The controversy over the preliminary UPSC examination has unnecessarily taken a political turn. The Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) introduced in 2011 is seen by many UPSC aspirants as favourable to candidates who have studied in English medium schools. On the other hand, CSAT supporters claim that questions asked in CSAT are of school level and UPSC candidates must know that much English. Anti-CSAT agitation in Delhi led to a heated debate in Parliament over the issue. Despite the government’s decision not to include marks scored in English in the gradation process, the demand for scrapping CSAT continued. It’s clear that candidates, especially from the Hindi belt, feel that continued imposition of English denies them opportunity irrespective of merit. And that poses the big question: Can we do away with English in administrative services?
It is true that even 67 years after the Indian Independence, those with fluent English enjoy higher status. Till some time back, most IAS and IFS officers belonged to affluent families. Not only in academics but also in cultural, social and sports fields, English-speaking people excelled. Many who had the abilities were looked down upon simply because their expression in English was poor. Only the urban rich and affluent had access to good English-medium schools. Others who studied in regional languages, especially in rural areas, could hardly make it to the top. In progressive states such as Maharashtra, West Bengal and Punjab, bright vernacular students could achieve heights after struggling hard, but not in the rural Hindi states. UPSC was never in the reach of such students. Even after central government’s decision to hold UPSC exams in regional languages, the dominance of English-medium students continued.
However, with the spread of internet, awareness about civil services grew. More and more youngsters even from rural areas started preparing, taking advantage of the available option of medium. As a result, at least at the state level, we find youngsters from backward regions occupying posts in administration. Yet lack of proficiency over the English language continues to deny them better opportunities in their career. Probably that was the reason CSAT was introduced in preliminary tests in 2011. Naturally, students uncomfortable with English see it as an obstacle right at the entry level. Support by opposition parties for scrapping CSAT was more for cornering the government than long-term interest of students. One must understand the issue in totality. English remains the medium for