The Telegraph
Wednesday , July 16 , 2014
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After DU, cloud on civil services test

New Delhi, July 15: Uncertainty looms over next month’s preliminary civil services exam amid a nine-day-old hunger-strike by candidates seeking a change in test pattern and a non-committal government making sympathetic noises and dropping hints of a date change.

Junior minister Jitendra Singh, whose ministry has administrative control over the exam, today asked the 100-odd students protesting at a Delhi public ground since July 6 to withdraw their relay fast.

He hinted the government might ask the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) to examine the students’ demands to scrap the aptitude test introduced in 2011, which they claim favours English-medium students, and postpone the exam now scheduled on August 24.

But a later ministry statement said without explanation that the government was “awaiting the report of a three-member committee set up under the chairmanship of Shri Arvind Varma to look into this issue”. It added that the government was “sympathetically looking at” the students’ concerns.

Jitendra, minister of state for personnel, public grievances and pensions, too had said the government would “take a view after receiving the opinion of the UPSC as well as that of the committee”.

“We are also urging the UPSC and the committee that not only (should the) report be submitted at the earliest… they should also consider postponing the date of the preliminary examination.”

The lack of clarity comes weeks after a similarly harrowing period for students seeking Delhi University seats. Like the cloud over the admission dates and the fate of the university’s four-year undergraduate programme then, the uncertainty here relates to the pattern, syllabus and date of the preliminary civil service exam.

The students’ grouse is that an optional-subject paper carrying 67 per cent weightage — which allowed candidates to pick a regional language and write in that language — has been replaced with the 200-mark aptitude test (weightage 50 per cent).

Like CAT, it asks objective-type questions — on logical reasoning, problem-solving, basic numeracy, data interpretation and the like — in Hindi and English. The candidates have to colour one of multiple answer boxes.

“English-medium students from cities are doing better,” said Vikash Kumar, who has joined the agitation led by the forum Rashtriya Adhikar Manch. Sunil Singh, founder of another forum, Fight UPSC, said humanities graduates too were struggling.

“The numbers of students from regional-language mediums and the humanities are falling in the list of successful candidates because of the aptitude test,” he said.