Draft CSAT paper in Hindi, then translate it to English: RSS to UPSC

Topics UPSC | civil services

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh wants the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) to draft the question papers for the civil services examination in Hindi, and then translate them into other regional languages and English.

The RSS-linked Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas (SSUN) committee is of the view that when the question paper is set in English and translated into vernacular languages, the essence of the question is lost in translation. This puts students taking the exam in Hindi and other languages at a disadvantage.

The SSUN has made the suggestion to the Modi government, reported The Print.

Devendra Singh, head of the SSUN’s competitive exams reform committee said that almost 50 per cent of the words lose their meaning in translation. He cites the examples of words such as “population”, which is generally “jansankhya” in Hindi but was translated as “samashti” in one question paper. “Data”, which should be “data” in Hindi as well, was translated to “dutt”, he added.

“If a question is in English and it is translated into Hindi and other languages, there is an increased chance of error in the questions,” Singh said. “Almost 50 per cent of the words that are translated from English to Hindi are wrong because they are either loosely translated or are extremely difficult words.”

“This is a disadvantage for candidates writing their exam in Hindi and other Indian languages, because they are forced to resort to the English paper anyway,” he added.

This is not the first time that the issue of translation has been flagged. For years, students, RSS and others have been urging the government to scrap the aptitude test (CSAT) in the UPSC exam. 

The Sangh claims that the CSAT disadvantages those who write the exam in Hindi.

Introduction of CSAT

The new exam pattern in the UPSC was introduced in 2011. This gave some ammunition to agitating students from the cow belt to target the language. Google Translator was used by the UPSC to translate CSAT questions from English to Hindi.

The results were disastrous. Steel plant got translated as 'lohe ka paudha'; land reforms became 'arthvayvastha (economy) sudhar'; multi-brand retail was 'bahumakra khudra vyapaar'; and panacea is 'sarvopachar'. In the face of massive protests against the exam, however, the government made it ‘qualifying’ in nature in 2015. Now, a candidate is only required to secure 33 per cent marks in the paper to qualify for the next level.

Sangh's suggestion in line with UPSC

The RSS stance on CSAT is in line with what the UPSC has been proposing. In a letter to the central government earlier this year, the UPSC had also recommended doing away with the controversial exam.

“The point that the RSS is raising is valid because meaning is mostly lost in translation when a question paper is translated from English to Hindi, because people are either using things like Google translate or Hindi official dictionaries with difficult words,” a former UPSC member said told The Print.

Sharp decline in the number of students taking CSE in Hindi

According to Indian Express, since 2013, there has been a sharp dip in students taking the CSE in Hindi — for services like the IAS, IPS and Indian Foreign Service. The sharp fall stems from reforms implemented in the CSE. Before the CSAT was introduced, the performance of Hindi-medium students was a little better. An analysis of the profiles of recruits who took the foundation course available on the LBNSAA website shows the decrease: while the number of students taking CSE in Hindi accounted for nearly 17% in 2013, it stood at 2.11% in 2014, 4.28% in 2015, 3.45% in 2016, 4.06% in 2017.

How are UPSC question papers set?

The UPSC question papers are set by a secret panel in the UPSC, the composition of which is not disclosed by the commission. Only the secretary and chairman of the commission deal with the panel, which consists of experts in various subjects and issues.

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