speaking towns started cracking all stages of civil services and the trend is witnessing upward swing.
Due to this factor, an all-India character has been attained by this elite service. The introduction of the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) in the UPSC Prelims exam has also led to a surge in the number of successful engineer candidates in the IAS exam.
The CSAT was introduced in 2011 and many IAS aspirants mention that the new pattern is advantageous to candidates with a technical degree. In response to strong reaction, the commissions made the CSAT qualify for eligibility for the main exam.
Some candidates feel that that the introduction of the CSAT exam has played a favourable role for engineering students appearing for this examination.
Each year, the difficulty level of CSAT papers has eventually increased. This usually costs a chance for many non-engineering students whereas science students ought to perform better here.
The CSAT includes questions on mathematical ability, analytical ability, reasoning, English comprehension, etc. UPSC Prelims exam consists of two papers namely General Studies I paper and General Studies-II (CSAT) paper.
While the score in GS Paper-I determines whether or not you qualify for the cutoff of prelims, CSAT is qualifying in nature. An aspirant needs to score more than 33% or 66 marks for the CSAT paper which creates an equal playing for field for all candidates.
Engineering background, an advantage
The maximum intake is from the states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi etc., and three years’ figure showed that 40 percent of selected candidates were having engineering background as they enjoy an advantage in selecting the scoring subjects.
Notwithstanding the efforts of UPSC to diversify, engineers still account for 60 percent of new civil services in the country. UPSC uses a secret formula to ‘normalise’ the scores in optional subjects to eliminate the gap between humanities marks and technical subjects like mathematics which may or may not be to the satisfaction of aspirants.
Some of the Ex UPSC chairpersons argued that Engineers, with their science backgrounds, generally find the CSAT easy as compared to humanities graduates.
Another reason that the number of engineering graduates is on the rise is the sheer large number of engineers in the country.
A lack of suitable employment opportunities causes a natural drift among youngsters towards other professions, including the civil service.
But they have different opinion about the success of various categories. They opine that no particular streams are needed in qualifying for the Civil Service exam. But, engineers have good analytical skills and more knowledge to qualify for the exam.
Additionally, engineering graduates, more often than not, have previous experience in writing competitive examinations. Many of them would have gone through the rigorous exams like the IIT-JEE, BITSAT, etc.
All this is a valuable experience, even if the content of the exams is different from the civil service.
Ex chairpersons say that English speaking and public school background have not created any hurdles for small towns and rural areas aspirants in becoming IAS officials which had been a big stigma in the past.
They feel that aspirants hailing from rich and elite classes do have an advantage of joining coaching institutes but gap has narrowed owing to talent and hard work of candidates from other groups in the society.
Experts have got unanimity over the suggestion that there is dire need of special training to young IAS officers to create a sense of dedication and commitment to serve in rural areas which will help in better redressing grievances of the needy sections of the society in the country.
K.S.TOMAR is ex chairperson of standing committee of state public Service Commissions in India
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.