Yatha naya raja, tatha naya prashasan?
by Krishen Kak on 13 Jun 2014 7 Comments

Three previous essays on a “yatha raja, tatha prashasan” theme argued that a British legacy of administration is being perpetuated through an institution called the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) that selects administrators through an annual Civil Services Examination (CSE).[1] It was argued that the CSE, as a system, affirms that government service, and especially the still-elite “Indian Administrative Service”, is about a colonial-type “administration” (shaasan), not about a bharatiya-type service (seva), that continues to treat citizens as objects and not subjects of policy.[2]  


It was argued that the CSE system is an exercise in political engineering that furthers the vote-bank and divide-and-rule policies and politics of our rulers. It selects for the lowest common denominator.[3]  The Supreme Court itself has said that a system of this kind is a system of mediocrity.[4] 


This fourth essay expands on three points established in the earlier essays –

-        the Macaulayan bias of the CSE;

-        the contradictory data of the evaluation procedure, and the certain hanky-panky in the CSE marking; and

-        the UPSC needing to examine its own ethics first, before examining the ethics of its examinees.


The CSE has a marked pro-English bias. It was shown earlier that those who are fluent in an Indian language rather than in English are at a distinct disadvantage. There is more evidence in the public domain that the selection system weighs against those from rural backgrounds. Some years ago, the UPSC commissioned Prof Arun Nigavekar to recommend CSE reforms.  It then kept his report secret for two years till this was forced into the public domain through an RTI appeal by Mrunal Patel. Patel discusses this report on his website and points out that the UPSC’s own research wing noted the CSE’s pro-English anti-rural bias.[5]


The CSE has two Qualifying Language papers, English and a language from the Constitution’s Eighth Schedule (candidates from five north-eastern States and Sikkim are privileged by exemption). The UPSC states that “the aim of the paper is to test the candidates [sic] ability to read and understand serious discursive prose, and to express his ideas clearly and correctly” in that language. This is clearly stated, and twice, on the UPSC’s website, “to be of Matriculation or equivalent standard”.


Fair enough, so if you have matriculation standard in that language, you should expect to qualify. For this, obviously the pass/fail evaluation system is appropriate, as it is in universities - you get at least 36% (or whatever) and you have the required university standard; if you do not get that, you fail. But, contrary to what the UPSC twice said about matriculation level, till very recently it also said it could for the qualifying language settle on “such minimum standard as may be fixed by Commission at their discretion”. 


Why? Because it then followed that the minimum standard could be not only lower or higher than matriculation, but could vary from year to year and could vary across languages! Curiously, the UPSC would tell you your marks in the qualifying language but it refused to make public the cut-off mark for the language itself, and for the different languages. What possible rationale could there have been for such secrecy?


Mrunal Patel suggests three answers, and hints at a fourth (“to fail bottom 1/6th of the candidates”). I’ll say it out loud: Because secrecy could enable the UPSC to use the qualifying language as one of its tools in its political engineering, through increasing or reducing the pool of selection of students of specific linguistic preferences or backgrounds.  And the third essay showed that they do just this sort of scheming with the Optional subject.


The reasons for secrecy that the UPSC gave Mrunal Patel are an insult to the intelligence.  That was on Jan 20, 2014. On May 23, in a press note, the UPSC iterated that, an earlier-announced change apart, “there are no other changes in the format and syllabi of papers contained in the Civil Services Examination”. Then, on May 31, in the CSE 2014 notification that it had actually made public a day earlier, it announced a cut-off of 30% for the Indian languages and 25% for English. Why? What happened to all those reasons it had only a few months earlier given to Patel? 


The earlier essays showed without a doubt that the UPSC’s own ethics and integrity are seriously questionable. The earlier essays showed without a doubt that the UPSC plays a political game and is sensitive to political compulsions. This is not the first time it has backtracked. If for the UPSC its reasons for secrecy had merit earlier, what had changed that could explain its abandoning them?  


Did it realize that its reasons are stupid, which do its so-called expertise no credit? Or had it had the realization forced on it that it could be trapped in its own duplicity by a naya raja who proudly speaks in Hindi to the highest-rank Indian bureaucrats, almost all recruited by the anti-Hindi UPSC? And he proudly speaks in Hindi to foreign VIPs too, not finding this the disadvantage the anti-Hindi UPSC would have us natives believe it to be. Is it such a UPSC that is considered to be a competent selector of young persons to be Indian public servants? As Patel comments, “Waah Ustaad Waah”![6]  


Qualifying in English is compulsory for all candidates. Now, if IAS and IPS trainees can be taught the language of the State to which they are allotted and IFS trainees can be taught a foreign language, why likewise cannot meritorious non-English-speaking candidates be taught English during their training? Why do our rulers consider fluency in English a prerequisite for ruling us Indians? If you do not know English, you are by definition unfit for Indian government service. It is not that you cannot be taught English after your selection; it is that you are rejected outright because you do not know English. Why do meritorious desis have to suffer this Macaulayan discrimination in our own country?[7]  


