Civil Services Examination conducted by the UPSC through three stages — preliminary, main and interview — to select officers for the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS), Indian Police Service (IPS) and Central Services perhaps continues to be the toughest and most keenly watched in the country.
How meticulously the examination has been designed and how few finally make it make a fascinating narrative. The preliminary examination consists of two papers of objective type (multiple choice) questions and carries a maximum of 400 marks. This stage serves as a screening test and marks obtained by the candidates are not considered for determining their final order of merit. Merit is determined out of the total of 2,025 marks — written or main examination comprising seven papers of 1,750 marks while the interview carries a total of 275 marks.
In the previous examination held in October last year, a total of 10,40,060 candidates had applied for the examination, but 4,82,770 (46.41%) candidates appeared for it. Out of them, only 10,564 (2.2%) qualified for the main examination held in January. 2,053 (19.43%) of them qualified for the personality test (interview). Finally, 761 (37%) candidates were recommended for appointment. These 761 candidates belonged to different categories- (i) General-263 (34.56%); (ii) EWS-86 (11.30%); (iii) OBC-229 (30.09%); (iv) SC-122 (16.03%) and (v) ST-61(8.01%). Out of the 761 candidates, 545 were males and 216, females (28.38%). Of the 761 candidates, 65.44% numbering 498 belonged to EWS, OBC, SC & ST categories. For IAS, while 72 belonged to general category, 108 belonged to other categories and for IPS, out of 200 candidates recommended, 80 belonged to general category.
The fact that in the last examination, out of 482,770 candidates who took the preliminary examination, only 761 became successful (0.157%) through three stages of the examination process indicates how tough the examination is. The examination has its own compelling attraction for the brave, the determined and the passionate ones. It’s not for persons having a casual interest in it.
UPSC discloses the cut off marks for each component of the examination for each category of candidates every year both for transparency and for the benefit of aspirants as this helps in preparation for examination. This year while the cut off mark for preliminary examination was 92.51 for general candidates, it was 68.71 for ST candidates. Similarly, for Main examination, cut off mark for general candidates was 736 and 682 for ST candidates. Overall cut off for general candidates was 944 and for ST candidates it was 876.
Many keep attempting to get in and sit for the examination a number of times subject to existing Rules that put a limit on the number of attempts and the age of the candidate. This year Shubham Kumar topped the examination with 52.04% marks scoring 1,054 marks — 878 in the written and 176 in the personality test. He was from Engineering discipline and got in in the third attempt. The next successful candidate, Jagrati Awasthi, scored 1052 – 859 in written papers and 193 in interview. She too was from Engineering discipline and she got in, in her second attempt. The third rank holder, Ankita Jain, secured 1,051 marks — 839 in the main and 212 in the interview. She too was from Engineering discipline and she got in in her fourth attempt. The fourth rank holder, Yash Jaluka, scored 1,046 marks (851 in written and 195 in interview). He was a student of Economics and cleared the examination in the first attempt. Incidentally, his parents now live in Barbil where he had studied in school for a few years.
The syllabus has been changing from time to time. To handle a huge number of applicants, screening has been introduced through preliminary examination. Profile of successful candidates has been changing. More and more students from Engineering and Management background are joining the civil services enriching the civil services.
In the past, candidates from Odisha had been performing reasonably well in the examination. However, performance of candidates from Odisha this year has been a matter of grave concern. Only nine seem to have been successful. In other words, only 1.18% of the successful 761 candidates belonged to Odisha. Better employment and business opportunities are stated to be reasons of lukewarm interest in civil services in some regions of the country. Gujarat is mentioned in this regard. On the other hand, upsurge of interest for a career in civil services has been noted in many states including Rajasthan and Bihar.
Job and business opportunities continue to be extremely limited in Odisha. A career in civil services is held in admiration in the state. It is therefore not correct to assume that Odisha youths are increasingly getting disinterested in civil services because of availability of better opportunities. The real reason seems to be the growing inadequacy in academic field that has made it increasingly difficult for Odisha candidates to compete.
Education sector in the state has been plagued with long spell of shortage of teaching staff that has affected quality of teaching. While students coming from the creamy layers of society have resources to get educated in reputed educational institutions outside the state, students from EWS, OBC, ST & SC segments have been badly affected with steady decline of teaching quality in local institutions. Performance of candidates belonging to these segments has been dismal.
The situation has become critical enough to warrant immediate measures by government. Persisting deficiencies in Colleges and State Universities need to be addressed to arrest further drift. Special coaching facilities have to be created in different zones for students aspiring to join the civil services. Financial help may have to be given to students of the EWS, OBC, SC & ST categories. Bihar has such a scheme for SC & ST persons who have cleared the preliminary examination.
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