An in-principle decision to postpone the exam has already been taken, but an official announcement will be made only after 3 May.
New Delhi: The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) has decided to postpone the preliminary examination of the civil services, which was scheduled on 31 May, ThePrint has learnt.
According to a senior government official, an in-principle decision to postpone the preliminary exam has been taken, but an official announcement will be made only after 3 May.
There is no clarity as of now about the new date on which the exam would be held. But whenever the exam takes place, it is highly unlikely or “next to impossible” that it would be via online medium, sources in the government said.
“The Commission and the government is keeping in mind the best interests of the candidates… Right now, there is no clarity on the nature of the lifting of lockdown, inter-state travel, etc,” the official said. “So logistically speaking, it would be next to impossible to conduct the exam so soon.”
While the Commission has not made a formal announcement regarding the decision, Union Minister Jitendra Singh in an interview to a Jammu-based channel Jammu Links said Monday: “We have also deferred the preliminary exam (of the civil services).”
The decision comes after it was felt that conducting the exam on 31 May would be a logistical hassle both from the perspective of the Commission as well as the candidates, the official said.
While the national lockdown is said to be lifted on 3 May, the exact nature of the restrictions that may be lifted, the areas from where they could be lifted, etc. is not yet known. “There is no clarity on public transport also… How will arrangements for the exam be made, and how will students even reach the centres?” said the official.
When reached for a comment in the matter, Shambhu Chaudhary, spokesperson of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), which is the nodal ministry for the UPSC, said: “Call will be taken after 3 May.”
UPSC has no bandwidth to hold online exam for lakhs
The UPSC currently does not have the bandwidth to conduct the exam for almost 10-11 lakh candidates online.
“There is no capacity for that scale of an online exam at present,” the official quoted in the beginning said. “For that, you need dedicated IT centres, etc. which would be hard to arrange at such a short notice.”
In case the exam is conducted online, it would have to be a multiple session exam — which would pose its own set of problems.
Multiple session exams typically are conducted in batches wherein the total number of candidates taking the exam are divided into groups, who take the exam in different time slots.
“For an exam as competitive as the UPSC civil service exam, it is very difficult,” said the official. “Candidates can argue that a particular paper was easier than the other, and hence contest the results of the exam… In any case, such changes cannot happen in such a short duration.”
Tab-based online exam too has limitations
A retired government official familiar with the Commission said the UPSC does conduct online exams for smaller-scale exams like the Combined Medical Exam, in which the number of candidates is around 40,000.
For an exam as crucial as the civil services, the Commission has been mulling tab-based online exams.
Since it is not possible to have a computer-based exam for almost one million people, which would require a lab set-up for the computers, running power supply, etc. there have been discussions on technological solutions like a tab-based exam, which would be wireless, and can be held in classrooms in schools, colleges, etc.
“These things were being considered but they obviously take a much longer time to be developed… Even for the UPSC, the gradual progression was towards online exams, but to do it so soon would be extremely difficult,” the retired official said.
Moreover, with wireless tabs, there is a problem of making the network secure because wireless systems can be tapped.
“So to create such a technological architecture and then make it accessible as well as secure is not an easy task,” the official added.
Source: The Print