New Delhi: Kavendra Singh Sagar, an IPS officer who serves as superintendent of police (SP) in Banswara, Rajasthan, looks back with gratitude on his days at the Jamia Millia Islamia UPSC coaching centre.
“Jamia’s UPSC coaching is the best bet for those who do not have the means to attend private coaching,” said Singh, a member of the centre’s 2014 batch. “They have the best kind of facilities, library, test papers, teachers. It all helped me crack the exam and become an IPS officer.”
Sagar is one of over 240 IAS, IPS and other central civil servants, and more than 260 officers in state services and other government jobs, who count the Centre for Coaching and Career Planning at Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia as their alma mater.
An important destination for the underprivileged in their journey into the civil services, the centre is currently in news as the subject of a controversial show that seeks to project it as the fountainhead of so-called “UPSC jihad”.
The show in question was aired on Sudarshan News, a Hindi channel, Friday night. It is the latest episode of a programme called Bindaas Bol, hosted by Sudarshan News Editor-in-Chief Suresh Chavhanke, who is no stranger to allegations of hate speech.
The “UPSC jihad episode” aims to expose what Chavhanke describes as a conspiracy to infiltrate Muslims into the civil services.
However, people associated with the coaching centre offer a completely different assessment of the institute.
The facility is one of five centres set up by the government between 2009 and 2010 to provide underprivileged communities with free residential coaching for the civil services and other government exams.
As IPS officer Sagar said, it is a place where underprivileged communities — not just Muslims, but also the Scheduled Tribes (STs), the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and women — find a fighting shot at a dream that is, by far, the most coveted accomplishment for most Indians.
The initiative is meant to encourage more students from these communities to ace government exams. And student experiences suggest it is helping them do exactly that.
‘Doing a good job’
Bhanu Prabha, who is posted as district magistrate at Tirap in Arunachal Pradesh, studied at the coaching centre between 2012 and 2014. Her training at the centre, she says, helped her crack the civil services interviews.
“The coaching helped me to prepare for the interview stage, because the academy arranged a mock interview with a senior officers’ panel,” said Prabha. They focused primarily on answer-writing and essay-writing. This is very important for scoring a high rank.”
Mohammad Tarique, deputy director at the centre, said, “Ever since the inception of the coaching centre in 2010, we have had more than 240 students selected and placed as IAS, IPS, IRS and customs officers. More than 260 students have been placed as officers in the state services, and central armed police forces, like the BSF, ITBP and others.”
Former University Grants Commission (UGC) chairman Ved Prakash, under whom the five coaching centres were established, said the initiative was aimed at increasing the representation of people from backward castes and minorities in civil services.
“It was felt that minorities and people from the SC, ST communities are not fairly represented in civil services, hence the coaching centres were started in five universities,” Prakash said.
Apart from Jamia Millia Islamia, the coaching centres were set up at Jamia Hamdard University, Delhi, Aligarh Muslim University, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad, and Bhimrao Ambedkar University, Delhi. The initial grant for setting up the centres was given by the UGC, and the central government now issues funds annually for their operations.
According to Prakash, most of the universities, “especially Jamia Hamdard and Jamia Millia”, are doing a very good job, and “producing a good number of civil servants each year”.
Tarique, who has been associated with the coaching centre since its inception, dismissed the allegation that one religion dominates the student rolls.
“We have an equal representation from all religions in the coaching centre, there are students who are Sikhs, Christians, Muslims and we even have some Buddhist students. Women and SC/ST candidates are also represented fairly,” he added.
Tarique said students are admitted on the basis of an entrance test and interview. “The test carries 85 per cent weightage and interview carries 15 per cent weightage, so whoever performs well in the test will be admitted. There is no chance that the system could be biased towards a particular community,” he said.
The “UPSC jihad” aka “bureaucracy jihad” episode of Chavhanke’s show was announced through a trailer that has been widely panned for its provocative language. Civil servants had subsequently criticised the show, terming it hate speech, and demanded action against Chavhanke.
Following a plea from Jamia students and alumni, the Delhi High Court had ordered a stay on the show’s telecast on 28 August. However, when Sudarshan News challenged the stay, the court left the final call to the central government, which gave its go-ahead Wednesday, citing rules that don’t allow pre-censorship of TV programming.
The Union Information & Broadcasting Ministry just advised the channel to make sure it doesn’t violate the code that oversees television and advertising content — among the provisions of the code is one that bars programmes containing attacks on religions or communities, visuals or words contemptuous of religious groups, or which promote communal attitudes.
There has been no comment so far from the Jamia administration on the I&B Ministry’s go-ahead for the programme. ThePrint has sought a comment from the official spokesperson through text and phone, but was yet to receive a response by the time of publishing.
Asked about the Sudarshan News controversy, Tarique said he hoped the authorities “look into what’s going on and fulfil their duty”.
Meanwhile, the controversy has done little to harm the image of the coaching centre as a beacon of hope.
Manisha Minz, who is enrolled at a private coaching centre in Delhi, said she will apply to the centre. “I had no idea about the coaching centre until this year. I will apply to the centre… I am eligible as I belong to the ST category, it would save me a lot of money as well.”