For a government that struggled for years to reduce the age profile of fresh civil service recruits, the UPA government’s recent decision to give civil service examination aspirants two additional attempts would end up doing exactly the opposite.
According to a fresh announcement by a red-faced Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) this week, the consequential age limit for appearing in the civil services would go up to 32 for general candidates, 35 for other backward classes and 37 for scheduled caste and scheduled tribe candidates.
This implies that the age limit for disabled candidates would be in the range of 42-47 years, depending on whether the candidate is a general category or from the OBC or the SC/ST.
In a move linked to Rahul Gandhi’s intervention, the government had last month announced that civil service aspirants would get two additional attempts to sit for the premier civil examination. General category students were allowed four attempts.
Many of them had complained that the government’s last minute changes to the civil services examination last year had put them at a disadvantage since they could not get enough time with the changes in subjects and the examination pattern.
The age relaxation – inspired by Gandhi’s strong remarks against the government’s unilateral move without holding consultations – however, would end up raising the age profile of the fresh recruits.
Already, according to data compiled by the UPSC, only about 10-15% of successful candidates make it through the gruelling examination process in their first attempt. Another 60% of successful candidates make it past the goal post only in the second, third or fourth attempt.
Government sources said they were conscious of the fallout of the decision and had been working in the opposite direction for years. But with elections round the corner, they did not have much of a choice.
The real possibility in the increase in age profile comes in the backdrop of government commissioned studies that point to the across-the-board increase in the age profile of public servants over the past few years.
According to one, nearly half of the officers in the All India Services and other allied services were older than 50 years and 80% were already past their 40th birthday. Officials say the higher age profile does sometimes act as an impediment in their ability to use the full potential of technology to the country’s advantage.