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Increasing the attempts and the age limit-- is it producing better talent for the bureaucracy?.

Bureaucracy is steel frame of administration. It is involved in multifarious activities in present day India or in any country. From implementing schemes at the ground level to framing policies which effect the whole nation, bureaucracy presence is ubiquitous. So, it is very important to pick best talent available into bureaucracy. In India, the method of recruitment is through an open examination conducted every year by union public service commission, a constitutional body. There have been debates on the reforms needed in the examination process for selecting suitable people. In this lieu UPSC has introduced various reforms to match the changing needs. These reforms have been mainly in examination papers. But two reforms always get little or no attention. These are: 1) attempts a candidate can give 2) age limit. Let us discuss these two things in this essay.

Present criteria:
At present a general category student can give the examination a maximum of 6 times till he reaches 32 years of age. An OBC student can give it a maximum of 9 times till he reaches 35 and SC/ST can give it any number of times till they reach 37 years of age.

Present trends:
To answer this question we need to understand few things. Candidates who are selected through the examination process may or may not have any past experience required for the service. He takes the examination due to variety of reasons of his own. The examination tests the candidate's abilities in general understanding of things and their suitability for the service. But it is in the training period, post examination, the essential traits required for the service are taught to the candidates. Therefore the training period of 1 or 2 or more years, depending on the service, plays very a important role. Here comes the age factor. It is generally observed that candidates belonging to age group of 22-24 have a malleable mind. So, it becomes easy to mold such people into any required shape. It is generally observed there is low percentage of people in this age group of all clearing the examination.

Coming to the number of attempts people takes to clear the examination, it is generally high. There are very less candidates clearing this examination in their first attempt. More the number of attempts more is the exposure of candidate towards examination syllabus and more can be his advantage over others. Before 2013, there were two optional papers which were mostly static in their syllabus. So more the attempts people had more would be their advantage over others in the examination. But recent changes have minimized this advantage by giving more emphasis to General studies papers increasing number of questions are also asked from the events which have happened in the past one year, so it reduces the advantage the older players get over new players.

What needs to be done? :
The lower level age criteria for the examination is minimum of 21 years. Setting a low higher age limit is impractical. There are reasons for this. A candidate can appear in the examination only when he at least have a bachelor degree. Most of the students complete their bachelor degree by the age of 21 years, which is still a small age. So the natural tendency, for most of the candidates, would be to go for higher studies without thinking much on what they want. The realization to choose a career in civil services may come at a later stage. So, lower high age limit cannot be imposed. But it should not be an excuse for extending high age limit further and further. The requirements of the service also needs to be taken care of and must be given high importance. The average age group of people entering into services is generally 24-26, which is not much higher than the ideal one. So, the higher age limit must be kept at around 27 to 28, a little higher than the average age. This can be a trade-off.

Attempts also should not be risen any high. An old candidate will still have benefit over other candidates.

Increasing attempts and age limit is certainly detrimental. The present age criteria set itself is significantly high, which needs to be reduced. Even number of attempts have to be rationalized to suit the present needs. But we have to be gradual in making any changes. High age limit should be set keeping in mind the requirements of service and candidates aspirations.

Rushikesh Reddy

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