Engineers still make up 60% of new public servants, despite UPSC’s attempts at diversity

A group of civil servants trainees at the National Academy of Administration Lal Bahadur Shastri, Mussoorie | Representation image | Photo: LBSNAA | Facebook

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New Delhi: Despite attempts by the Union Civil Service Commission (UPSC) to increase the educational diversity of candidates selected for the civil service examination, the number of engineers becoming civil servants has remained disproportionately high – nearly 60 percent over the past two years.

Data viewed by ThePrint shows that of the 428 officials in the 2020 batch who went to the National Academy of Administration Lal Bahadur Shastri (LBSNAA) in Mussoorie for training, 245, or 57.25%, are engineers. Eight others have engineering and management backgrounds. The group has only 84 civil servants from the artistic community, which represents 19.6% of the workforce.

In the 2019 batch, of the 325 civil service interns who went to LBSNAA, 191, or 58.7%, were engineers. Ten others had engineering and management backgrounds. There were 52 qualified applicants with artistic training – 16 percent of the total workforce.

Even the previous year, the number of LBSNAA trainee officers with Engineering or B.Tech. the antecedents were 73 and 138, respectively, together constituting 57.4 percent of the total strength of 367 officers.

“Those with an engineering background continued to dominate. Sometimes the numbers increase or decrease slightly, but there is no major change in the trend of engineers entering the civil service, ”said LBSNAA director Sanjeev Chopra.

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UPSC’s attempts to ‘normalize’ the difference in flows

The trend of civil servants with an engineering background continued even as UPSC sought to ‘normalize’ the difference between those who opt for technical subjects like mathematics or physics and those who approach the humanities like sociology. or geography as optional subjects.

Since the scoring in the optional subject can vary widely, the UPSC, through a closely monitored formula, minimizes the difference in scores.

“Over the years, UPSC has tried to ensure that applicants who choose human subjects are not at a disadvantage, by standardizing scores between subjects, but the number of engineers is very high,” said a teacher of Shri Chaitanya. IAS Academy.

“But because they have to study a lot more for math or physics, engineers themselves are adopting humanities as an optional subject. So just because the UPSC is trying to normalize the scores doesn’t mean that the representation of liberal arts students will increase, ”said the teacher, who declined to be named.

“Over the past five years or so, the engineers who passed the exam have all taken humanities subjects. But the point is, UPSC scores applicants on the basis of “model responses”. The ability of engineering graduates to reproduce these model responses is even higher than that of humanities graduates, who, even with a better understanding of the subject, are unable to give “model answers,” “explained the teacher.

The gap between optional subject scores is narrowing

Candidates and coaching centers estimate that the gap between math and electives under the humanities umbrella until last year was over 100 points, with those in math scoring up to 400 points, and those in subjects such as geography, sociology obtaining at best up to 280 points. However, this year’s highest math score is 343, with the scoring gap in the humanities narrowing to around 40 points, said Academy teacher Shri Chaitanya IAS.

Aspirants who took the civil service exam in 2019 also claim that the gap between scores in different optional subjects has narrowed significantly this year.

Candidates who have been taking the exam for a few years now say that the scoring gap between subjects was around 200 points until a few years ago, with those studying the humanities scoring just 180-200 points.

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A formula shrouded in secrecy

Current and retired UPSC officials say the “normalizing” formula that seeks to establish some parity in ratings has been around for several years, but will not be disclosed even under the right to information, because revealing it would diminish the sanctity of the UPSC exam.

Satyanand Mishra, former secretary of the Personnel and Training Department (DoPT), said: “When I was secretary, several RTIs came to us about this formula, but UPSC never disclosed it. This was the right position, because it is only a formula worked out by experts… It can be challenged in court by those who consider themselves disadvantaged and lead to endless litigation. It would only hamper the review and recruitment process. “

There are also other reasons for the existence of the formula, apart from the normalization of the scores.

“Candidate answer sheets are distributed among different examiners. Now, one person can be more generous than another in assigning grades. So there is a scientific formula by which these marks are standardized, ”continued Mishra.

“And then of course there is this disparity between human and non-human matter. Over the years, it was felt that too many engineering students were coming into the services. There will always be a difference between descriptive responses and non-descriptive responses, and this formula is used to normalize the inherent difference, ”he added.

Gurbachan Jagat, former president of UPSC, also said: “There is a very correct formula, which has been scientifically established. It was there even when I was there (2002-2007), but I think the formula has evolved over the years and the gap (between ratings) has steadily narrowed. “

He added: “Even as president of UPSC, I was not aware of the formula, but I knew it was an extremely fair formula, which did not disadvantage anyone.”

A knowledgeable government official, who did not wish to be identified, said: “UPSC has been trying to achieve parity for many years now… Students should not guess, and just choose the topics that interest them. . scores shouldn’t be a factor for them. “

Asked how the UPSC does the scaling, the official said it was a scientific formula, but it was the “intellectual property” of UPSC and could not be shared publicly.

Court support

The UPSC even maintained this position before the Supreme Court and obtained its approval.

In 2018, in a petition filed by candidates calling for transparency regarding cutoff scores for each subject, the scaling methodology, model responses, and the full result of all candidates, the Supreme Court observed that reporting raw scores, as submitted by UPSC, will lead to issues such as non-appreciation of marking standards, dilution of trust and credibility in the system, and subsequent challenges to integrity system, including through litigation.

In a 2007 case concerning the disclosure of cut-off marks for elective subjects as well as for general civil service studies (preliminary examination), 2006, the UPSC had declared to the Delhi High Court that the information was of the nature of critical secrets, and constituted the intellectual property of UPSC within the meaning of section 8 (1) (d) of the RTI Act, and that there was no public interest requiring the disclosure of such information .

however, in the same case, lawyer Prashant Bhushan had argued that the UPSC formula was revealed to the Supreme Court in 2002, when the commission allegedly said that the commission followed “a linear method for its examinations”, based on “the equi -normalized percentile (NEP) for optional objective type papers ”, for standardization.

This uncertainty of grades in elective subjects is seen as something that removes a level playing field on the civil service exam, and the Baswan committee set up in 2016 to recommend reforms to the UPSC had suggested removing completely optional paper for precisely this reason.

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