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The Other Side The Upsc Controversy Whether Its Linguistic Democracy Gives Preference To All Indian Languages

Updated: September 30, 2014 3:23 pm

Modi’ s proposal for the bullet train from Mumbai to Ahmedabad is meant to implement high-tech upgradation, a technological advancement, a progressive initiative. But Modi’s NDA government’s announcement that the marks for 8-9 English Comprehension questions in Paper 2 of the Preliminary CSAT examinations would not be counted for gradation and merit is regressive and antediluvian, drawing flak from activists and the public. It’s sad to see political pressure crushing meritocracy. Look at the timing. UP Assembly bi-elections are in October. To appease the Hindi belt the NDA government has blinked and announced that CSAT grading would not include English marks. The Verma Committee report did recommend that the English Comprehension Component which is of class 10 level should not be dropped from the CSAT preliminary examination. But the NDA government has put the Verma Committee report in cold storage and for political gains has decided to give in to the demand of the Hindi belt aspirants for the UPSC examinations by excluding the English Comprehension in the civil service preliminary aptitude test.

When Arnab Goswami, the fire brand anchor of Times Now television channel, read out the comprehension passage on the television, my domestic help’s daughter who is studying in 10th standard in a Marathi medium Municipal school, was with me. She said that the passage was quite easy and even she could answer it. But the Hindi-speaking aspirants for the UPSC examinations claim that the comprehension is much above the prescribed standard, which is not true. If these protesting aspirants are unable to answer a simple comprehension of 20 marks, how are they going to answer the main 200 paper in English? Even a lower division clerk of the UPSC cadre has to have a rudimentary knowledge of English without which it would be difficult for him to function. If an IAS officer from UP is posted to Tamil Nadu where the locals are not enamored by Hindi and the local language is Tamil, how will the IAS officer communicate with the locals? This is where English serves as the link language connecting various states. English is the main medium of official communication in the north eastern states like Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya, therefore, if one were to serve as an administrative officer in these states proficiency in English would probably be more important than that in other regional languages. The NDA government has cited linguistic democracy as one of the significant reasons for giving preference to Hindi-speaking aspirants and bowing down to their demand of excluding English comprehension marks form the UPSC CSAT examinations. Taking a cue from this TMC and AIADMK have asked the comprehension test to be held in their regional languages—Bengali and Tamil. Why give preference only to Hindi, aren’t other Indian languages equally important too? There are about 20 regional languages in India. Going by the linguistic democracy of the NDA government, the CSAT test for UPSC aspirants should be held in 20 regional languages. Why succumb to political manipulation and give so much of preference to Hindi only? The Constitution of India is in English. According to a High Court ruling, English has been cited as an official language of the Union Government of India. Former banking secretary Devi Dayal mentions in Hindustan Times: “In the kind of role a civil servant is expected to play, a basic minimum level of English knowledge is a must.”

In the UPSC examination debate on the Times Now channel one of the panelists said that India must be the only country in the world where aspirants will decide on how examinations or interviews will be held. Aspirants used to rote learning are finding it difficult to cope with sections needing “creative, cognitive and analytical skills’’—all vital requisites for administrative officers. Tomorrow these students may want the logical segment to be removed from the CSAT examination, will the NDA government oblige them? The entrance examinations for IIT’s, IIM’s, banking etc are conducted in English, will the Hindi-speaking belt demand that the examination format be changed to Hindi and will the NDA government agree to such a demand? The NDA government’s Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh’s statment pertaining to “language neutral” for the UPSC examination is very confusing. Promod Tiwari from the Congress wanted to know in the Parliament what exactly did the Minister mean by “language neutrality’’. Languages are fluid how can they be neutral? Many see this “language neutral” theory as a move to keep away English so as to appease the Hindi-speaking belt for political gains. India’s success in the IT sector globally is because of its proficiency in English. The dearth of English-speaking graduates in China acts as a major disadvantage for China. So China now has made it mandatory for everyone to learn English in schools. And the NDA government by doing away with the English marks in the CSAT examination is lowering the standards of the UPSC examination.

More disturbing than the NDA government’s proposal to do away with the English marks in the CSAT examination is vandalism displayed by the aspirants of the UPSC examination. The protesting candidates now not satisfied with the exclusion of the English marks in the CSAT test want the aptitude CSAT test to be scrapped altogether. They may even demand that they all be declared passed the IAS examinations having without attempting to write the examination! The NDA may even oblige for vote bank politics. UPSC is a premier institution in India which attracts the best talent. Only the brightest with high moral standards are worthy of governing and administrating the country. When UPSC aspirants, wanting to do away with the aptitude CSAT test, torch buses, pelt stones on the police and injure them, one shudders to think as to what would happen to this country should these aspirants resorting to such violence become IAS officers and start governing the country.

By Indira Satyanarayan

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