Smriti Irani in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday. (PTI)
New Delhi, Aug. 6: The government today wished aspiring civil servants the best for the upcoming UPSC prelims but ruled out further tweaks in the format for drawing up the merit list, saying any “major change in haste” could confuse candidates.
The stand by the Centre, which described itself as a guardian, led to a walkout by many Opposition parties in the Rajya Sabha, where the matter had come up for discussion.
Minister of state for parliamentary affairs Prakash Javadekar told the upper House the government would call an all-party meeting soon to explore further changes but made it clear there wouldn’t be any more modifications than the two it has suggested before the August 24 prelims.
“I think we are like guardians and our relatives are also appearing in this examination… there cannot be any major change in haste before August 24. So let us give our best wishes to these nine lakh candidates. Let us assure them, not confuse them,” Javadekar said.
The Centre had on Monday proposed that the scores of candidates in the 20-mark compulsory English-language comprehension test in the civil services aptitude test (CSAT) wouldn’t count while drawing up the prelims merit list.
It didn’t scrap the 200-mark CSAT, as many students have been demanding. One of the key grouses with the CSAT paper is that the rest of the language comprehension tests — offering an optional Hindi version with the English — is particularly difficult because of the poor Hindi translations.
Those who want the format changed also say the paper favours students who have an English-medium background.
Another concession the government offered was allowing those who had taken the 2011 exam — the year the aptitude test was introduced — one more shot next year even if they have exhausted their six chances or crossed the 32-year age limit.
In the Rajya Sabha, where the UPSC row came up for the second day running, the Congress, Samajwadi Party, BSP, RJD, JDU, BJD, NCP, AIADMK, DMK, Trinamul and the communist twins CPI and the CPM demanded that the question papers be prepared in all Indian languages.
Trinamul’s Derek O’Brien said it may not be possible for the Union Public Service Commission to prepare the prelims papers in all the languages before the August 24 test, but the provision should be there in the future. He said the 300-mark English paper in the main exam shouldn’t be dropped.
“Some people say CSAT is very, very good and some people say CSAT is very, very bad. There needs to be a discussion,” O’Brien added.
The AIADMK’s V. Maitreyan said candidates from Tamil Nadu should have the option of writing the prelims either in Tamil or in English, and called for a level playing field for all candidates.
NCP leader D.P. Tripathy said the CSAT should be junked, while the Telangana Rashtra Samiti’s K. Keshav Rao said candidates from the south should get the translated version of questions in their respective languages.
Javadekar said the government would soon hold an all-party meeting. CPM leader Sitaram Yechury said such meetings were nothing but delaying tactics. “You have heard the views of all parties here,” he said. So why not take a decision now, he asked.
As deputy chairman P.J. Kurien said the discussions were over, parties like the CPI, CPM, Samajwadi and the BSP walked out.
At Jantar Mantar, the protest by students continued. One group protested in front of the BJP office, student leader Vikash Kumar said.