The Narendra Modi government Tuesday announced the UPSC would be urged to defer the civil services exam slated for August 24. It, however, appeared to backtrack from this decision hours later.
The announcement had come in response to an indefinite hunger strike by aspirants demanding that the changes made to the exam in 2011 be rolled back. They argued the changes, especially an aptitude test, had tilted the balance in favour of public school educated aspirants.
Earlier in the day, minister of state in the PMO Jitendra Singh had told reporters that the UPSC “should consider postponing the date of the preliminary examination” till there was clarity on the syllabus and exam pattern.
But an unusually late evening statement skipped any reference to postponing the exam. Instead, it said a three-member panel had been asked to study controversial changes made to the exam. A decision on demands for postponing the exam would be taken only after “receiving the opinion of the UPSC as well as that of the committee”, the statement added, quoting the minister.
The controversy over the exam pattern dates back to changes to the preliminary exam introduced by the Manmohan Singh government.
Instead of a subject paper, aspirants had to take an aptitude test that covered logical reasoning, problem solving and English language comprehension skills.
Voices were raised at the time that the changes put candidates from urban India at an advantage. This prompted the UPA to allow candidates to appear for the exam six times, up from the earlier four chances. The age limit was also raised from 30 to 32 years.
The fresh rounds of protests, backed by BJP’s students’ wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, seem to have caught the NDA’s attention.
In front of the UPSC building on Monday, ABVP national secretary Rohit Chahal said, “UPSC has degraded the value of Hindi medium students and aspirants by introducing CSAT. We will not sit silent till UPSC rolls back this test”.
A UPSC source, however, told HT that this was a misconception that UPSC drew up the syllabus. “The government has the first and the last word,” the source said, cautioning that postponing the exam would delay the entire cycle of recruitment, training and selection.
Nearly three lakh aspirants appear for the UPSC test hoping to make it past the three-part exam to enter premier civil services such as the Indian Administrative Service.