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Reason stays, IAS hopefuls upset

For a majority of IAS aspirants, Tuesday was a day of hope and despair.

The candidates from Hindi background were partially relieved over the Centre’s decision to not to take into count the English score of the civil services aptitude test (CSAT) for gradation. But they were, at the same time, disappointed because their main demand to scrap CSAT was not accepted.

The Hindi medium aspirants claimed that the CSAT format suited convent students and was not in the larger interest of students coming from rural background. Even some teachers in the business of coaching civil service aspirants echoed them.

Kumar Ajay, the director of Samvad, an IAS coaching institute, said: “The Union government has decided not to include the marks of English scored in CSAT while preparing the merit list. Now, it has to consider mathematics, reasoning, decision-making and interpersonal questions.” ¯

Explaining the format of CSAT, the Samvad director said 40 questions carrying 100 marks are based on comprehension. The other paper also consists of 40 questions carrying 100 marks. Questions are asked from reasoning, mathematics, decision-making and interpersonal skills in it.

Kumar Ajay said after the introduction of CSAT, the number of Hindi medium students clearing the civil services examination had gone down. Ajay said: “Out of 1,122 successful students, only 26 are from Hindi medium this year. Earlier, the percentage of successful candidates from Hindi medium was 30 to 40 per cent.”

Echoing the views of Kumar Ajay, civil services aspirant Ghanshyam Kumar said it was difficult for a candidate with humanities background to answer questions on reasoning, mathematics and decision-making. “For those having science background, it is a cakewalk. As a result, the success rate of candidates having science background has gone up of late.”

Another group of candidates strongly backed CSAT. They think the government has done the right thing by not scrapping it because the questions on reasoning, mathematics, decision-making and interpersonal skills judge the calibre of aspirants.

Amit Jaiswal, a candidate preparing for the civil services examination, said: “The real strength of a civil servant is his/her reasoning capacity and the capability to take correct decision on time. A civil servant has to handle situations which require inter-personnel skills.”¯

Bihar, especially Patna, witnessed protests of various groups in the past few weeks against CSAT. Last week, a large number of aspirants under the banner of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the BJP’s youth wing, staged a demonstration at Rajendra Nagar Terminus, disrupting the movement of trains. There were series of protests in other Hindi-speaking states as well, demanding the rollback of CSAT.

The civil services examination consists of preliminary test (PT) and Mains, followed by interview. The PT comprises 400 marks and questions are set on general studies, English comprehension and reasoning, mathematics, decision-making and interpersonal skills. Students clearing the PT exam are allowed to appear in Mains comprising 1,000 marks on general studies, 500 marks on any optional paper and 250 marks on essay.

Keen to defuse the escalating row over CSAT, the government on Monday announced in Parliament that English marks in CSAT would not be included for gradation or merit but the impasse is likely to continue with agitating aspirants sticking to the demand for complete scrapping of the format. The Union Public Services Commission, meanwhile, said the civil services preliminary exams would be held as scheduled on August 24 incorporating the changes.