New Delhi: At a time when minority institutes like Jamia and Zakat Foundation are in the middle of a row over the rising number of Muslims cracking the Civil Services Examination, an RSS-backed coaching institute, Samkalp Foundation, has claimed a 61 per cent success rate in this year’s exam.
Of the 759 candidates picked by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) to enter the civil services this year, as many as 466 had undertaken Samkalp’s Interview Guidance Program (IGP), the foundation claims.
For the 34-year-old institute, grooming as many successful candidates, in whatever way, is hardly an aberration.
According to its website, as many as 649 candidates had enrolled for the IGP, out of the 990 candidates chosen by the UPSC in 2018. In 2017, 2016 and 2015, the numbers were 689, 648 and 670 against the total recruitment of 1,099, 1,078 and 1,236, respectively.
The number of candidates who actually get trained at Samkalp from the preliminary examination stage all the way up to the interview is, however, said to be much lower, according to sources. The exact figures aren’t available on the website, but insiders claim it would be 10 per cent of those who finally qualify.
Over the years, Samkalp has emerged as one of the leading civil services coaching institutes across the country. But unlike other commercial coaching centres, it is non-profit, and is aggressively opposed to media coverage.
“Our approach is very different from other coaching centres… We like to work quietly, and not interact with the media at all. We don’t want publicity. We have not interacted with the media in the last 30 years,” said R.S. Gupta, former Delhi Police commissioner who is a senior office-bearer of the foundation.
“The information related to Samkalp is only meant for the Samkalp family — the students who come here, and their families,” he said, refusing to share any information about the foundation.
The RSS-BJP connection
For the foundation, which has close links with the RSS, lack of publicity is not a concern, with senior BJP leaders addressing its events each year.
Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan and Nagaland Governor and former IPS officer R.N. Ravi are set to be the chief guests for an event scheduled to be held coming Sunday. The two leaders would interact with successful candidates at the programme.
Last year, Home Minister Amit Shah and senior RSS functionary Krishna Gopal had delivered a lecture on national security to retired and serving civil servants at an event organised by Samkalp. Gopal is one of the senior-most ‘mentors’ at the foundation.
The foundation’s photo gallery on its website is filled with photographs of its students with BJP ministers such as Smriti Irani, Prakash Javadekar and Ramesh Pokhriyal.
Yet, when asked what the nature of affiliation between the RSS and Samkalp is, Gupta simply said, “We are an independent organisation under the Societies Registration Act.”
An RSS worker, who did not wish to be identified, said, “You can call Samkalp an RSS-inspired body instead of an RSS-affiliated body.”
Talking about the idea behind the inception of the foundation, the worker said, “In the 1980s, it was felt that there was a need for guidance for the RSS swayamsevaks and volunteers who wish to crack the UPSC…”
RSS workers ThePrint spoke to also said the centre was started as a way to ensure the “bureaucracy is rid of its Leftist bent gradually”.
They said there was a feeling at the time that people from JNU and other such places dominate the bureaucracy, and while a political movement was under way to make the BJP a formidable political force, a need was also felt for an effort to “bring in nationalists in the bureaucracy”.
“It is now you see bureaucrats who are unabashedly nationalistic… This was not the case back in the day,” added the worker quoted above.
The Samkalp journey
Started in 1986, Samkalp reportedly coached 26 aspirants in its first batch, 14 of whom qualified for the civil services.
By 1999-2000, more than 100 interviewees had reportedly approached Samkalp as its success rate went up to 90 per cent. Over the years, the foundation started centres in different cities like Agra, Ludhiana, Bhopal and Bhilai, apart from its first centres in Delhi.
“Since it is a not-for-profit organisation, there is emphasis on helping the marginalised, to whom coaching is given free of cost,” said Gupta.
While Gupta said there is no screening test for candidates who come to Samkalp, the RSS worker quoted above said a screening test is conducted to ensure the standards of the organisation are maintained, and at the same time, those with “extremist views” do not get enrolled.
While the coaching is absolutely neutral in nature — a politically coloured training could prove counterproductive during the UPSC exam — “a correct understanding” is given to candidates, the RSS worker said.
“For example, Naxalism or Communism is never glorified, importance of removal of Article 370 is taught, importance of the Uniform Civil Code is taught,” the worker said. “This body of knowledge is then used during and beyond the exam.”
While there is a “sharp polarisation” in bureaucracy today, an RSS-backed organisation like Samkalp cannot change the “inclusive nature” of bureaucracy in India, said T.R. Raghunandan, a former IAS officer.
“Given how powerful bureaucracy is, everyone will want their share in power… But as long as the UPSC’s credibility is intact, there is no need to set off alarm bells,” he said.