AS civil service aspirants escalated their protest against the new pattern of Civil Services Aptitude Test in the UPSC examinations, which they believe gives an unfair advantage to English-speaking students, the NDA government on Friday said it will “not equate language with skill” and allow any “injustice” to students on the basis of language in the examinations. It said it has sought a report within a week from the three-member panel looking into the issue.
This assurance came from Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh in the Rajya Sabha after members expressed concern over the agitation of the UPSC aspirants who have been demanding cancellation of the examinations scheduled on August 24.
Members across the political spectrum urged the government to stop issuing of admit cards for the examinations, which started on Thursday and sparked the latest round of agitation in Delhi.
Singh said the issue of admit cards is “not linked” to the exam pattern and it will have no bearing on the government’s decision, as it was being done as per the UPSC schedule. “The government is not in favour of any injustice to students on the basis of language,” Singh told the House, adding he has asked the committee to hand over the report within a week.
Allaying apprehensions on the issue, Singh said, “The issue of admit cards is not in any way going to influence the decision to be taken by the government. The cards have not been issued by us, but by the UPSC which follows a calendar. The issue of admit cards, I can assure you, is not going to influence the further course of action,” he said.
“I assure you that within one week we have sought the report of the committee…Today I have again told the committee to give the report within one week. As the report comes, further action will follow,” he said.
Earlier in the day, the opposition created a ruckus in both Houses over the issue. The Rajya Sabha was adjourned twice during Question Hour following the opposition’s demand for a clarification by none other than the Prime Minister or the Leader of the House. The matter figured in the Lok Sabha too although it did not lead to any adjournment.
“It should not sound that this is our creation,” Jitendra Singh said, adding that the matter had come to light after a PIL and the UPA government took cognizance of the issue only after directions from a High Court judge in 2011. He said the government is aware of what is happening and is looking at the issue with all seriousness. “We should appeal to children that they should not put themselves in any physical trouble. We are looking at their problem with all seriousness,” he said.
This came as the protesting aspirants tried to march towards Parliament but were stopped by police, which later took them into preventive custody. The protesters, who had clashed with the police Thursday night in North Delhi, were stopped outside the Central Secretariat Metro station from where they were taken to Parliament Street Police Station. The police said they detained around 150 protesters.
\Earlier, members cutting across party lines, including some from the ruling BJP, raised concerns over falling success rate of language students in the UPSC exams.
JD (U)’s Sharad Yadav said discrimination is happening to language students in the UPSC exams and the number of those from Tamil, Telugu, Hindi and other languages successful in the exams was going down drastically while those with English have almost doubled. “Issuance of online admit cards should be immediately withdrawn. When will the committee report come. The process of exams have already begun,” he said.
Soon after the Upper House assembled for the day, Congress, SP, DMK and others raised the issue, but Chairman Hamid Ansari asked them to maintain silence for making a reference to the Telengana accident in which 14 schoolchildren were killed. Ansari asked them not to come to the well and they abided by his advice, but vociferous protests went on. He first adjourned the House for 15 minutes and then till Zero Hour.
As the protests continued even after the House reassembled at noon, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu said the government is ready to take up the clarifications first if members desire so.
In Lok Sabha, the alleged police action on the UPSC aspirants was forcefully raised by members belonging to RJD, SP and JD (U). As soon as the House assembled, the protesting members came to the Well and demanded immediate discussion on the issue. They shouted slogans against the government, alleging it had failed to protect interests of students and women.
SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav asked Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to allow discussion on the issue. The Speaker refused to suspend the Question Hour, saying the issue had already been discussed in the House earlier and the concerned minister had replied too. But later, she relented and said she would allow discussion on the UPSC issue during Zero Hour, which was accepted by protesting members.
In the Rajya Sabha, former minister M S Gill of the Congress said there are 22 recognised languages in the country with no language prevalent everywhere. “The question is how do you run the work of the Government of India,” he said wondering whether an exam can be conducted in 500 languages and people knowing 500 recognized will sit in the interview board.
“I have sympathies with the minister… Do not make political points,” Gill said, drawing angry reactions from members of other parties especially Naresh Agrawal of Samajwadi Party who asked whether what Gill was saying was the stand of Congress.
Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, however, made it clear that when MPs speak in the House, they air their personal views and not that of the party. Azad said the party’s view on the issue has been given by Congress chief whip in the Rajya Sabha Satyavrat Chaturvedi, who had earlier held that it was “unfortunate and shameful” that Indians rely so much on a foreign language like English.