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UPSC has proposed to the Modi government that each application for the civil service examination be counted as an attempt in itself. Currently, only taking the examination is treated as an attempt. The Commission believes that the move will lead to effective utilisation of resources.

ThePrint asks: Proposal to treat each IAS application as attempt: Practical move or unfair to aspirants?

Many IAS aspirants apply for the examination without giving it any thought; should be checked

V. Ramani
Retd IAS officer

Submitting an application for the civil services preliminary examination should be deemed to indicate one’s seriousness to appear for the examination itself.

A significant number of aspirants seem to apply for the preliminary examination without giving thought to what career they are really interested in. There is no doubt that the UPSC incurs significant costs and undertakes great efforts to make arrangements for the examination. Hence, I feel that failure to appear for the examination should be treated as an attempt foregone.

It may be argued that extraneous factors like illness may prevent a candidate from appearing for the examination. But exceptions for even apparently legitimate causes could be difficult to manage and hence should not be considered. In any case, as of now, there are adequate opportunities for candidates to appear in subsequent years.

The UPSC will have to examine how it proposes to monitor whether those appearing in subsequent years have in fact foregone an attempt in earlier years: this may need some identification of candidates to check misrepresentation, which I presume is being checked even today in case of candidates who have appeared in earlier examinations.

Everyone has a right to apply and then not sit for the exam

Aruna Sharma
Retd IAS officer

Treating an application as an attempt in itself would be a highly unfair move. An aspirant may be very sincere in their desire to sit for the examination, but for whatever reason may feel under-prepared prior to the paper. This could lead them to finally decide against sitting for the exam in order to not waste their limited attempts. Also, in some cases, extreme distress may consume the aspirant and give them the jitters. In such a scenario too, it is perfectly acceptable if they decide against taking the exam.

The argument that a lot of resources go to waste when students don’t turn up for the examinations, is not entirely true. Booking halls and printing papers aren’t the most cost-intensive activity and whatever little it costs, it is completely worth it.

Even if a person isn’t the most sincere in their approach, it doesn’t justify robbing them of an opportunity in this manner. Everyone has a right to apply and then not sit for the exam, without a sole application being considered an attempt. There are people who in their hearts know that they might not be able to clear the exam because they lack the capabilities, but they still end up applying because they don’t have anything to lose. That’s perfectly alright.

UPSC rules cannot be so rigid and unforgiving in nature

Dheeru Yadav
IAS aspirant and student, JNU

The changes proposed by the UPSC aren’t fair at all. As an IAS aspirant myself, I find this proposal quite disturbing and counter-intuitive. Most IAS aspirants apply for the examination, even if they know they aren’t prepared to sit for the paper, only because they know they have nothing to lose. There are instances when aspirants might think they are not ready, but by the time of the examination date, they may feel a sense of preparedness and confidence. Given that they have already registered, they can go and take the exam. But if we take away that window of opportunity from them, it will leave them in a very insecure place.

Moreover, unforeseeable incidents such as accidents and family problems can also arise and the aspirant may not be able to sit for the examination. The UPSC needs to be considerate of such cases as well.

The rules cannot be so rigid and unforgiving in nature. The UPSC must realise that an aspirant puts a lot at stake when they decide to start preparing for the civil service entrance examinations. If the government accepts UPSC’s proposal, it will greatly impact the career of aspirants.

A window of 30-45 days to withdraw UPSC application can be given before examination

Amar Singh
Retd IAS officer

The civil services exam conducted by the UPSC is often thought to be one of the toughest exams in the world. Each year nearly 10 lakh people apply for the exam, and nearly half of them appear. Eventually, only about 0.1 per cent of total applicants make it into the coveted civil services.

The exam represents, above all, the hope held by the exam takers, or UPSC aspirants as they are more commonly called. It represents their hope for a better life, of making a difference to society, of being part of nation-building. In this light, making applications count as attempts would be a blow to the hopes and aspirations held by millions around the country.

One can sympathise with the UPSC for wanting to control the number of applications received each year. The logistical and administrative challenges in organising an exam for lakhs of people can be mind-boggling.

In the past few years, the entire application process for the UPSC exam has been made online. A window to withdraw applications may be given 30-45 days before the exam. Failing to withdraw an application may be then counted as an attempt. Use of technology to conduct the exam along the lines of CAT may be explored. But ultimately, administrative ease should not take precedence over the dreams and aspirations of the country’s youth.

Only half of the 10 lakh applicants actually give the UPSC exam – a lot of resources are wasted

Sanya Dhingra
Principal correspondent, ThePrint

UPSC is right in arguing that those who apply unthinkingly for the civil services exam year after year should have a disincentive for doing so. Every year, the Commission receives over a million applications, and begins preparing itself for all of them – only to repeatedly realise that half of the efforts will be in vain. Candidates spend a nominal fee of Rs 100 to apply.

Compare this to the GMAT exam, for which candidates pay $250 or over Rs 17,000 for each attempt. The cost is so high that it automatically ensures that people don’t fool around while applying for the exam. No government in India would want to increase the fee of the UPSC exam, for it would spell political disaster. But there have to be other ways to shake candidates up and make them value their own applications.

Let’s not forget that for millions in India, the civil service exam remains a mirage for which they invest many crucial years of their professional life. Every time they don’t appear for the exam, they think, “Okay, next time”. Those important years that could have been spent looking for a decent job in the private sector are spent chasing the mirage. Out of the 10 lakh candidates who apply for the exam, only about 1,000 make it.

The rest should immediately realise that it is not the end of the world and gear up for what lies outside the security of a government job.

By Fatima Khan, journalist at ThePrint. You can follow her on twitter @khanthefatima.

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