Call it the People Like Us syndrome. A chaiwala cannot aspire to be a prime minister - my mother doesn’t go around in an auto-rickshaw like his does - my mother is chauffeured around in cars funded by the taxpayer. This is a colonial “ecosystem” that feeds off the fat of the land – and the UPSC purveys to it.[8]


The UPSC before both the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court described an elaborate evaluation procedure involving a hierarchy of examiners and checkers and sample checking, cross-checking and re-checking of answer sheets. Yet Mrunal Patel points out that, to Prof Nigavekar, UPSC member IMG Khan suggested “single answer paper may be evaluated by more than one examiner to assess different facets”, meaning, in Patel’s words, “right now (entire) single mains answer paper is evaluated by just one examiner” irrespective of what the UPSC claims officially.[9] 


The many biases of CSE interviewers have been pointed out in earlier essays, so when Patel reports that Nigavekar recommended that each interview candidate should be interviewed by all Boards, and then an average score be taken so that there is no bias, what does this confirm except that the interview is indeed a biased process?[10]


Here is a fresh example of interviewing bias. In Vice-Admiral (retd) DK Dewan’s entire 38-year career, other than two years as Chief of Personnel, he appears to have no qualification or special ability to select the right kind of Indians to serve our country and people. Used to a highly rank-conscious and overwhelmingly male hierarchy, he severely admonishes a female candidate he recognized from an Indian Forest Service interview for trying for the IAS. He bluntly tells her he’d never have given her the favourable marks he did in her IFoS interview had he known she was appearing for the CSE. This same Dewan warned a married female candidate of the difficulty of living apart from her husband, especially when she started “a family”. Does this UPSC member give such a sermon to married male candidates?[11] 


The UPSC in the CSE syllabus for its “Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude” paper describes the “Aptitude and foundational values for Civil Service, integrity, impartiality and non-partisanship, objectivity, dedication to public service, empathy, tolerance and compassion towards the weaker-sections”. There is no doubt that it is in consonance with such values that civil servants secure plum sinecures for themselves.[12] So, while the UPSC expects candidates to present syllabus-specified values in their answers, let us take a look at the reality of its own members.   


First, how are these members selected? They are civil servants and are expected to be “impartial” and “non-partisan”. Yet have you heard of the appointment of a bureaucrat as UPSC member who subscribed to an ideology contrary to that of the ruling party? Just go to the web – there are hundreds of accounts of actual interviews, some that were as brief as 10 minutes. And what is glaringly obvious is that the interviewers are not there because they are skilled interviewers, talented at drawing out the candidates so that a fair assessment can be made of their personalities. They are very much bureaucrats, and their appointment as UPSC members is linked to services rendered, or is in furtherance of an ideological agenda.[13] 


The UPSC members are part of the colonial ecosystem. So, for their “foundational values”, consider these examples -


Alka Sirohi, IAS, made UPSC member with “lightning speed”, reportedly in return for services rendered to UPA II and to provide her with advantageous retirement benefits.[14]


Amar Pratap Singh, IPS, whose professional record has nothing that would suggest he is especially qualified to identify young Indians worthy to be public servants. Singh headed the CBI and his tenure saw not only his initiative against Congress bête noire Amit Shah, but coincided with the rise of controversial meat exporter Moin Qureshi, whom Singh calls “a personal friend” and with whom he still has active mutual back-scratching connections and who in turn had the highest political connections.[15]


Vinay Mittal, IRTS, was Railway Board Chairman when the cash-for-posts scam surfaced and he was publicly accused of scheming for opportunities for his own IRTS and other rewards.[16]


Chhatar Singh, IAS, a relatively junior bureaucrat whose only claim to fame is his reported facilitation of the Vadra land deal in Haryana.[17]


Of the bureaucrats who are UPSC members in 2014, that leaves two. Manbir Singh, IFS, whose career highlight seems to have been as an event manager (“organized all outgoing and incoming visits of the Presidents, the Prime Ministers and the Foreign Ministers”), and Rajni Razdan, IAS, who was formally accused by a service colleague of abuse of her official position.  


Razdan featured in the second essay for her “notorious rudeness and whimsy”, and fortunately she retires later this year. The second essay gave examples of Hindi medium candidates being forced to answer in English. That was by IMG Khan. Razdan is no different in her anti-Hindi bias. “I was answering in Hindi, but all members said…answer in English otherwise you may lose [sic] some marks…After that my whole interview was in English.”   


