The Language Logjam


The Language Logjam

The changes in the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) civil services exam have stirred up considerable controversy across the country. Various political parties and linguistic groups have expressed their displeasure, citing concerns about fairness, bias, and linguistic discrimination. Among the changes, the introduction of English as a compulsory paper and the superior status given to Hindi have attracted the most criticism. Let us delve into the reasons behind this resentment and explore the implications of these modifications.

One crucial change in the UPSC civil services exam is the introduction of English as a compulsory paper. Previously, this paper was only qualifying in nature and did not carry any marks. However, with the new changes, candidates are required to take an English comprehension and précis test, which accounts for 100 marks. Many parties from the Hindi belt have heavily criticized this alteration, arguing that it favors urban and English medium class students while putting rural background students at a disadvantage.

Another contentious issue in the revised notification is the preferential treatment given to Hindi over other constitutionally recognized Indian languages. According to the new rules, candidates are allowed to answer all the question papers in their language medium only if they have pursued their graduation in that language. This means that students who studied in vernacular mediums until class twelve and then shifted to English for their graduation will be barred from writing the civil services mains exam in their native languages. However, this rule does not apply to Hindi, leading to accusations of discrimination against other linguistic groups.

This particular change has faced immense criticism, with leaders like Jayalalithaa describing it as “discriminatory and illogical.” The modification seems to undermine the cultural and linguistic diversity of India by favoring Hindi over other languages, potentially limiting opportunities for candidates who belong to non-Hindi speaking regions.

Furthermore, the notification stipulates that a minimum of twenty-five candidates must opt for a specific language medium to maintain the quality and standards of the examination. If fewer than twenty-five candidates choose an approved language medium (excluding English and Hindi), those candidates will be required to write the examination either in Hindi or English only. This provision further cements the superior position of Hindi and disregards the significance of other regional languages.

The UPSC’s decision to give prominence to Hindi and marginalize other languages has elicited discontent from various linguistic groups. Critics argue that such preferential treatment undermines the principles of linguistic equality and threatens the rich linguistic heritage of India. This biased approach could deter talented candidates from appearing in the prestigious examination, limiting the pool of potential civil servants.

While the changes have been temporarily put on hold due to widespread criticism, it is essential for the UPSC and the government to reconsider these modifications to ensure inclusivity and equal opportunities for all candidates. A more balanced and fair approach should be adopted that respects the linguistic diversity of India and upholds the ideals of a pluralistic society.

Promoting proficiency in English is important for candidates to navigate a globally connected world, but it should not come at the expense of disregarding regional languages or disadvantaging candidates from non-English backgrounds. The UPSC must strike a delicate balance that fosters inclusivity and ensures that no deserving candidate is denied an opportunity to serve the nation based on language considerations.

In conclusion, the UPSC’s recent changes in the civil services exam have generated significant controversy, with concerns raised about the introduction of English as a compulsory paper and the preferential treatment given to Hindi over other languages. To build a more equitable and inclusive society, it is crucial to address these issues and create a level playing field for all aspiring civil servants, regardless of their linguistic backgrounds. Only then can the nation truly benefit from a diverse and talented pool of administrators committed to serving the country’s interests.

Besides these, article 344(3) of the constitution itself recognises the interests of longing to the non-Hindi speaking areas in regard to the public service.

Hence, Indian government is free to promote Hindi, but not at the cost of other languages. By not allowing a student to express himself/herself in their own language, the UPSC violates the principles of equality enshrined in the constitution.