Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Meghalaya and UPSC Civil Services Exams


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By Rudi Warjri

Polling for the Lok Sabha Parliamentary elections 2024 is over in Meghalaya. For most it means waiting patiently and for some even waiting with bated breath, for the results till June 4, 2024.
Meanwhile let’s talk about the other results. That of the Union Public Services Commission (UPSC) exams which was announced only last week . Meghalaya drew a blank once again. While from the Northeast surprisingly, conflict ridden Manipur led the table with 10 qualifiers; the other 8 being from Assam and Nagaland .
The print media and social media etc., had a field day about the failure of Meghalaya to produce any achiever this time. The commentaries ranged from the insightful to the shallow. And the target for the failure was in particular , the mythical endangered indigenous community of Meghalaya ( the Khasis, Jaintias and Garos). Mythically endangered because given that the entire lock stock and barrel political regime and control is in the hands of the indigenous who have been vested with all the powers to determine and shape the destiny of the State .
Talking about lack of motivation, I would like to distinguish between self motivation and collective motivation. Self- motivation originates largely from the person himself or herself . Nothing can stop a self- motivated person who is very clear about his/her aspirations and goals. That’s how inventions and discoveries happen. I will therefore dwell more on the collective motivation . The mindset construct which requires to be built for approaching UPSC exams and the factors which influence that collective motivation.
Let’s begin with the mindset. UPSC stands for Union Public Service Commission Union here means the Union of India or the nation of India. Aiming for a UPSC exam therefore implies building a national outlook and mindset which is a prerequisite for any aspirant for the UPSC exams. The mental horizon has to stretch beyond one’s State or province . That’s why it helps to live in metros like Delhi , Mumbai , Kolkata etc to develop a national mindset . Does this collective national outlook or mindset exist in general among the youth of Meghalaya?
The value system
Start with the thought processes and ideas embedded in traditional cultures or the traditional values. The wise homilies of elders exhort us to earn an honest living by one’s own sweat or earning righteously; conducting oneself with honour and respect etc. Are these values even existential in the radar of consciousness or just read in text books and forgotten? Preparing for the UPSC exams means intellectually appreciating and digesting these very traditional value systems.
Then the practice of the aforesaid revered value system within the political and societal conduct currently. Today, mostly , charlatans are occupying positions of political leadership. The key qualification for contesting elections is Money. And ruefully the majority within the society among the electorate has also accepted it as normal. Besides, one wonders what work do the 175 plus retainers appointed by the Government in bodies with superlative nomenclatures like Economic Task Force, Economic Council, Resource Mobilization, et al do ? A more qualified civil servant having to serve these semi-literate or quasi-educated types would be a fatuity. In other words a demotivation to the youth .
The Golden Jubilee and the celebration of 50 years of Meghalaya’s statehood took place only three years ago. Statehood signified the attainment of what the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi described, “to fulfil the aspirations of the Hill People.” It embodied the sense of a separate entity and identity. A separate state meant the devolution of power and self- governance to protect and promote one’s interest, culture and customs. It is an opportunity to create more opportunities, develop and optimize one’s potential, given the physical, material, natural and intellectual resources we have. It was an opportunity to catch up with the rest of the advanced States in India and indeed with the rest of the world. Does that collective sense of destiny exist among the youth of Meghalaya ?
Political activism
History is replete with illustrations about the role of political activism in bringing change and transformation in society such as the ending of slavery, the movement against racism, against dictatorship, women’s empowerment etc. Political activism also takes the form of political parties or as mass movements and pressure groups for a cause .
In Meghalaya the leading pressure groups as far as I’m aware are the KSU, FKJGP, HYC, HNYF, HANM, HITO , JSU, GSU, etc . Pardon me in case I missed out any other prominent group. The bottom-line declared goal of practically all these groups is ‘safeguard and protection of the rights of the indigenous peoples.’ This is in line with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted in September 2007 and India also voted in its favour.
One asset which the pressure groups have is social capital and political mobilization and support among the masses. For the sake of brevity allow me to take the KSU (Khasi Students Union) as an epitome of what essentially means a student centric group. The motto of the KSU is “strive forward children of the soil.” Very profound indeed ! A perfect beau ideal for a UPSC civil services indigenous aspirant. Why then has this motto failed to influence young achievers to scale the UPSC exams? It’s amusing when I read discourses by these pressure groups about having more indigenous civil services bureaucrats when I don’t know how many of them have ever even gone closer to attempting the UPSC exams. The other is the insular mindset. The hindering fear and paranoia of the outsider – an incompatible mindset for a UPSC aspirant. This river metaphor of poet Khalil Gibran is so apt. “The river needs to take the risk of entering the ocean because only then will fear disappear because that’s where the river will know it’s not about disappearing into the ocean but of becoming the ocean.“ Political mobilization needs to give space to intellectual mobilization.
Building an intellectually mobilized society also means reading. Reading books in general and not just text books. And even more pernicious is the dependence on the social media university. Most youth now don’t even read the newspapers! How many visit the library in their school, college, university or the State Central Library? Book therapy is an imperative.
Some commentaries and suggestions have raised the issue or availability of coaching. Coaching does help in honing and organizing the preparation in a systematic manner. The key however is again the mindset that allows coaching itself so that it acquires a base to take more advantage of institutional coaching .
Resistance to change
Charles Darwin says, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives , nor the most intelligent, it is one most adaptable to change.” Artificial Intelligence (AI) is now the dominant game changer for the future. Do the youth in Meghalaya even know what AI is beyond AI in the smartphone? Youth of Meghalaya, wake up !
(The writer is a retired diplomat and can be reached at [email protected])

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