As the controversy over the UPSC’s Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) rages despite the Centre announcing some “respite” to the protesting aspirants, a member of the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday pointed out that the government’s stand on the issue was identical to a Delhi High Court petition filed in 2012 by Dinanath Batra.
Speaking to The Indian Express, J D Seelam, Congress MP from Andhra Pradesh, said, “All that the government has done on the UPSC issue is to implement the measures suggested by Dinanath Batra in his petition to the Delhi High Court.”
Seelam alleged that the government has not addressed the two major concerns regarding the examination format – the issue of the CSAT paper being in favour of science and management students, and the demand of equal weightage being given to all prominent Indian languages and not just Hindi. In the Upper House, Seelam said, “What has the government done? They have not addressed these two legitimate and genuine requests.”
“There is a PIL in the High Court by Mr. Dinanath Batra, whom this government made the chairman of a committee on HRD. He wanted that English language comprehension skills of Class X-level of 22.5 marks be removed. The High Court went into this and said that it could not do that, and a committee could examine this issue. Without doing that, without answering the mathematical and technical part and solving the problem of everybody, they only addressed what Mr Dinanath Batra wanted to do, that is, remove English and make it Hindi vs English. This is the hidden agenda. That should not be allowed.”
Incidentally, Batra, while taking to The Indian Express, said that he had met MoS in PMO Jitendra Singh over the issue. “Since the UPSC examination issue had come up, we had sought an appointment with the Minister. I, along with lawyer Monika Arora who was looking after the Delhi HC case, met him 15 days ago. The issues which were referred to in the HC petition were raised by us in that meeting. We were assured that the government will look into it.”
Admitting that the government’s announcement follows the suggestions listed in the petition filed by him in the HC, Batra said, “We think that we have been behind the motivation of this struggle. We had filed a petition in the High Court where we had taken excerpts from various government policies and decisions pertaining to languages. English had become the queen, while Hindi had been made a slave. Only 2.3 per cent students from Hindi medium qualified in the civil services recently against 45 per cent in 2011.”
In an order dated May 31, the Delhi HC had directed the government to constitute a committee within three months to look into the concerns raised by the petitioners. It also called for a decision “on the nature of the test of knowledge of English language in the Civil Services Examination i.e. whether it is to be only qualifying or competitive or mixture of both”. A three-member committee under Arvind Verma was constituted following this Delhi HC order.
“It is the contention of the petitioners that the said test of English Language Comprehension Skills affects the Hindi and other regional language speaking candidates taking the said exam,” the petition said.
It further adds, “That English test has to be removed to provide a level playing field to all aspiring candidates.”
The government had announced that English marks in CSAT-II will not be included for gradation or merit in the civil services preliminary examination. It had also said that students who took the civil services examination in 2011 will be given an extra attempt in the UPSC examination.
The UPSC issue disrupted proceedings of Rajya Sabha again on Wednesday after several members walked out expressing dissatisfaction at MoS (Parliamentary Affairs) Prakash Javadekar’s reply on the issue, who called an all-party meeting to find a solution. Not satisfied with the reply, CPM leader Sitaram Yechury said, “Do not apply delayings tactics. The government should say what is the status quo… this is not satisfactory. That is why we are staging a walkout.”
Dinanath Batra’s previous petitions that have made headlines
Earlier this year, a civil suit filed by Batra, who is the convener of Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti, had resulted in the pulping of American scholar Wendy Doniger’s book on Hinduism.
In 2006, Batra had also filed a PIL against the National Council of Educational Research and Training where he raised objections to the use of militants for Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai among others.
In 2007, on Batra’s insistence, the state school curriculum of Madhya Pradesh had removed sections on sex education. Moreover, in 2008, he had filed another petition in the Delhi High Court demanding the removal of A K Ramanujan’s essay
Three Hundred Ramayanas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translations from the Delhi University curriculum.