In the past few weeks a number of students have shared their concerns about the recent recommendations (not yet made public) of Baswan Committee. There are rumors, which I get to see everyday on social media, which somehow has attained virality in terms of whatsapp forwards (even I received a few). I decided to write on it so that some clarification can be sent to all the students.
A committee to review the conduction of the Civil Services Examination was formed under the chairmanship of Mr. B.S. Baswan in August 2015. It was given 6 months to submit its report. Thrre is nothing new and exceptional in that as reviously also, the reforms in CSE have been done on the recommendations of a number of committees like Kothari Committee, Satish Chandra Committee, Alagh Committee etc.
After the introduction of CSAT to replace the optional subject in the Prelims, on the recommendation of Khanna Committee in 2010, there were huge protests against this format, which led to the CSAT being made a qualifying examination only. Still, the government constituted Baswan Committee to look further into the reforms. The committee submitted its report in August 2016 and UPSC has forwarded it to the DoPT, which will take final decision on the recommendations. Because of the secrecy of UPSC and refusal to make the report public, there have been widespread speculations about the content of the report and the stand of the government on them.
The rumored contents of the report are:
Reduction of age limit to 26 years
Removal of optional subject from optional subject
Let’s try to understand the probability of acceptance of the rumored recommendations. About the age limit, I am absolutely sure that it is NOT going to be implemented. India is majorly a rural country. In rural areas, a student, by the time he finishes his/her school, is usually of around 20 years of age as the schooling starts at a later age. In that case, if the student goes for a 4-5 year graduate course, he/she is practically being shut out from the Civil Services Examinations. It directly affects the equality of the exam and has an urban bias, where people start going to school at younger age. Even if it is accepted, the government will give at least 5 years of exception period for it to ensure that the students, who are already in the preparation cycles are not disadvantaged.
About the optional subject, I personally support this recommendation. Removing the optional will bring level playing field and equality in the examination, as the same papers will be there for every candidate. Currently a student with Mathematics optional is pitted against a student of Tamil Literature optional, creating a crisis of benchmarking of the obtained scores. It will also reduce the dependency on the coaching institutions to prepare an optional. But even this recommendation has a social negative. Firstly, it might affect the enrolments in the humanities and social sciences departments of Indian universities. Because of the limited employment opportunities, Civil Services is one of the prime motivation for the young students to opt for various humanities courses. Secondly, it will give an edge to students who have access to the best coaching facilities to prepare for the common syllabus. As of now, even a rural, resourceless student can think of getting a good rank because of his/her good command over the optional subject. Such positive discrimination might be weakened if the recommendations are accepted.
If you are a student preparing or are planning prepare, my advice to you will be to skip rumor mongering and worrying about them. Nothing is going to happen which will affect your preparation immediately. If you are thinking of picking an optional right now and prepare, go for something which, even if removed will help you in the GS preparation. Remember, whatever changes happen, will happen for everyone. Eventually, it will boil down to who has prepared the most and the smartest. Don’t get left behind in that aspect of the examination for anything!
All the best!