#ByeByeUPSC Protests As Government Plans Big Change In Civil Services

The Prime Minister's Office has proposed that the allocation of new recruits to different services should be based not just on their marks in the UPSC exam, but also on the basis of a "foundation course"

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UPSC candidates say the Mussoorie training academy instructors will serve as judges.


New Delhi:  Just over a month after they exhaled, having cleared one of the country's toughest exams, this year's recruits for India's civil services are experiencing a new case of nerves.

The Prime Minister's Office has proposed in a note last week that the allocation of the new recruits to different services - the police or the foreign service, for example - should be based not just on their marks in the UPSC or Union Public Service Commission exam, but also on the basis of how they perform in a "foundation course" that lasts three months and serves as an orientation exercise.

What the government note doesn't clarify is who would mark the candidates. It seems, according to the UPSC candidates, that it's instructors at the training academy in Mussoorie where the course is held who will serve as judges. But those who've cleared the exam this year and past UPSC toppers say this will be an arbitrary assessment that's at odds with the transparent procedure followed so far, which allots recruits purely on the marks they scored in the entrance exam. The Indian Administrative Service or IAS draws the highest scorers , next up is the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), followed by the Indian Police Service (IPS).

"This leaves scope for manipulation which is not a good thing," said a former member of the UPSC, the body which administers the entrance exam. "At the moment it is very clear, all up to marks. But with the new system, if you have a candidate who you want to go to the IFS, you can pressure the academy or whoever is giving marks for the foundation course to give them 90%. That could mean they get precedence over those who are actual toppers in UPSC.''

Government sources stressed that the note from the Prime Minister's Office is a proposal that seeks comments and not a done deal and that giving the training course some stake in a candidate's positioning would help solve the problem of some services being over-subscribed.

Recruits who are due to start training in August have formed WhatsApp groups to debate next steps. Among their discussion points is that the new proposal calls for a recruit's assessment in the training course to factor not just into what civil service is assigned to him or her, but also in the cadre or the state that he or she will be asked to serve.

In a petition they are considering sending to the government that NDTV has accessed, they also point out how the crucial services will be then decided by a non-constitutional body like course directors. Kashmir's recent topper and IAS officer Shah Faesal tweeted, "If the newly proposed IAS service/cadre allocation policy is approved, it will turn IAS into ICS- Indian Chamcha Service."

The opposition Congress is mining the controversy to accuse the government of trying to circumvent merit with its own preferences for civil servants to ensure a compliant bureaucracy. 
 "How is the RSS involved in all this? Rahul Gandhi sees RSS in everything. Right now, the proposal is to see if the foundation course can be scored or not,'' BJP chief Amit Shah said, responding to Congress president Rahul Gandhi's tweet. 

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