Merit and competition: OP-ED

Every year many aspirants apply for the Civil Services Examination and about this time of the year the results are published. Since 2015, I have followed this result with much curiosity. In 2015 I did it for my own sake and thereafter to locate familiar names and surnames, as it takes a while for the media to announce who have cleared.

Clearing UPSC examination is considered a big feat. What lies ahead is a different thing, but it is indeed a remarkable feat to clear this exam. Statistically, considering that about a thousand candidates qualify from amongst 8 lakhs or so that appear for it, the success rate is a thoroughly discouraging low of 0.13%. When various reservations are factored in, it gets lowered further.

Having seen the length and breadth of the country and from many different perspectives, I can very confidently say that Sikkim has one of the strongest school education setups in the country. Sikkimese who have gone to work and study out of Sikkim will agree that Sikkimese feature amongst the brightest students and the most productive professionals. The education setup and the overall humility that we have sets us apart and makes us better in what we do. Also, Sikkim is one of the most prosperous states in the country and features high on many development indices.

When the results of such competitive exams are announced, one would hope to find many Sikkimese in the list. In reality, one doesn’t even have to use all fingers in their hands to count the number of Sikkimese who got into the service through this exam.

Sikkim became part of India in 1975, and the government setup expanded rapidly. That and the constitutional safeguard ensured that almost every educated Sikkimese got a government job. While this contributed to our prosperity, it also made us complacent. We gradually lost trust in hard work and competition and began aspiring for easy jobs. If one got a “regular” government job, one would be treated with a lot of respect in the society. That systematically lowered our bar for achievement. Everyone started aspiring for a government job, hoping that they will get it just as easily as their parents did, now that they were even better educated.

Personal ambitions, areas of excellence and inclination all got disregarded as long as one got any government job. Work outside Sikkim was disregarded and parents wished that their children worked in Sikkim in any job no matter what their calling was. While civil service has been regarded very highly, the culture of getting easy jobs, systematically discouraged potential aspirants from competing in such highly uncertain exam. The over glorification of government jobs also discouraged one from pursuing higher education, trying out hands in enterprises and in taking up self-employment.

Off late though, the signs have been encouraging. Taking an analogy of civil services, since 2010 someone or the other has been clearing this exam regularly. This year Deepika Agarwal has shown the way and like her more and more Sikkimese are believing in their capacity and are competing. It is also encouraging to see a steady stream of Sikkimese qualifying for education in prestigious institutions across the world. Many are trying their hands in enterprise and are doing well. The youth today is increasingly becoming aware about the opportunities that lie ahead and is making efforts to grab them. I just wish the numbers were more, much more that truly represents our potential.

M N Dahal, IAS
Commissioner, Guwahati Municipal Corporation
From Lingmoo Kolthang South Sikkim
Views personal

SC Bureau

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