The Big Picture – Civil Service Exams: What is the way out?

August 6, 2014 at 9:12 AM | Posted in TV Show | Leave a comment

rjtvPublished on 5 Aug 2014

Guests: Shailaja Chandra (Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Delhi) ; J D Seelam (MP, Congress) ; Sri Ram Santhanam (Sriram IAS academy) ; Rohit Chahal (National Secretary, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP))

No to English – Has the Centre Caved In on the UPSC row?

August 5, 2014 at 10:07 AM | Posted in TV Show | Leave a comment

ndtv_logoPublished On: August 4, 2014 | Duration: 47 min, 54 sec

The government has given in, now English marks in the UPSC paper won’t be counted. But many protesting students, who feel the exam is against Hindi-speaking people, believe it should be scrapped completely. Should the government have given in at all? Is the English language key for the success of civil servants? We debate on the Left, Right and Centre.

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Guests: Shailaja Chandra (Former Bureaucrat) ; Yogender Yadav (Former, UGC Mermeber) ; Sambit Patra (Leader, BJP) ; Narender Kumar (UPSC Aspirant); KC Singh (Former Secretary, MEA) and Nidhi Rajdan, Anchor .

I come in at 11.32 minutes

I come in at 8.22 minutes

नेशनल रिपोर्टर : सी-सैट पर अब क्यों नाराज हैं छात्र?

August 5, 2014 at 10:01 AM | Posted in TV Show | Leave a comment

ndtv_logoPublished On: August 4, 2014 | Duration: 19 min, 51 sec

केंद्र सरकार ने यूपीएससी की सीसैट परीक्षा का विवाद सुलाझानें के लिए अपना रुख संसद में साफ कर दिया, लेकिन प्रदर्शनकारी छात्र अब भी नाराज़ हैं। आखिर क्यों उनकी शिकायत दूर नहीं हो पाई है। जानेंगे आज नेशनल रिपोर्टर में….

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Click to view video

I come in at 9.22 minutes

Govt buys time, vows resolution on UPSC issue

August 2, 2014 at 12:39 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

headlines_todayPublished on 29 Jun 2014

So far the UPSC has refused to make any changes in the English paper in the preliminary examination of civil services.

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Click for play video

Guests: Shailaja Chandra (Former Cabinet Secretary, Govt of Delhi) ; Pappu Yadav (MP, RJD) ; Shaina NC(Leader, BJP); Sooraj Yadav, Delhi University, Vinod Mayla, UPSC Aspirant Anchor: Rahul Kanwar.

I come in at 5.00 minutes, and again at 15.56 minutes.

Civil Service Aptitude Test: It’s not unfair to Hindi-medium aspirants

July 31, 2014 at 8:15 PM | Posted in Bureaucracy, Governance and Sarkar | Leave a comment

HT logo

Sixty-four years after the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) conducted the first competitive examination for recruiting civil servants, we now witness the shameful spectacle of potential public servants making a bonfire of question papers on the street, breaking prohibitory orders before Parliament House and indulging in rioting to the point of getting arrested and jailed. There have been two main refrains.

First, the Civil Service Aptitude Test (CSAT), introduced in 2011, is unfair to rural and Hindi-medium aspirants, besides being skewed in favour of those having an English-speaking background.

Second, the CSAT fails to evaluate the functional competence of future civil servants and should therefore be scrapped. That a relatively small section of the examinees has been dictating what should be done to restructure the examination and their ultimatums have been receiving serious attention, is perhaps unheard of in the annals of the UPSC — a highly respected constitutionally established institution.

Each year some 300,000 candidates appear for the combined competitive examination. The final success rate is 0.3% of the total applicants and is related to the number of vacancies that the government asks the commission to fill.

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About 15,000 candidates are screened through a two-part qualifying examination. Thereafter, on the basis of a rigorous written examination, around 3,000 candidates are called for the interview. The merit list is declared after the marks obtained in the interview and the written examination are totalled.

Interestingly the cause of friction emanates not from the structure or content of the main examination but is purely the CSAT. The test examines the candidates’ interpersonal skills, communication, analytical and problem-solving abilities, basic numeracy, data interpretation and comprehension of the English language (at Class 10 level).

Hindi translation is provided for 90% of the questions, and the statement that the CSAT is anti-Hindi is clearly far-fetched. While the quality of translation needs improvement, junking the entire paper because of a few badly translated questions is preposterous.

What is inexplicable is why the CSAT did not create even the slightest ripple in the three previous years it has been a part of the examination. Was the reckless February 2014 decision to give two more chances to civil services aspirants (in a bid to placate yet another vote-bank) responsible for opening this Pandora’s box?

Interestingly, there is no conflict with the other ‘General Studies’ preliminary paper that tests the candidates’ knowledge of current events, Indian history, the Indian national movement, the Indian polity and governance, economic and social developments including environment and general science. The reason could be that all this can be absorbed from books and coaching classes whereas the CSAT is unpredictable.

