Cracking The Civil Services

#UPSC : Candidates Must Be Open Minded And Express Interest In Knowing Other Cultures

Image : Representational Purpose Only

Image : Representational Purpose Only

It is not only enforcing law and overseeing the administration that is the primary task. There is the other aspect the aspirants need to follow socially  . Hence showing  interest in” other cultures” is an essential professional requirement for the civil service and especially for the All India services and the Foreign Service.

First it refers to cultures, languages, art and craft, music and literature, sports and recreational activities of areas and peoples other than what one might consider one’s own distinctive group such as the Bengali, Malayali or Odiya . This trait is necessary for central civil service officials of a country of India’s size, population and mind boggling diversity , and is the first step to build up rapport with the people other than one’s own social and cultural mileiu when posted outside ” home state” and Region.

Second , cultivation of this trait begins with curiosity and then ” constructive “and not casual interest in all aspects which constitute culture . Learning the language for instance should aim at not just ” smattering” of the same but the ability to read and write in a true sense ;because it will facilitate not only conversation but reading newspapers in local languages would enable a civil Service official- especially if she happens to be in the All India services to understand the mood of the people and their thoughts on various issues. The same applies to other aspects such as music , dance, drama and sports especially team games such as football in East and NE , Kerala and Goa. By the way, local Football and Cricket tournaments are very common in the East and north east India with mass participation which is not seen elsewhere and is thus a part of culture of the people. Acquisition of skills and knowledge in these matters is a subtle way of showing respect to cultures and the people of the areas and will invariably be well received.

We will now see how questions might be raised in the UPSC or Mock boards. First ,DAF contains enough details about the candidates mental framework in this regard or the potential. Suppose traveling is mentioned as a preferred activity or specific visits, the board may ask what did the observe at places visited . Similarly music may invite questions like different traditions ( Gharanas in Hindi) of music – classical or modern and candidates’ preference. Foreign visits mentioned in the DAF might attract questions about the economy, society , culture and politics of the country and our relations in the background of globalization and so on.

Second, sensitivity about important developments in one’s neighborhood : As for instance a candidate from North India might be asked about the recent melting of glacier and raging forest fire in Uttar Khand which might lead to a discussion on climate change. The unresolved issue of Srilankan Tamils is one such issue which a candidate from all parts of the country especially North should be aware of and the importance of Tamil as a transnational language .

Third, interest in the areas outside one’s home state where the candidate might have spent some part of the formative years for education might be raised based on the DAF for the same reason. This list is just indicative as the scope is vast. The idea that this trait – cultural sensitivity is present in some form in the mental make up of the candidates is considered critical to assess candidates potential to deliver ” administrative justice” which is the basic function of the civil service ; because it helps one to discard prejudices of all types which are always the outcome of a closed mind. Thus interest in other cultures and environment opens up the mind which Civil service work demands for optimising the outcome of their work in respective fields.

The monumental work done by the British members of the ICS on languages, art culture, flora and fauna of the provinces they served – and the tribal areas of the north east and central India in particular bear testimony of their work ethos and importance attached to this trait in civil service.

We may note that Sir William Jones, the father of Indology and founder of the Asiatic Society in 1784 at Calcutta was a judge. R. C. Dutt, ICS is remembered for his classic- The Economic History of India in two volumes , the first ever critical study of India’s economy during the colonial period from an Indian perspective.

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