The UPSC is yatha our raja – dishonest!
by Krishen Kak on 19 Jul 2013 5 Comments

In two previous essays, “Yatha raja, tatha prashasan” and “The Indian administration is still `yatha raja’” [1], I had critiqued the Union Public Service Commission’s Civil Services Examination (UPSC / CSE) as biased and corrupt, evolved – as a system – to replicate and feed our country’s ruling administration that is widely and popularly perceived to be the most corrupt – in every way – in our history. [2]


There can be no government corruption unless a civil servant signs the file or the order that enables that particular corruption by the politician and/or civil servant.  All scams and loot of the public exchequer that are front-page news could not have been possible without the connivance of the civil servant.


This is not for a moment to suggest that there are not honest civil servants or that there cannot be an honest civil administration. The UPSC supplies, from the same pool of selection, civil servants to Gujarat as it does to other States, yet the Gujarat civil administration sparkles detergent-white in comparison to that of, say, Uttar Pradesh. And this is evidently because, as I argued in the earlier essays, “yatha raja, tatha prashasan”. 


It remains my argument that the UPSC through the CSE neither intends nor wants to recruit the most competent Indians to administer our polity. If such young Indians get in, it is not because of, but in spite of, the UPSC’s selection biases. The selection system is an exercise in political engineering that furthers the vote-bank and divisive policies and politics of our rulers. And the cumulative corruption of this over the decades is now here for all to see. [3]


Numerous examples have been given of the biases of the CSE examiners. Take again the so-called “personality test” - the candidate is judged on their (I quote) intellectual qualities, social traits, interest in current affairs, mental alertness, critical powers of assimilation, clear and logical exposition, balance of judgement, variety and depth of interest, ability for social cohesion and leadership, intellectual and moral integrity, and on their intelligent interest in modern currents of thought and in new discoveries which should rouse the curiosity of well educated youth. 


This, in military parlance, sums up OLQ – “officer-like qualities”; the qualities expected in and of a leader. In the CSE 2012 they were assessed for a total of 300 marks which is about 13% of the entire exam total. [4] In the CSE 2012 merit list, there are at least four candidates with 100/300 and two with 90/300. In other words, their leadership merit is assessed at 33% and less - a fail percentage in any of our universities - and yet the UPSC considers them capable enough to lead us. 


On July 10, 2013, I was introduced to and had a brief conversation with Prof. OP Minocha, a doyen of the Public Administration professoriate, who has been coaching CSE candidates for over two decades. 


Public Administration is a popular subject for the CSE with two papers of 300 marks each (reduced from CSE 2013 to 250 marks each). I understand that for CSE 2012 about 7000 of the 12000 candidates who appeared for the main examination took Public Administration as an Optional. The CSE 2012 result for Public Administration was generally a shocker.  Students appearing in this subject, many as a repeat (that is, they hadn’t been selected in earlier attempts and were repeating the exam with this same subject – so they’d studied it intensively for three years or more for this exam) found their Public Administration marks had plummeted between the earlier attempt and this one, often by as many as 100 marks in the same paper.  Public Administration marks went as low as 17, 32, 36, 37, 43 out of 300.  Reportedly one candidate found himself reduced from 118/300 in his earlier attempt to 3/300 this time.


Asked why Public Administration results this time were so different, Minocha pointed proudly at himself and said he was responsible. He said that he’d led the creation of Public Administration as a subject distinct from Political Science and, over the years, it became a very popular CSE option.  He then gave the example of Economics: top Economics departments like of JNU and Delhi University did not want their subject “cheapened” (his word) by all and sundry taking it. They wanted their students to become specialists not generalists, so they deliberately designed their own syllabi to be relevant to, say, the Indian Economic Service but not to the CSE, and they used their clout with the UPSC to ensure Economics was not a CSE-scoring subject. [5] Likewise, Public Administration faculty like him felt that Public Administration had become “cheap” because so many took it, so he used his influence with the UPSC to discourage it as a CSE choice by making sure candidates generally do poorly in it!


I did ask why it was not a good thing that those applying to be civil servants familiarise themselves with Public Administration (or Economics), but he repeated that the subject should not be “cheapened”. 


There is no reason to disbelieve Minocha, an acknowledged authority in his discipline. He is a fine example of the “ivory tower” mentality - academic / intellectual elitism.  Surely an understanding of Public Administration or Economic theory and application would add to the professional competence of a potential civil servant?


Note that, because of this academic exclusivity, the UPSC had no qualms short-changing the future of thousands of aspirants who in good faith opted for Public Administration; they were deliberately given poor marks so that this subject is no longer considered “cheap”. 


Note further that the person who claims responsibility for UPSC’s cheating of candidates [6] still teaches Public Administration to all and sundry CSE aspirants; from CSE 2013 there is only one Optional (instead of two). These students pay him to teach them – and he already knows that should Public Administration be their Optional, for most of them their money and two years of their life will be wasted! So, does he guide them that, before opting for Public Administration, they should consider its likely disadvantage relative to other Optional subjects in the CSE marking? 


Minocha also said that marks needed to be moderated across subjects because someone brilliant in one subject has an advantage over someone who chooses another subject and does averagely in it. The subjects and, therefore, candidates, must be put on a level platform (except, of course, excluding Economics and now Public Administration!).


In other words, we’re not looking for brilliance - we’re looking for the lowest common denominator! And, if you’re brilliant, you’re better off dumbing yourself down. He confirmed my understanding of the CSE selection system that I critiqued earlier – it is not, emphatically not, a system designed to select, from those who apply, the most meritorious Indians to be India’s civil servants.


The UPSC from CSE 2013 introduced a new compulsory paper titled “Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude”.


The UPSC needs to examine its own ethics first, before examining the ethics of its examinees.




My thanks to NK for many of the numbers in this essay; he personally verified 3/300 in the mark-sheet on the UPSC website. The candidate concerned is too scared to make public his mark-sheet through a copy-paste of the UPSC page; he fears he could be victimized by them.


1.  The selection of many UPSC members, themselves with questionable professional records, as a reward for services rendered to the rulers, is a story by itself.  

2.; .

3.   Sanjay K Singh, `UPSC result follows quota policy’ – (and there are Muslims included in OBC and ST); Pratap Bhanu Mehta, “While we were silent” - .

4. From CSE 2013, this total has been lowered to 275. What UPSC wants are babus, like our de jure prime minister.

5. In the CSE 2012 list, of the top 100, there are only 11 with Economics as an Optional (and, curiously, six with Malayalam Literature). UPSC is very cagey about its marking, see, e.g.,

6. It is cheating because UPSC is playing politics through the selection system – it decided covertly before the exam that candidates opting for Public Administration would generally be marked stricter relative to other subjects. 

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