The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) exam results 2021 are out and out of a total of 712 vacancies reported, 180 candidates would be placed in the IAS cadre, 37 in IFS, 200 in IPS, and 51 in IRS (IT). But while the news cycle speaks of the toppers in the civil service exams, another discussion that comes to the fore is of those candidates who have passed the IITs and IIMs, taking a seat at the prestigious engineering and management institutes only to leave them after cracking the UPSC. Some frown upon it, while others call it a practical decision where a student does not lose years in preparation for an exam they may never get through – over 11 lakh entries are made almost every year for the few hundred posts in the country.
Last year, according to reports, the UPSC exams 2020 had seen six out of ten toppers from engineering backgrounds, mostly from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). According to the Department of Personnel and Training (Dopt), the number of engineers qualifying for the UPSC Civil Service examination increased since 2010. In 2015, there were 102 candidates with engineering backgrounds who qualified for the UPSC Civil Services Exam.
An article in 2021, spoke about a UPSC rank 16 holder, Arth Jain, a 24-year-old from Madhya Pradesh, who had cracked the IIT entrance JEE Advanced and civil services exam. It spoke of how for Jain the preparations went on for years. While he was able to crack JEE Advanced in the first go and gained admission in IIT-Delhi with 703rd rank, the civil services exam took him two attempts.
With lakhs of engineering aspirants, the candidates who make the cut off, but go on to join the UPSC, seem to be robbing someone off a seat. The general idea to this argument is that those who didn’t make it through the cut-off and went on to other engineering colleges or even changed their career path altogether, may have gained from a more decisive decision of the candidate who decided to take both opportunities.
Take a person A who is competing against B. Now A gets through engineering, takes the four-degree course at IIT, learns from the best at one of the best universities, yet after the end of the course goes on to do nothing with engineering but cracks the UPSC and joins the civil services. Those years at engineering school, from the best, go waste – that seat goes to waste. Person A, took a seat and did nothing with that skillset given.
Instead, we have B, who missed the mark just behind A, misses the seat at the IIT, while s/he may not be that different, gets no opportunity at the prestigious university, but has to settle with another none IIT/IIM, perhaps spend a lot more money to earn a proper engineering degree.
This can also be said about courses at say Delhi University, where candidates take up a course while waiting for their attempts at the competitive exams. Here too why this is questionable is knowing the high cut-off list at DU, in 2021 Ramjas College’s first cut-off list was set at 100 per cent in three courses- Political Science, Physics and one combination of BA Programme.
Motilal Nehru College’s first cut off list saw 99 per cent for B Com Hons, then 98.5 per cent for BA Economics Hons and 98 per cent for B Com course. One can understand the importance of just a few seats, and how that matters for students who are not in the top echelons. Many have to either go to a private university or another city altogether.
Of course, there is also the argument for those who take the opportunity and rightly gain their seats, that they do so through merit.