Published: 11th July 2023
UPSC 2023: Aspirants hold press conference in Delhi over CSAT issues. Here's what was discussed
Lowering the cut-off percentage from 33 to 23 per cent in the CSAT paper was the primary demand of the aspirants
A group of Civil Services Examination (CSE) aspirants held a press conference on July 10, Monday, in Delhi, demanding a few relaxations from the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). Alleging unfairness and arbitrary practices, the students urged the Commission to change its selection procedure.
Lowering the cut-off percentage from 33 to 23 per cent in the Civil Service Aptitude Test (CSAT) was the primary demand of the aspirants. They claimed that certain questions in the paper this year were out of the syllabus and "breached statutory requirements of UPSC questions", as they were similar to questions that feature in Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) and Common Admission Test (CAT).
In addition, the "objectivity and specificity" of some questions in this year's CSAT paper "lacked clarity, making it difficult to assess whether candidates correctly identified the statements", according to a press release by the aspirants' community. "With such a difficulty level, many aspirants passed the General Studies (GS) paper, but could not qualify CSAT," says Gaurav Thakur, an aspirant.
A section of the candidates also alleges that the selection criteria of the exam are "lopsided", as every year about 75 per cent of those who qualify belong to Engineering and Science backgrounds, which posits that the selection becomes discriminatory to those from Humanities backgrounds. Moreover, the question paper has been "arbitrary" since 2020, the aspirants say, demanding that CSAT as a selection criterion be scrapped altogether, or an expert committee be made to ensure a fair selection process.
The aspirants' demand for a compensatory attempt at CSE was also discussed in the press meet. The COVID-19 pandemic hampered proper preparations for candidates belonging to 2020, 2021, and even 2022 batches. "Many were mentally disturbed as they lost their dear ones, while many were infected themselves and couldn't attend the exam. There was no provision made for these candidates," highlights Gaurav.
The aspirants further questioned when a compensatory attempt was provided to JEE, NEET and even State Civil Services candidates from 18 states, why they could not be. Pointing out that a Parliamentary Standing Committee from the Ministry of Personnel and Training, in its March 2022 report, had recommended a compensatory attempt for them, the affected candidates ask for a one-time relaxation from the UPSC.
Moreover, the aspirants are displeased with the commission's age reckoning date. "If the exam takes place in the second half of the year, the age is calculated from August 1, while if it is held in the first half of the year, the age reckoning date is taken to be January 1," explains Gaurav. They demand that January 1 be taken as the date, irrespective of when the exam takes place, as the current process renders many of them ineligible.
Previously, several protests and rallies were staged by the students over these concerns. MPs from various states also wrote to the UPSC supporting their demand for a compensatory attempt. "The press conference was arranged after we received no response," says Gaurav.
It may be noted that a petition has been filed in the Central Administrative Tribunal against the CSAT cut-off. On July 6, when the case was last heard, rejoinders were filed by both parties, and the next hearing is scheduled for July 13. A parallel case is pending in the Delhi High Court, which involves the candidates' demand for the Preliminary examination answer key to be released within a month after the exam.
"Now, UPSC releases the answer key after 15-20 months when the exam after the recruitment process is complete. Even though we find it is arbitrary sometimes, there is nothing to be done. Aspirants fail to qualify with just a few points difference. They feel cheated," Gaurav states.
"The aspirant community provides a 14-day window for the government to address these concerns and promote justice. They express their dissatisfaction and urge a quick resolution of the issues faced by lakhs of aspirants. The community believes that the injustice done to them raises serious questions about the functioning of the constitutional body, UPSC," concludes the press release.