Outrageous Discrimination of Non-Hindi Students in IAS Examinations (Consequence of Hindi Imposition in India)

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, February 2015 (ID. 2015-02-01)
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1. Introduction

2. Background

3. The Preliminary Examination

4. English Comprehension Test

5. Two Stories to Illustrate the Discrimination

5.1 Story of the Step Mother
5.2 Story of the One-Kilometer Race

6. Closing Thoughts

1. Introduction

There are many laws, regulations, requirements and procedures in the Indian Government offices that discriminates against non-Hindi citizens of India. Here we present one example that, in my opinion, is outrageous, obvious and open discrimination of non-Hindi students seeking employment with the Indian Government. This is just one example of systematic discrimination of many.

2. Background

Indian Administrative Service (IAS) positions (jobs) are the most sought after positions in the central and state governments in India. Candidates are selected for these positions through Civil Service Examinations (CSE). Any Indian citizen of age 21 or over with a bachelors degree can write these examinations and the top rank holders are selected for the jobs. For example, if 1000 jobs are expected in a given year, the top 1000 candidates are selected out of the many thousands that take the examination. IAS jobs are so lucrative and coveted that even people with medical and engineering degrees compete in these examinations, and if selected for IAS jobs, leave their medical and engineering careers. So, it is important that these the Civil Service Examinations (CSE) are conducted in a fair manner that there is no discrimination on the basis of language or state of residence. Yet these examinations are outrageously tilted in favor of  students whose mother tongue is Hindi, thus denying the much-desired IAS jobs to many deserving non-Hindi students.

The argument that, "many non-Hindi candidates get selected for IAS; so what is your problem" is irrational. Many non-Hindi candidates get selected for IAS jobs because of the hard work they put in preparation. We want people with equal knowledge, hard work, perseverance and skills selected for IAS without Hindi candidates having an unfair advantage.

3. The Preliminary Examination

There are three stages in the Civil Service Examinations for Indian Administrative Service (IAS): (1) Preliminary Examination, (2) Main Examination, and (3) Interview. It is the preliminary examination that created the protest demonstrations among Hindi students in 2014 and the resulting "solution" that created an appalling discrimination against non-Hindi candidates for IAS.

4. Tenth-Grade English Comprehension Test for IAS Candidates with College Degrees 

Until 2011, candidates may write all preliminary examinations (science, social studies) in English or Hindi. Of course this is discriminatory against non-Hindi students; they have to choose between two languages (Hindi, English) neither of which is their mother tongue. Indian government rejected complaints and requests that non-Hindi students be allowed to write the preliminary examinations in their mother tongue.

In 2011, a new paper, "English language comprehension skills" was introduced in the preliminary examination; candidates are tested in English comprehension at the 10-th grade (Class X) level. This is what caused the uproar among Hindi-medium students and politicians from Hindi states; they wanted to pass the preliminary examination with no tests of their English skills even at the 10-th grade level. Until 2011, they could pass through the preliminary examination knowing only their mother tongue Hindi and no knowledge of any other language.

Although Hindi students were complaining since 2011, it took the form of vocal and violent protests in 2014. The most "intense" protest happened in late July 2014. "Around 400-500 [IAS] aspirants took out a candle march in Mukherjee Nagar area in north Delhi. The aspirants started pelting stones at the police personnel, who resorted to a baton charge, injuring many students. The agitated students burned down two buses and a police booth in nearby Nehru Vihar area. At least 50 students were detained and taken to a police station, while a few injured students were taken to a hospital." [India Today; July 31, 2014]

The Indian government, which did nothing for years on non-Hindi students' request that they be allowed to answer questions in their mother tongue, acted fast on Hindi students' complaint. Indian Government announced on August 4, 2014 that English comprehension examination would not be counted for gradation and merit [Economic Times; August 4, 2014]. So, now, Hindi students can pass through the preliminary examinations without knowing English (proficient only in their mother tongue Hindi) but non-Hindi students have to write the entire preliminary examination in English or Hindi, neither of which is their mother tongue.

Seeing that the Indian  government had responded positively to Hindi students, non-Hindi politicians and students renewed their long-time  plea that non-Hindi students write their prelimnary examinations in their mother tongue. The Indian government said, "no". The language discrimination against non-Hindi students continues.

How many bright, hard-working non-Hindi students lost their chance to becoming a much desired IAS officer because of this language based discrimination?

[Author's Note: We present two short stories to illustrate the discrimination in the next section. If you are not interested in stories you may skip that section and go to the end. Thank you. - Thanjai Nalangkilli]

5. Two Stories to Illustrate the Discrimination

5.1 Story of the Step Mother

There was a woman who had a daughter and a step-daughter, both of the same age. Each daughter had her own bedroom. Somehow a rat was getting into the step daughter's room night after night and biting her feet. The step daughter asked the step mother to do something to get rid of the rat but the step mother brushed it aside saying, "Oh, it is a little rat bite; not a big deal." 

Then a few months later, a colony of ants got into the daughter's room and were biting her legs. Daughter complained to her mother. Mother immediately hired an exterminator to get rid of the ants. Seeing that the step mother acted positively to her daughter's problem, the step daughter asked the step mother, "Mom, please ask the exterminator to get rid of the rat too." The step mother refused. Such is the situation with IAS preliminary examinations and the step-motherly treatment towards non-Hindi students.

5.2 Story of the One-Kilometer Race

There were two groups of students competing in a one-kilometer race every year for prizes and scholarships. For some odd reason, one group of students had to run with a 2-kilogram ankle weight. School head master refused to act on complaints from the discriminated students. Then the race administrator asked everyone (from both groups) to wear a half-kilogram ankle weight. The favoured group appealed to the head master about having to run with the half-kilogram weight and the head master asked the race administrator to remove the half-kilogram weight. The discriminated students came to the head master and said, "Sir, please remove our two-kilogram weights also so that we can compete fairly with the other group." The head master refused. Such is the situation with the IAS preliminary examination.

6. Closing Thoughts

We close this article by asking again, "How many bright, hard-working non-Hindi students lost their chance to becoming a much desired IAS officer because of this language based discrimination?" Is it fair? Is it just?

[Foot Note: If pressure from non-Hindi regions intensify, Indian government may allow non-Hindi students to write the preliminary examination in mother tongue but it will at the same time add Hindi imposition elsewhere. Look at the use of Hindi 5 years ago and now. Is there more Hindi imposition or less? That is what we need to look at. Take any five year period starting from 1965. There will always be more Hindi imposition at the end of that period. Only permanent solution is amending the Indian constitution. Is it possible?]

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