There are on the web any number of candidates’ comments about how Razdan behaves, including eating her breakfast during the interview, and that she “locked her palms together, placed them to her forehead & slept leaning on the table”. “Fortunately she didn't sleep or pretend to sleep during my interview. Neither did she ask any questions from Manorama Year Book or Oxford Atlas” that she often has open before her. Her departing from her usual “head-down” position of not looking at the candidate to smile at one of them is so out-of-character that it attracts astonished comment and an eye-roll emoticon.[18] 


If this is the character and ability of UPSC members considered best qualified to be entrusted with the nation-building responsibility of recruiting candidates with “integrity, impartiality and non-partisanship, objectivity, dedication to public service” to run our country, what must be the calibre of the anonymous others the UPSC selects to join such members to form interview boards? Birds of a feather cawing together?[19]


Are you surprised that, over the years, the UPSC has been the instrument to provide the raw material for an administration that reeks of patronage and corruption?


Our country has a new prime minister, one from a mould very different from the one that shaped his predecessor. That raja presided over a prashasan that had grown to become the most dishonest (in every sense of that word) in free India’s history, and the political heads of that prashasan – 40 of 54 union ministers, 25 of 36 ministers of state, not to forget the raja and his handlers as a political party - have been most emphatically and decisively routed by a praja that had had enough of them.[20]      


But that raja’s prashasan through its babus, and the ecosystem of which they are part, remains as a fifth column.  In this ecosystem, selling the country is acceptable, selling tea is not.[21]  Kuchh banne ke sapne mat dekho, kuchh karne ke dekho, apne aap kuchh na kuchh ban jaoge. (literally, “don’t dream of becoming something, dream of doing something, you will automatically become something”)


The Indian praja has voted its hope and expectation that its new raja will bring in a new prashasan, one that serves and not rules us, one that is motivated by his credo just quoted above and that surely draws from Gita 2.47. But, for this to happen, the naya raja has first to exorcise our country’s Union Public Service Commission (aka “Sangh Lok Seva Aayog”) of its Macaulay-ism - “public service” is not about seva of rulers by the lok but the other way around.    


It is not enough that the naya raja himself is different. The difference must be institutionalised. Otherwise differences are just a transiently cosmetic whitewashing of the same 150-year-old termite-ridden colonial frame.[22] The birth point of free India’s public servant is the UPSC. Change must start with the systemic reconstruction of the UPSC. 


Only then can it follow that “yatha naya raja, tatha naya prashasan”. 




1. “Yatha raja, tatha prashasan” - http://www.vijayvaani.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?aid=1186; “The Indian administration is still `yatha raja’” –

http://www.vijayvaani.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?aid=2744 ;

“The UPSC is yatha our raja – dishonest!” –



2.  “… there was a continuity between the British Raj and the Congress one. T B Macaulay’s Indian Penal Code (IPC) rules, as does the Civil Service established in his day that was copied by the British after the Northcote-Trevelyan reforms. The home country has reformed its penal code and its civil service. India remains the museum of British Imperialism” – Lord Meghnad Desai



3.  The CSE is unable to select just “32 IFS worthy candidates a year” -


Its interview does not even have a qualifying mark –

http://www.upsc.gov.in/exams/notifications/2014/csp/CSP%202014%20English.pdf (p. 24, col. 4)


4.  On July 18, 2013, deciding a petition filed by the Faculty Association of AIIMS, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir stated that “the very concept of reservation implies mediocrity” –

http://www.dailypioneer.com/nation/no-quota-in-aiims-super-specialty-teaching-posts.HTML  Both the policy of the UPSC and its practice read with this Supreme Court observation confirm that the CSE is designed to recruit the kind of babu satirized in the penultimate panel of “Why Sonia Gandhi chose Manmohan Singh over other contenders to become PM of India” - http://www.theunrealtimes.com/2013/05/23/in-pictures-why-Sonia-Gandhi-chose-manmohan-Singh-over-other-contenders-to-become-PM-of-India/. Note that this systemic mediocrity is acceptable in the highest civil services but not amongst the high court and supreme court lords – and not in the AIIMS super-specialties where Their Lordships get their own treatment free for life.


5.  http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/civil-services-number-of-rural-candidates-cracking-exam-dips/1170134/0; http://mrunal.org/2014/03/rti-finally-got-top-secret-nigvekar-committee-report-civil-service-exam-reforms.html; http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-newdelhi/upsc-notifications-irk-candidates/article6045476.ece


6.  http://upsc.gov.in/exams/notifications/2013/csp_ifs/corr_eng.pdf for 2013;

http://mrunal.org/2014/01/rti-upsc-afraid-candidates-wont-take-english-language-papers-seriously-hence-refuses-to-tell-minimum-passing-marks-mains-2013-result-in-march-april-2014.html; http://www.upsc.gov.in/exams/notifications/2014/csp/CSP%202014%20English.pdf for 2014;

http://www.upsc.gov.in/exams/notifications/2014/csp/press%20note.pdf; http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-ias-aspirants-rejoice-two-more-attempts-to-crack-exams-1960925; http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/take-bold-decisions-don-t-worry-about-probes-modi-to-top-officers/article1-1226108.aspx; http://www.niticentral.com/2014/06/07/narendra-modi-and-indias-new-hindi-diplomacy-231027.html ; http://kannadigaworld.com/news/karnataka/86736.html  


