Ideally, I should be preparing for my KAS interview and not writing this piece. But I am not. Instead, I am forced to write this piece due to the campaign of disinformation that has been spread by a section of aspirants who have not been able to secure their seat for the interview stage. I write this because sometimes lies travel half the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes; I write this to clear the air about the Mains result.
In the recent mains exam, around 7000 candidates took the exam. As per the set rules, nearly 960 odd students managed to pass. Going forward, out of the qualified 960, only 270 or so will make it to the final list. So, if we calculate the odds of passing this exam starting from the mains stage, it is 3 percent. However, seen from the Preliminary stage, the pass percentage is a dismal half a percent. Put another way, 99.5% of the KAS aspirants are destined to loose in the race.
Risky gamble as it is, this is a fact of life when one aspires to take the civil services examination. One embraces the hope of passing and the possibility of failure in equal measure. Not all who take the exam may pass! No wonder they call these exams as UPSC Exams: Uncertain Public Services Exams!
Moving on, let’s discuss why civil services exam is such a can’t-please-all scenario.
Firstly, as pointed out above, 99.5% of all aspirants will end up dejected. That is just the way it is. Secondly, a lot of our aspirants live in echo chambers. They self-declare their credentials as the best for this exam, prodded perhaps by sympathetic friends and family. Often this is dangerous: One because this grossly under-estimates the capability of one’s competition. And two, one’s ability and intellect can only be judged by an independent body, not by the number of hours you spend cramming up or by self-certification.
Thirdly, the opportunity cost of failing this exams is huge as 3-4 years may be spent preparing with nothing tangible to show for. Your parents want results, your career demands a direction, your peers have moved along, etc. It can be mentally frustrating. To that extent, sympathies are in order.
The recent disinformation campaign, not unsurprisingly, doesn’t acknowledge the above stark realities. It doesn’t aim at acceptance or upholding values of perseverance and grace in defeat. It is sinister. It essentially argues that I-feel-I-must-Pass-and-if-I-don’t-then-the-system-is-flawed. We say this because it has been claimed by many aspirants that “the results are not acceptable to them.”
An anecdote is in order: A no non sense Ex-Chairman of UPSC when questioned about functioning of PSCs in India said that it is an aspirant who goes to the PSCs for jobs, not the other way around. Hence, an aspirant must trust the process as it is. PSCs have their own ways of working, and must manage a tight rope walk between transparency and confidentiality, accountability and autonomy, merit and expectations of the aspirants.
Surely, this doesn’t mean that PSCs can take the aspirants for a ride. In the current exam, unfortunately, a discrepancy was found in the answer key at the Prelims stage which was rectified later by the PSC. Later, after sustained public pressure the JKPSC has agreed to vital and long demanded reforms such as: Bringing the UPSC style exam pattern for KAS exam, reducing the turnaround time for results, opting for statistical normalizing to bring equity between various optional papers, and opting for, so claimed, error free on-screen mode of paper checking. Note that these are standard practices adopted variously by UPSC and other State Public Service Commissions. What then are the real reasons for this hungama?
Selfishness. Self-Delusion. Self-Serving outlook. And an I-Me-Myself attitude. Forgive me for the harsh words used. A lot of self-appointed leaders of the current rabble-rousing are fair weather supporters of JKPSC, choosing sides conveniently. We could point out the embarrassing details but our cause is too noble to be let down by ad-hominem.
A little background of the qualifiers is nevertheless necessary: One is a bright young lady who has left a lucrative job in a foreign country. Another, a bright man, a topper from school through college, a student at one of India’s top three colleges in his area of study and now working in one of India’s most prestigious government programs. Yet another one, has stood first on an all India level Exam.
All of these qualified ones have demonstrated a desire to serve the state; to make it a better place to live; to usher in an epoch of peace, stability, development and tranquillity; to use their talents for welfare of the people.
In contrast, what do some of the unqualified, high decibel hijackers want? One of them is on record saying if not declared successful at KAS, he will take to gun! This, in a state which has lost thousands of its sons and daughters to the bullet. This, when the first article of faith for an aspiring bureaucrat is total surrender to values of peace, unity of the country and non-violence. We say enough of histrionics!
Of course, detractors will point out that an Ex Supreme Court Judge, who was recently ordered by the Supreme Court to apologize for a stray remark, has spoken in favour of those not qualified. As a free society, we are permitted free alignment with any idea, truth and untruth. But, should not the civil society actors go by the principles of natural justice foremost of which is to hear both the parties? Or has the democracy in Kashmir been reduced to the tyranny of majority where truth and facts are decided by numbers? We humbly suggest Wittgenstein when he says: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must remain silent.”
The larger question here is not just about our future which has been hijacked by the mob-of-the-incompetent at every stage of the exam. It is about institutional integrity. It is about setting a precedent for the future. It is about striving for individual and collective excellence. Do we as citizens of J&K want that our best brains drain away to foreign lands? Do we not want the best of Human resource to contribute to the backbone of every society, the administration? Let us reiterate Kautilya when he suggests that a society is just and progressive when its administrators pass the test of ability, temperance and wisdom.
Finally, it is being suggested that heavens will not fall if a second round of checking under judicial/ independent control is done to ensure correctness of marking. At the most basic level, we ask, why? On what grounds? Is it moral? Is it pragmatic? The proposal is deeply problematic because it is unfair to keep the qualified ones waiting for no fault of their own. It destroys the principle of independent and autonomous functioning of the JKPSC. Further, the qualified ones are forced to bear the guilt- of -passing. Some even say if qualifiers believe they have done well; why fear?
In my personal capacity, I make a counter to your second-round-of-checking proposal. You have repeatedly said that you have nothing against those who qualified. You have expressed a belief in the just institutions outside of JKPSC, especially judiciary. I say, let the interview process be completed and the result declared. If you believe that judiciary is just, fair, non-partisan and potent, as you say it is, accept that judiciary will help you right the wrong at any future stage. As you have been asking us, let me ask of you: in a world with all powerful and just judiciary, why blackmail, why fear?