I spoke to some among those that had successfully cleared the 2011, 2012 and 2013 examinations, which included the CSAT. They were unanimous in their appreciation of the aptitude test because “it provided a level playing field at the preliminary stage”. More importantly, it introduced elements that could not be crammed from books or scooped up from coaching centres.

That brings one to the related question of rural-urban bias and English proficiency. Here the facts given on the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration’s website are illuminating. Each year on average 15-20% of the successful candidates are women and they come predominantly (up to 90%) from urban areas.

However, among male probationers, the proportion of urban to rural probationers ranges from 65% urban to 35% rural; this picture had not altered after the CSAT was introduced. If one looks at the last three years, the lowest intake of rural entrants was 31%.

The rural-background entrants follow generally a trajectory that is quite impressive. After attending a district or even block-level school successful students move to the state capital for high school and college education, boarding with relatives or in hostels.

Probationers from the Hindi medium had this to say: Despite having attended Hindi or vernacular-medium schools and being permitted to write in Hindi or a regional language, they realised the need to attain English proficiency at the earliest. This is because the civil service examination demands an understanding of national and international developments, which are not analysed in depth by Hindi and regional newspapers.

The main examination papers in subjects like geography or economics also require conversance with latest expert report findings, which too are accessible only on the Internet — again in English. Finally to hold one’s own during discussion having a nuanced understanding of English helps enormously.

The notion that all rural candidates opted for Hindi medium was erroneous; the data shows that around 85% candidates, including those from rural backgrounds, have consistently opted to write in English.

This analysis shows that while one may criticise the need for dependency on English, the fact remains that until an alternative is available more than a working knowledge of English would continue to be needed — not because of a colonial hangover or an elitist bias but simply because at the present stage of development Hindi and regional analysis simply cannot provide the broad-based understanding an aspirant to the civil services must perforce attain.

Raising the hopes of disgruntled coaching-class inspired aspirants has dangerous implications for the quality of future civil servants. One hopes appeasement does not again take place, diluting the rigour of one of the world’s most admired examination systems.Raising the hopes of disgruntled coaching-class inspired aspirants has dangerous implications for the quality of future civil servants. One hopes appeasement does not again take place, diluting the rigour of one of the world’s most admired examination systems.

Branding the babu

July 30, 2014 at 11:45 AM | Posted in Bureaucracy, Governance and Sarkar | Leave a comment

logo_newWhat prompted the government to disallow any officer who had worked with a Central minister at any point over the last 10 years to join the personal staff of a new NDA minister?

Narendra Modi’s style of functioning as prime minister has evoked mixed responses. There is praise for and euphoria over several announcements — downsizing the council of ministers, setting targets for infrastructure development, rationalising departmental responsibilities and demanding that ministers find bilateral solutions to departmental entanglements, for instance. But there is also unease over some developments. The first is the fear of excessive centralism, which stems from the belief that centralisation kills democratic decision-making.

Branding the babu

What is seldom understood is that all governments operate through the bureaucracy, which is an amalgam of individuals who constantly require policy-level direction, leadership and evaluation of outcomes. At one time, ministers and secretaries provided that direction. But as disproportionate influence began to be exercised by powerful political associates, accountability became increasingly diffused. Many departments faced major obstacles due to an absence of leadership. With the growing complexity of government, a clear message from the top was needed to remove logjams but, over the last few years, the top political executive simply did not intervene. The bureaucracy was often led by secretaries who always had one eye on post-retirement sinecures or a better posting. Either way, ministers were never held answerable for taking a one-sided view, even when this was publicised through leaks and interviews. Secretaries were generally loath to spoil their copy-books, and discouraged enthusiasm and originality lest it rock the boat. The result was inertia.

Perhaps for the very first time in decades, Prime Minister Modi’s interaction with the bureaucracy and the instructions he has given have signalled the need for transformation. No longer would proximity to the minister and other power centres provide insurance for the future. Status-quoist secretaries can no longer sit on the fence looking busy. They will have to display and encourage initiative because their own future will henceforth be decided by entirely new yardsticks. By pinning down the secretaries, Modi has extracted a commitment on the main concerns they have highlighted themselves. Of even greater significance is the fact that reaching political consensus is once again the minister’s responsibility — the alibis of groups of ministers and empowered committees having been ripped apart.

While the over-centralism concern can be met thus, not all reforms are easy to explain. For instance, what prompted the government to disallow any officer who had worked with a Central minister at any point over the last 10 years to join the personal staff of a new NDA minister? Since the 10-year period coincides with the UPA’s tenure, the purport of the order has left no doubt in most minds. Although it only dittoed an old department of personnel and training order about the duration of postings with ministers, its reiteration, covering the precise period of UPA rule, has unwittingly made the loyalties of officers who worked directly for the previous regime suspect. The erstwhile personal staff have come to be seen as “Congressis” or “UPA-wallahs”. Concomitantly, the order has automatically converted the new incumbents in the ministerial offices into “BJP” or “NDA-wallahs”. This strikes at the root of the civil service rules, which draw their strength from the Constitution and eschew any politicisation of the service, espousing the need for a politically neutral bureaucracy. So instead of restoring and fortifying that much-needed objective, the 10-year embargo has created an artificial division within the civil service by branding some officers with a particular political dispensation. If officers deliberately choose to become politically aligned as a result of this, it would be an unhappy development.

