Heart of the matter

Dear Editor,
When the results were out, one thought that struck me immediately was “wow that was quick”. Not only was I left awestruck, but many I was to encounter in the coming days. Everyone was all praise for the Arunachal public service commission, “you are lucky to have one efficient commission in your state. My state, the exam runs for well over three years”. While the results were declared within 4 days of the preliminary test, I wasn’t oblivious to the fact that this was a re-conducted one. Still, I made it a point not to make this known to the people who had heaped praise, one after another. What looked possible was fresh recruits to the services by maybe, as early as March end. Please don’t get me wrong. I am still quite optimistic that the state could see the exam make it through successfully. Lest, of course, injustice, inefficiency, inequality and inequity is proved and the court rules otherwise.
I wish to no longer debate on the legitimacy or illegitimacy of demands being made from several quarters. I believe this daily has already been a witness to so many of them in the past one month or so. An order in favour of one, is bound to hurt another. It’s a zero sum game. How this game is going to turn out now, will be known only in the days ahead.
However, one thing that has left me quite bewildered, is how did the commission get it so wrong, or maybe, it didn’t get it all. Maybe the format, I would now like to call it the “archaic format”, of the prelims test is one that needs to take the final blame. All over the country, states have adopted different formats. Some have a single paper, some the GS- CSAT pattern but my conscience is bereft of knowledge of any state following the one we have been following. Until recently J&K followed it, only to be scrapped a few weeks back, as the state successfully conducted their first prelims test on the GS-CSAT pattern in mid September, and declared the results a few days later. And what did the commission have to face? Not a single protest! The same question paper was served on everyone, why would anyone raise complaints, unless of course serious anomalies crop up, in which case, they would be the same for everyone, and not just for those who have specialised knowledge of history, or geography, or agriculture, etc.
Few months back the commission had issued an official notification that next test onwards the GS-CSAT format would be followed, only to withdraw it a few days later. The commission’s apprehensions could be legitimate. The CSAT paper has English, quantitative aptitude, reasoning and critical reasoning, which could prove a major roadblock for those who have not remained acquainted with numbers post class X. But then again, there are states which have a single paper, like Rajasthan, Jharkhand. The Prelims test only consist of GS, which has in its fold a few basic questions on quants and reasoning too. And then we have basic statistics in the mains syllabus too.
The atmosphere has never been more conducive for the commission to consider, next time onwards, an exam based on any one format, which has the same questions for everyone, given the unending controversies and lack of consensus it has become a part of in the recent past. If it is difficult it would be so for everyone. And because it is GS, there can not be anything which can be termed as “out of syllabus”, thanks to the “general” in GS. I for one feel, this optionals format in the prelims test undermines the “basic human right to equality“ (not our constitutional right to equality, which of course has its own exceptions, one being on govt. recruitment).
When so many optional papers are to be set, anomalies, however well the papers may have been set, are bound to arise, paving way for a viscous circle of cross litigation which soon consumes precious time and resources, both of the commission and the aspirants. If the commission wishes to see through smooth exams, which of course is the wish of all concerned, it must introspect, and must do so in the right earnest, by considering formats which will not derail the scheme of examination midway. Thus, the heart of the matter has probably been the “format”.
Whether this is going to be a long drawn battle, or one that would be disposed off soon, only time will tell. Either way I may probably have to keep myself ready to face some uncomfortable questions from the same friends, who had earlier heaped praises, questioning the efficiency of our exam system.
Khandu Thongdok,