IAS and KAS: Think beyond the box

Remove age and chance cap and see the difference it makes

Haseeb Peer
Srinagar, Publish Date: Feb 14 2018 11:49PM | Updated Date: Feb 14 2018 11:49PM
IAS and KAS: Think beyond the boxFile Photo

The reform was long overdue. It has finally been done. The pattern for Kashmir Administrative examination has been changed thoroughly. The examination over the period of time had remained stagnant, immobile and frozen in time, unable to reflect the modern trend of examination currently operating in different parts of India. The process had been following an archaic approach by persisting with the old redundant, superfluous scheme, partially discarded by UPSC in 2011 by removing the OPTIONAL subject from the preliminary examination and then completely overhauling the mains side in 2013 by scrapping an optional paper, changing the question paper scheme and adding on dynamic papers comprising of governance, social issues, security, environment problems, disaster management and "the ethics paper". These papers virtually wiped out any static material that was there for General Studies making "current affairs'' the central focal point. The trend observed in the question papers over the past few years unquestionably elucidates this fact. The Jammu and Kashmir government has finally taken cognizance of this fact and in an appreciable move has ensured that the transition will finally take place this year. The older pattern had given birth to a number of litigations and controversies with candidates accusing the recruitment body of deliberately favouring one optional over the other. The accusations peaked this year when almost 90% of the candidates who made it to the final list in the recently declared result had ANTHROPOLGY as one of these optional subjects. The new pattern will ensure that this discretion is minimized if not eliminated, the candidates compete at an equal level and consequently merit prevails. With 4 General Studies the exam will certainly test the basic general awareness, analytical capabilities, writing speed and thought process. The preparation will now require more and more honesty, dedication, an indefatigable spirit, perseverance, persistence, and diligence--the same qualities that the public wishes an administrator ought to have. The era of cramming may not have been wiped out but this would certainly act as a propellant. The candidates would now need to practice answers before hand, owing to the changed scheme, and to ensure that their adaptability is expedited. The local candidates may suffer from some issues while they transit to a different pattern,  but this transit will ensure that the necessary reform goes through and the process weeds out the non meritorious and lays the foundation of a system that is objective, transparent, non-discriminatory, unbiased and impartial in character.

The new pattern so as to say has completely replicated the UPSC pattern, which begs the question as to whether we need to adapt the format in totality or should we contextualize it according to our local needs. Consider this--the numbers of attempts have been restricted to 6.   

I  know a number of candidates who have been preparing for this examination right from 2010 and many of them have at least twice appeared for the interview. If the scheme in its present shape is given effect, it would ensure that those candidates would miss out and the knowledge accumulated over the years would in a way be wasted, destroying precious human capital in the process. No state as of now has any restrictions on the number of attempts per se. Rajasthan, MP all conduct the examination according to the same pattern with no restriction on the number of attempts. Similarly, the government while copy-pasting the pattern, has capped the age at 32. This has stumped a number of aspirants. Most candidates are now gunning for the UPSC civil service examination, just like candidates from other states. The logic here is that once a candidate finishes their attempts or reaches the age of 32 at the central level, they can always come back and apply for the state services. Over the period of 6 attempts a candidate who appears for the UPSC exam seriously, accumulates a wealth of knowledge and his consistent reading and re-reading of the constitution, history, geography, economy ensures that he acts as a reservoir of knowledge. Such candidates will be denied the opportunity to compete at the state level if at all the government persists with this age and attempt limit. The state has a huge pool of unemployed youth who even though have the basic rudimentary talent to compete yet fail to find suitable jobs for their basic necessities. Capping the age and attempt will essentially drive these youth towards other greener pastures resulting in brain drain and precious loss of human capital. The point I am making here is extremely simple. Even though the pattern adapted reflects the growing trend present elsewhere, but necessarily has to be moulded and churned according to our local needs and situations. The process has to be delineated to facilitate the local youth who put in their blood, sweat and tears to accomplish their goals. The pattern of examination has to be sketched and outlined to suit the local conditions and environment. Merely changing the pattern, getting it approved and believing that we have reformed the examination  process puts us in that league of sheep who are driven and guided by the clever old shepherd, with the sheep having no idea about their  final goal. This is where we can learn from the JK Board of School Education. JK BOSE while following the NCERT curriculum ensures that the state of J&K finds space in our own text books. The 85% pattern reflects the "national design" with the remaining 15% echoing the voice of the state. This should be the norm. While national schemes are without any bias or prejudice or inclination towards a particular side, state governments while revamping and reconstructing them should attune them to the local conditions. Reconstructing a formula while perpetuating its gross essence to derive a net result for the state cannot be bad or contrary to the principles of objectivity and fairness. Every state has its own needs, and J&K is no different. We have no silicon valley or a Mint Road or a flurry of highly paid broadcasters to absorb the evergreen and ever-growing "unemployed youth". These youth are in no way lacking skill to crack these examinations, but would definitely require that extra hand from the government, just like a tax exemption for a corporate giant or a subsidy to a local farmer. These youth cannot be pushed to other areas when we ourselves can utilize there services to further the progress of our own state. 

So to speak a number of changes can be brought. Firstly increase the age to at least 35. This would ensure that the principle of fairness is upheld. How exactly it would uphold has been discussed above. Secondly, remove the "attempt cap''. Let the candidates decide for themselves as to when they need to move on and look for opportunities away from the government service. Let's trust the judgment of all the candidates. Human mind is rational and in this age of Information Technology, we should trust the human judgment and instinct.  The People are pragmatists now; they would choose what is best for them-they want to excel and would never act in a manner detrimental and harmful to their own self. Thirdly, since this is a state examination, the government needs to introduce parts of J&K history, geography into this process. States like Uttrakhand, M.P, U.P, already have these things going for them. To spell out this point, one may argue here, that since the candidate is preparing for the state services and not the ALL INDIA SERVICE, therefore, he needs to be well aware and well enlightened about the polity, economy, geography of his own state. He/she has to serve under the state government and venture into different districts, designing and implementing policies, schemes etc, and thus should have complete understanding about the local system, people, cultures, security problems, law and order problems etc. The gone by pattern had a specific section dealing with J&K affairs and in the already conducted examinations of the past, JKPSC has ensured that the state finds its own space via questions about economy, polity etc. This provision may be imported from the past syllabus and merged into the present scheme. This would ensure appropriate contextualization. The point here is not to bash the government but to point out the flaws any policy will have. A policy will never achieve perfection, but it can be tuned to reflect the aspirations and desires of aspirants and citizens. This is what "PARTICIPATIVE GOVERNANCE'' is all about. 

(The author studies at Delhi. His short stories and essays have been published by Penguin Publication House India)