What have we come to? The examinees now insist on deciding what sort of a question paper should be set for them to clear the civil service entry exam. This was unheard of till only a few years ago. It is a reflection of the permissive society we have all fostered that there is little regard for norms and values. All that seems to matter is self-promotion and instant gratification. Hard work and patience have been replaced by moral and illegal short-cuts to achieve quick success. The ongoing protests on the streets of the nation’s capital are a pointer to the complete breakdown of values in our society. Those demonstrating on the capital’s streets, vandalising public property and generally making a spectacle of themselves are all wannabe civil servants, except that they want their passage to the powerful public posts eased through the outright scrapping of the basic English language test. These potential examinees complain that the English language test puts them at a great disadvantage vis-a-vis others, who might have had that language as their  mother tongue or might have learnt it at the school and college levels. They would like the test, which examines their familiarity with English in the most elementary form, to be abolished. Instead, they would like to be examined in the regional language or, better still, in their mother tongue. And these are people who aspire to become sub-divisional magistrates and district collectors, district superintendents of police and commissioners of police. How a boy or a girl from Jharkhand expects to get by as a district collector, say, in Tamil Nadu, without being conversant in English defies common sense. After all, once you enter the civil service you can be posted anywhere in the country, depending on the State-cadre allocated to you. If you are unable to clear the basic, 8th Standard English language test while sitting for the Civil Service Aptitude Test, it is inconceivable that you have the requisite aptitude to clear the final exam which can be quite tough. Notably, in the Aptitude Test, Hindi translation is provided for most of the question-papers. It is only the rudimentary test in English which has evoked the ire of tens of thousands of potential civil servants. In the last couple of days, their violent protests have found an echo in the two Houses of Parliament, with the Home Minister Rajnath Singh promising to consider their demand. However, various experts have strongly advised against capitulation before these protesters. It is because their demand is wrong-headed and totally unreasonable. Anyone keen to join the covenanted all-India government services ought to have the mental discipline and aptitude to know a smattering of school-level English. It is no good to say that a majority of the potential entrants to the civil services come from rural areas and therefore they ought not to be asked to learn the school-level English. If at this young age they show such an aversion to learn basic English, it is a moot point as to what they can learn as young administrators and district officials. Being from rural areas should not automatically confer on them a special privilege. If they seek to be tested minus the English test, can the examinees from urban areas and public schools demand that they be allowed to skip the Hindi test altogether?

Mind you, nobody is demanding proficiency in English at the entrance level. No. Only a basic familiarity with the language. The problem is that the permissive culture has spread so wide and deep in our society that everyone, the younger generations included, wants instant success without minimum of effort. Earlier, they had increased the number of times a potential civil servant could fail and still try again and again. And had also drastically reduced the importance of oral interviews, in which experts in various fields interacted with examinees to find out their intellectual make-up, especially because written tests were invariably a lottery determining the mugging capabilities of candidates.  The Government has no business to interfere in the examination process for civil services, which is governed by the UPSC. Agitating civil services hopefuls ought to be firmly told to either take the English exam or look for some other employment avenues. They cannot be allowed to dictate to the future employer-examiner.

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