The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Catch ’em young bid for babus
- Govt proposes national exam after school

New Delhi, Aug. 18: In a move that can radically alter the procedure for joining the civil services, the Manmohan Singh government has thrown up for discussion a proposal that envisages an entrance exam at the undergraduate level to qualify for IAS, IFS, IPS and allied services.

If the proposal fructifies, civil service aspirants will be put through a specialised, hold-all course instead of banking on private tutorials. The long-term objective, said PMO sources, was to “professionalise” governance instead of approaching it in an ad hoc manner.

By reducing the eligibility criteria to the Class XII level, the plan is to hold the all-India entrance exam for central civil services on the pattern of the National Defence Academy, medical and law colleges and IITs. But passing the entrance will not guarantee a job.

Students who pass the entrance would join a national academy for a five-year course. At the end of three years, those who complete the course would get a graduate degree. But only 90 per cent would be given service allotments on the basis of their performance; the remaining 10 per cent at the bottom of the merit list would have to quit.

Candidates who get service allotments can go in for a two-year service-specific course. This course would lead to a degree equivalent to an MBA but the government would reserve the right to drop students who “are not found to be good enough”. They “can go out into the market with their MBA-equivalent degrees”.

Officials acknowledge that the proposal, worked out by principal secretary to the Prime Minister T.K.A. Nair and cabinet secretary B.K. Chaturvedi, is too radical to be implemented without a public debate. It will be put up on the website of the department of personnel and training over the next few days and the feedback examined by the proposed Administrative Reforms Commission before an official view is taken.

An official said a similar proposal mooted by the Economic Administrative Reforms Commission headed by .K. Jha in 1982 was considered too radical by subsequent governments for implementation.

The Y.K. Alagh committee that looked into the recruitment process for the civil services had also spoken of the need to bring down the age of aspirants. Existing rules prescribe graduation as the minimum educational qualification and a maximum age limit of 30.

If the proposal is implemented — officials suggest it may take a couple of years —lakhs of students in their twenties, who have spent years preparing for the exam, would be out of the race in one stroke, as also doctors and engineers.

The government believes the new breed of bureaucrats would be more honest as they would not have had to spend lakhs on graduation and then tutorials.

Officials believe the services would no longer remain elitist as the course would be affordable to poor students.

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