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The UPSC: new rules of engagement

Jayshree Misra Tripathi

Updated: March 19, 2013, 11:38 AM IST
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The Civil Services denotes 'All-India' Services. Taken in this light, it is necessary for aspirants to understand the importance of communication skills.

If a person, say from Odisha, wishes to write the UPSC exams in Odiya, having studied in the vernacular language and (according to the new rules) having graduated in the vernacular language, then how may she/ he be able to function as an able administrator in any other state?

We are blessed with a vibrant population, 22 officially recognised languages and over 2000 dialects. We have many languages with no script. To quote from

: "According to the Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL), under the Ministry of Human Resource Development, the term Tribal Dialects is not used in Census records, which is the chief source of information. The analysis, based on Census 2001 reveals that out of a total of 234 mother-tongues (each spoken by at least 10,000) people there are 147 tribal mother-tongues."

Our Constitution affirms Hindi as the official language with English (post-1965), as a secondary language for official communication. Is Hindi our national language? Debates have raged for over 6 decades on the Rajbhasha vs the Rashtrabhasha.

Sanskrit is 5000 years old. Scholars state that Indian languages belong to the following language groups: Dravidian, Mon-Khmer, Sino-Tibetan and Indo-European.

If a person wishes to become an Indian Civil Servant, but has a limited knowledge of English and Hindi, how will she/he communicate on official matters from the other states or personally converse with foreign investors and visitors, etc.? Translations and transliteration have their limits.

Perhaps those in authority may consider:

1) Selection of an aspirant to the IFS or IAS, based on language communication skills, both written and oral, in English and other foreign languages?

2) A different set of selection criteria for the IPS and Allied Services, where the vernacular is of the utmost importance.

Over the past 30 years, as part of India's diplomatic spouses' troupe overseas, I have witnessed spouses who do not respond to their overseas counterparts. However, they hold forth brilliantly in Hindi or in their mother tongue. But then we have diverse mother-tongues (pardon the incorrectness of language).

So how may we converse with each other overseas? Either in Hindi or in English, if we do not come from the same state!

We Indians are often accused of 'talking too rapidly to be understood' or are tabbed 'argumentative' or plain downright 'rude'. Is this because we 'translate' our thoughts from the vernacular into English?

First of all, we need to take a hard look at the courses taught at the Primary level in our schools, both in the vernacular schools and the CBSE or State schools. Where have we gone wrong?

My grandfathers spoke impeccable English and Sanskrit, Odia and even Hindi and Bengali. My grandmothers, both married at an extremely young age, could read basic English and could speak a few concise and clear sentences.

What has happened to our people today? We truly need to assess and implement change, not just go on talking about it.

We also need to explain all of this to the aspirants for the Civil Services and encourage them to continue in their pursuit of being in government service and nurture their dreams.

Mere "rules and regulations" will not do.
First Published: March 19, 2013, 11:38 AM IST

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