The long Battle for IAS Mains
By Casio Karan Pegu
While I write this article the results for UPSC’s civil services (Main) examination 2016 are about to be declared. Pressure is brewing again, friends are about to call anytime soon but I have become quite oblivious to the impact of results.
IAS in India has remained the most desired service in this country, every parents want their kids to be an IAS or IPS . This year alone 11.37 Lakh youth applied for UPSC cse examination ,out of which 15,445 Qualified for Mains exam and finally around 1000 will shine.
Let’s look into some of the vicissitude that an aspirant faces in this journey.
The rocket pace pen race….
Year 2013, I wrote my first mains in UPSC Bhavan. In the examination hall I rattled to see the number of questions to be attempted. It was a whopping 25 questions x 200 words (read 5000 words) in 3 hours. I was in a situation of heightened anxiety, and contributing to the situation was a Babu looking invigilator who out cried from the corner START as if we were participating in a 100 meter race. Writing 5000 words in just 3 hours that too such serious/difficult/easier said than done questions, I became impetuous and wrote the answers anything that came to my mind. In UPSC mains you are in a race against time, there is little scope for thinking!!
Everyone wrote and wrote and I could hear only crackling noise of pen and papers for the next three hours and to everyone’s surprise that Babu looking Invigilator also yelled STOP at the end of the three hours.
No one doubts about the objectiveness and standard of UPSC, still looking at the number of questions asked, fixed timeframe and difficulty, I still wonder how do candidates deal with it? What do other candidates fill those pages with? This year when I asked one of my peers, what did he write? He replied he just filled those pages completely & he lambasted me not for doing the same. This conundrum of completing the mains answer sheet with lucid/precise/succinct answers has continued till date.
A Horror called Compulsory Assamese Paper
Many people till date are unaware of the fact that a candidate also has to write a compulsory language paper(qualifying) from among the 8 scheduled languages in the constitution. Generally a candidate opts for a language which he/she has learned during school years. By this logic I should have opted for Hindi, since I was schooled at Jawaharlal Navodaya Vidyalaya , but having looked at the UPSC annual report, the highest number of flunking candidates in Hindi paper ,pushed me into choosing Assamese the other nearest language (remember all northeastern states exempted but Assam). And In 2014 Mains I disconcertingly wrote Assamese to flunk in it. That means I didn’t write enough to achieve the predicted qualifying standard of 30%.This paper put one like me in a labyrinthine situation. The government must have observed this helplessness in the language paper and the only silver lining is they (UPSC) have stretched it down to 25% recently.
Nothing but change is constant….
Since 2011 there have been some changes in the examination system every year. First it was the CSAT change which was made qualifying 3 years after aspirants battled police in north Delhi.( Read all your CSAT hardwork washed out) These students complained of CSAT as elitist/urban/pro English creates great disadvantage rural peers. Even the mains syllabus has undergone tremendous changes since 2013.the whopping 5000 words in 3hours format is one. Again recently the Baswan committee has submitted its report to the UPSC on the cse examination system, some changes are inevitable.
Then there is an innovation called ethics paper (General Studies paper 4), it reminds me of the moral science paper that we studied in school. Probably government introduced it seeing the overall moral crisis we as a society are facing today. Few question from this paper are given below…
All human beings aspire for happiness. Do you agree? What does happiness mean to you? Explain with examples. 10 marks 150 words. ( 2014)
“Nearly all men can withstand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”—Abraham Lincoln 10 marks 150 words. ( 2013)
Current state of affairs
Nevertheless one can understand these constant changes in the exam system and pattern reverberate the bigger changes taking place around us. Technology is reshaping our lives very fast, like never before. There cannot be ‘’business as usual’’. Automation and robotics are driving trucks driverless. Land speed record will be broken on the sands of Kalahari this year; Amazon is flying drones in delivering shoe from the sky in a click of a mouse. There is ‘rush’ and ‘disruption’ in everything & everywhere. Donald Trump called it ‘festinence’ for congress and Marine le pen is topping the French polls on promise of crackdown on globalization . Our own government is floating the radical idea of universal basic income(UBI) in the face of artificial intelligence and jobless growth. However for one like me, there is a need to step up my own efforts and efforts and satirically as a joke, aspirants have coined a term in social media for repeaters as ‘’UPSC veteran’’ in line with Vietnam war veterans .While years have gone into this process yet I am not jaded and will clung on, till my last permissible attempt, as once Lord Krishna told Arjuna
“Do your duty without thinking about the outcome’’.
The views expressed in this article are personal. Casio Karan Pegu has written 3 UPSC mains so far & is a NIFT Delhi alumnus. He also loves drawing cartoon.