7.  “The truth is that whatever illusions people may have or are encouraged to have, English can never be an Indian language” – Pavan Varma, “Becoming Indian” (New Delhi: Allen Lane/Penguin, 2010:74).  Also scroll down

http://www.employment-news-today.com/2013/03/upsc-Civilservices-parliament.html .


8.  http://www.firstpost.com/politics/if-exit-polls-prove-true-can-the-gandhi-dynasty-survive-1521291.html; http://www.niticentral.com/2014/05/21/an-open-letter-to-everyone-writing-open-letters-to-modi-225617.html 


9.  http://www.delhidistrictcourts.nic.in/Oct%2010/PRASHANT%20RAMESH%20CHAKKARWAR%20VS.%20UNION%20PUBLIC%20SERVICE%20COMMISSIONER.pdf; http://www.upsc.gov.in/courtjudgement/exam/sl11977-78_2012.pdf;



10.  http://mrunal.org/2014/03/rti-finally-got-top-secret-nigvekar-committee-report-civil-service-exam-reforms.html


11.  The candidate realized “where this is headed”, that the questioning is definitely sexist –



12. http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/article1443089.ece; http://tarafits.blogspot.in/2012/09/post-civil-services-retirement.html


13.  It would be an extremely brave – or foolish - examinee who would, for example, dare question MK Gandhi’s anointment as “Father of the Nation” and nominate SC Bose instead –

http://psenthilraja.wordpress.com/the-freedom-movement-boses-contribution-ignored/ .


14. http://www.governancenow.com/news/regular-story/plum-posting-follows-help-lokpal-bill; http://www.rediff.com/news/report/govt-rewards-key-ias-officer-behind-drafting-of-lokpal-bill/20120103.htm


15.  http://www.dailypioneer.com/nation/cbi-seeks-proof-from-cbdt.html; http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/mumbai-cbi-court-to-hear-fake-encounter-cases-involving-amit-shah/articleshow/35399028.cms;  http://www.hindustantimes.com/elections2014/election-beat/qureshi-s-meteoric-rise-coincided-with-cbi-ex-chief-s-tenure/article1-1215013.aspx;




16.  http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/newdelhi/railway-board-s-plan-sends-officials-aflutter/article1-1081212.aspx;



17.  http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/chhatar-singh-s-reappointment-sparks-debate/article1-1035868.aspx ; http://www.dailypost.in/regions/haryana/2141-chhatar-singh-all-set-to-become-upsc-member


18.  UPSC 63rd Annual Report, p.89 ;

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2003/20030130/haryana.htm#1 , see also para 8 and the concluding paras of Surinder Singh & Ors vs Registrar Cooperative Societies at

http://www.indiankanoon.org/doc/500145/ ; http://sarkariinterview.blogspot.in/2013/02/upsc-ias-interview-experience-17.html ; http://www.upscportal.com/civilservices/forum/interview-upsc-interview-abhiram-g-sankar-mrs-rajni-razdan; http://deepuais.wordpress.com/2013/06/30/my-apfc-interview/; http://srilochan.blogspot.in/2013/03/one-last-time-my-cse-12-interview.html; Eddy’s post dt. April 26 - http://forumias.com/discussion/comment/86583


19.  The Delhi High Court has ruled that neither the public nor any candidate needs to know who these panelists are and their qualifications. Not even their names –

http://www.lensonnews.com/lensonnews/1/63/59591/1/disclosing-identity-of-upsc-interviewers-may-be-harmful:-hc.html. Of course, this makes it that much easier for the UPSC to gather birds of feathers like those of its own members.


20.  “40 Union Ministers bite the dust”, The Pioneer (Delhi), 17 May 2014, p.1


21.  http://chaiwallahsofindia.com/2014/02/chai-pe-charcha-narendra-modis-tea-campaign/

Recall that it was the NDA’s BC Mishra who saved Rahul Gandhi from American federal custody when held at Boston airport for allegedly carrying some contraband items, and who was then rewarded with a Padma Vibhushan by the UPA.


22.  Such as a lesson from a desi ex-chaiwala to the country’s highest-ranking bureaucrat in basic qualities and values that are of no import to the UPSC –

http://www.theindianrepublic.com/featured/modi-takes-union-secretaries-task-asks-improved-work-culture-priority-100038845.html - and this is exactly the point made at


User Comments Post a Comment

Back to Top