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“Equitable representation is always desirable but difficult to achieve in practice”

11:43 AM Jan 27, 2023 IST | Syed Rizwan Geelani
“equitable representation is always desirable but difficult to achieve in practice”

On January 20, the J&K Public Service Commission (PSC) declared the result of the CCE-2021 with comparatively lesser number of candidates from Kashmir figuring in the selection list. Among other factors, it has been attributed to lesser participation of candidates from Kashmir in the coveted examination. In an interview with Special Correspondent Greater Kashmir Syed Rizwan Geelani, Former Advisor to J&K Governor, Khurshid Ahmed Ganai delves into the underlying issues and concerns. He also spells out the initiatives which can prompt more Valley students to opt for the civil services as a career option. Here are the excerpts:


GK: The results of the J&K Administrative Service exam were recently announced. As has been a trend in the recent past, a relatively lesser number of candidates have made it to the service from Kashmir division in comparison to Jammu. How genuine are the concerns regarding this skewed representation?


Khurshid Ahmed Ganai: Well, the ideal situation in these matters is, if all geographical areas and sections of society are uniformly represented. But that is a rarity. It would have been a happier situation if more candidates from Kashmir division figured in the merit list. I am told only 37 out of 187 successful candidates are from Kashmir division which is just about 20 percent which is decidedly low. The benefit of reservation is available to Kashmir based candidates also except in respect of SCs because of negligible SC population in Kashmir division. It means that the success rate of Kashmir candidates is lower not only from the general category but also from the reserved categories. So the problem of success rate in Kashmir division has to be addressed for both types, general as well as reserved categories. Of course, there is also the issue of a lesser number of candidates from the Kashmir division taking the civil services examination.


Can you elaborate how equitable representation is important in this coveted service?


Equitable representation is always desirable but difficult  to achieve in practice. The advantage of equitable representation is that the public perhaps feel a greater sense of comfort when they see local officers and officials serving them because they feel they can access them for redress, more easily. Elected officials are of course the best option but when that is not an option, the next best thing is officials belonging to the local community and local area.


Do you agree with this assertion that the low level of participation rather than the low success ratio of Kashmiri candidates is the root cause of this low representation?


Low level of participation in the examination from Kashmir division is reportedly true. And true for both, the general category as well as the reserved categories. This is a major reason for lower share of successful candidates from Kashmir division. But in my view lower success rate is a more important issue which needs to be addressed. Lower success rate indicates poorer preparation or less hard work on the part of candidates which also points to less than desirable seriousness among Kashmir students for a career in civil services. Therefore, the colleges and coaching  institutes in Kashmir have work cut out for them. They need to measure up to the task and work for a higher success rate of their students taking the civil services examination.


While we see Kashmiri girls performing well in other fields do you think they are not encouraged enough to attempt the J-KAS exam?

Girls outshining boys in the university and board examinations is a trend seen all over the country. This has now spilled to the competitive examinations also. There is absolutely no harm if more girls are motivated to sit for the civil services examination. Hopefully, the success rate among the candidates from Kashmir division will improve if more girls take the examination.

Kashmiris continue to be more interested in Medical and Engineering careers. Do you think it’s one of the major reasons for low numbers in the JKAS exam?

Kashmir students opting for medical and engineering is a good thing, nothing new and nothing wrong with this.  Traditionally, there has been greater preference for these careers in Kashmir at the plus two level. However, I don’t see such preference and higher success rate in civil services mutually exclusive. The candidates for civil services will come from humanities and non- science  streams including commerce and a large majority of science students who don’t succeed in getting admission in medical and engineering colleges.Then there is no restriction on medical and engineering graduates taking the civil services examination. So, we still have a large pool of potential  candidates available for taking the civil services examination. That is why I don’t see the preference for medical and engineering careers and success rate in civil services examination as mutually exclusive. We can have both. We can have the best of both worlds.

The general disillusionment of youth with the system is also considered to be an inhibiting factor. How do you see it?

I do not agree that there is a general disillusionment with the system. The system of examination is transparent and absolutely fair. This has been repeatedly proved by candidates from poorer backgrounds and far flung areas succeeding in the civil services examination even without reservation. And then there is no reason for young students feeling disillusioned with the system even before trying the examination and entering the system.

Do you think the students are not getting a conducive atmosphere for studies or do you think it’s the lack of ambition or hardworking attitude among our youth that is holding them back?

I don’t think that is the case now. It may have been there about two to three years back when Kashmir division witnessed some uneven law and order with prolonged shut downs including internet shut down. That situation may have also impacted the competitiveness of Kashmir based candidates and success rate. It is time for Kashmir students to put all that behind them and work hard. In fact they need to work harder to make up for the lost time and opportunity.

How much is the parental discretion involved in the career choices?

Parental discretion is not a big factor nowadays. I think parents generally don’t push their children beyond a point. I agree that parents do tend to push their children to trying for medical and engineering colleges at the plus two level but once that stage is crossed, they leave the choice to their children. So there is hardly any parental pressure which tends to keep the candidates away from civil services examination. On the other hand, parents in Kashmir encourage their children to try for civil services even when the chances of success are not very good. The incidence of disappointment at not being able to qualify for civil services is high because of tough competition and fewer vacancies. I have known candidates trying multiple times but not making it and feeling quite disappointed. But there is no need to see failure in civil services examination as ‘end of the road’- Quoting Allama Iqbal’s- ‘Sitaron sey aagey jehan aur bhi hain !’Or Faiz Ahmad Faiz, ‘ Dil naumeed tou nahi, nakam hi tou hai, Lambi hai gham ki shaam, shaam hi tou hai’.