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Civil service worry for Odisha MLAs

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 21: The success rate of Odisha candidates in all India civil service examinations has taken a nosedive, thanks to deterioration in the standard of general education and opening of other job avenues.

Preferences, too, have changed. Time was when students used to go out of the state to prepare specifically for the civil services. But now, a sizeable chunk of them opt for technical courses. This also accounts for the proliferation of technical institutes in the state which till 1990s had only three medical colleges and two engineering colleges. Today, there are as many as 103 engineering colleges and seven medical colleges.

State’s higher education minister Badri Narayan Patra today told the Assembly that the government had no official figure on success rate of candidates from Odisha. “Odia students appear at the exam from various centres across the country. Besides, it’s difficult to figure out from Union Public Service Commission website who are Odia from their surnames,” he said, admitting that there was a general perception that the number was on the decline.

The issue figured in the Assembly when members expressed concern over deteriorating quality of general education. “There are huge vacancies in colleges and universities. The government is not interested to address the basic problems, leave aside improving the teaching standard,” said Leader of the Opposition Bhupinder Singh.

BJD legislator and former higher education minister Prasanta Nanda and deputy leader of the Congress Chakradhar Paik underscored the need for curriculum revamp. The minister said the state government was constituting a committee to examine the proposal to update the curriculum to match all India standards.

Former bureaucrats recall how a large number of candidates from Odisha used to get into all India civil service during the 70’s and 80’s. However, the number has come down in the recent years. Rabi Narayan Senapati, a senior IAS officer of 1977 batch, recalled that more than 40 candidates from Odisha used to be drafted into the all India civil service every year on an average during the 70’s and 80’s.

However, the number of successful candidates has now plummeted. Last year, around 12 candidates from Odisha had cleared the civil service examination. Former chief secretary Sudhanshu Bhusan Mishra attributed deterioration in standard of general education to the declining success rate in all India competitive examinations.

“How can there be quality education, when there are large number of vacancies in colleges and teachers are being recruited on contact basis,” said veteran educator Abani Kumar Baral.

Former IPS officer S.N. Tiwari sad the state lacked quality coaching institutes to groom students.

P.K. Sahu, vice-chancellor of Utkal University, said: “We have started restructuring of our courses keeping various all India competitive examinations in view. We will introduce the new courses from 2013-14 academic year.”

Renowned physicist Trilochan Pradhan, who had headed a taskforce on higher education, said: “Various alternative job avenues have opened up. Civil service is no more the only avenue. Meritorious students are now going for technical courses, which offer better salary.”