Related to this is the question of equity: can a bureaucrat who has had a relatively short stint in the personal office of a minister, often after having been hand-picked from within the ministry to assist the minister, be equated with a bureaucrat who has tracked a minister from one ministry to another, advancing in influence with each new reshuffle? Everyone inside the bureaucracy knows who was up to what and the modus operandi employed. Painting both kinds of officers with one brush has been unfair to some. In the ultimate analysis, personal staff officers hardly contribute to making big policy or change the way government works. Upright former members of a minister’s personal office should not be discriminated against now when their names come up for Central deputation or key postings.

Just as the PM has constrained the ministers’ choice of personal staff, he must also disallow them from handpicking secretaries or even joint secretaries and additional secretaries — something that had become a regular phenomenon ever since coalition dharma ruined the bureaucracy. The centralisation of establishment systems would achieve what umpteen commissions and committees have been urging for decades but never succeeded in achieving. Simply put, political interference in the management of the senior bureaucracy still needs to be eliminated. How far the cabinet secretary is able to withstand individual pressure from ministers remains to be seen. Equally, how the PM exercises a check on civil servants who manipulate postings remains a question.

A word of caution is also needed, lest miracles are expected from the Modi dispensation. Only a fifth of the IAS and other services actually function in the ministries of the Central government. In our federal system, the PM’s writ will have limited impact on the functioning of state government bureaucracies through whom the bulk of government work is carried out. State government programmes and services are aligned to policies announced by chief ministers and draw nourishment from state budgets. When CMs demand honesty and hard work, the civil service responds. But when CMs are surrounded by influence-peddlers, officers look to benefit from proximity to such elements. The PM can do little to change this unfortunate trend because officers are governed by the state cadre authority, which comes directly under the CM.

The PM’s style has drawn much enthusiasm from the Central government’s bureaucracy. But now the real test lies in being able to distinguish the achievers from the drones, and giving the former the freedom to deliver.

UPSC Row: Meet the Protestors

July 29, 2014 at 12:11 PM | Posted in TV Show | Leave a comment

ndtv_logoPublished On: July 28, 2014 | Duration: 21 min, 52 sec

Agenda brings you the people behind the protests – meet the five who went to jail protesting the English questions in the UPSC-CSAT exam. Is it another elitist fight or is there more to this row that is seeing violent protests all over and that has netas queing up to give support?

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I come in at 4.32 minutes, 13.08 minutes, 14.00 minutes and 17.05 minutes.

Nation at 9:Brick & mortar ‘murders’

June 30, 2014 at 10:07 AM | Posted in TV Show | 2 Comments
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NewsxPublished on 29 Jun 2014

Five persons were killed and 15 others injured when an 11-story under-construction building collapsed near suburban Porur on Saturday with rescue efforts on by multiple agencies, including National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).

A total of 20 persons were rescued and admitted to the nearby Sri Ramachandra Medical University (SRMU), of whom five — three men and two women — died, hospital spokesperson P V Nallamuthu said, adding one of the injured is in critical condition.

Question Hour: Modi scanner on Ministers – Part 1 & Part 2

June 29, 2014 at 6:36 PM | Posted in TV Show | Leave a comment

newsnationPublished on 27 Jun 2014

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not leaving any point to keep their ministers engaged in their work and for the same he is scanning and monitoring each and every move. In this edition of Question Hour we talk about the merits and demerits of Modi governance.

Question Hour: Modi scanner on Ministers – Part 1

Question Hour: Modi scanner on Ministers – Part 2

Guests: Shailaja Chandra (Former Chief Secretary, Govt of Delhi) ; Meem Afzal (Leader, Congress) ; Shyam Jaju (Leader, BJP) Anchor: Ramesh Bhat.

नई फसल की नई संभावनाए

June 14, 2014 at 8:19 PM | Posted in News clippings | Leave a comment

ht-hindi_header
यूपीएससी की परीक्षा ने कुलीन समाज के मिथक को तोड़ा है। ग्रामीण और निम्न मध्यवर्गीय उम्मीदवारो ने अपनी क्षमताओं का लोहा मनवाया है।
अंक योग्यता की पूरी परिभाषा नही होते। हमारे समय मे शिक्षा-पध्दति और मार्किग पैटर्न, दोनो ऐसे थे कि साठ प्रतिशत अंक लाने वाले छात्र बड़े ही काबिल माने जाते।लेकिन अब केवल प्रथम श्रेणी से पास होना सफलता की गारंटी नही है। यह रूझान संघ लोक सेवा आयोग की परीक्षा मे भी दिखता है

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