Has Civil Services Exam Become A hard Labour For Kashmiris?

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At a time when concern in some quarters remains that Kashmiri students aren’t breaking into the ranks of UPSC exams anymore, many aspirants who want to break the jinx are facing practical hitches and communication curbs back home.

By Jyotsna Bharti

SOMEONE who’s born and brought up in Kashmir, said Mubeen Khan, knows the value of education because it doesn’t come easy.

“We’ve to face a lot of obstacles on the political and personal front to come up and study hard,” said Khan, a 23-year-old graduate from Srinagar, currently trying his luck in Civil Services Exam.

“I always wanted to write UPSC [Union Public Service Commission] exam, but despite being a topper all my life, I’ve failed this time. There’s no availability of high-speed internet and access to classrooms due to constant lockdown. I don’t know what’s there in store for Kashmiri students!”

Like Khan, many other Kashmiri students want to fight their circumstances to fulfill their career dreams. But most of them find themselves at the crossroads due to the recurrent situation back home.

“Problem is,” said Asim Mohammad, a UPSC exam trainer from Srinagar, “while candidates from other states are coming in droves to fill the IAS/IPS vacancies in Jammu and Kashmir every year, our own students are lagging behind. Politics has marred their career prospects. This trend should concern all of us and we should start raising this question, as why these exams have become herculean tasks for natives.”

This concern is being voiced when Jammu and Kashmir has already emerged as the region with the highest unemployment rate in North India. It has the eighth-highest unemployment rate in India, according to the survey released by the Labour Bureau under the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment. Adding to that, the constant lockdowns and internet blockade has made these exams a distant dream.

“We don’t have the opportunity of having any IT jobs in Kashmir because of the obvious reasons,” said Rameez Bhat, an IAS aspirant from Anantnag. “Also, after seeing corruption, faults in the management and government, most of us want to join UPSC and aim to become IAS/IPS, so that we can help in making Kashmir a better place for the civilians.”

But then, some practical hitches are playing a spoilsport.

Since last summer, when internet services, landline and mobile phones were snapped across Jammu and Kashmir in the run up to the abrogation of J&K’s special status, most civil service aspirants are finding it hard to focus on the exam.

“Because of these constant blockades and tensions in the valley, I’m not even able to read the news every day which pulls me back,” said Azra Khan, a Delhi University graduate.

“Most of the times we aren’t able to access UPSC website for any update. This is very distressing. After 2019, it’s not easy for us to get up-to-date books which can help us to study better for civil exams.”

Notably, when Lolab-born doctor became the first Kashmiri to top the Indian Civil Services Examination in 2010, it inspired many to try their luck in bureaucracy and police services.

“I also became a fan of Dr. Shah Faesal, as his feat showed that Kashmiris can do it,” said Kaiser Rafiq, a UPSC aspirant from the old Srinagar.

“Ever since then, I wanted to follow his footsteps to serve my motherland. But in Kashmir, the season changes overnight. It’s a way more difficult to stay focused in Kashmir as probably it looks.”

Many feel that there’s a dystopian era in Kashmir where students have to either migrate to study in reliable internet zone, or drop the idea of pursuing IAS/IPS dream.

“I often go to Jammu to get a better internet connection,” said Ulfat Bhat, a UPSC aspirant who has done his Masters from Aligarh Muslim University. “I stay at my friend’s place, download all the important study material and come back home. I share my notes with my other friends pursuing the same career.”

But at times, Bhat said, he gets drained out and feels like leaving it all.

“I feel pathetic over this constant helplessness,” he said. “I don’t think none of us deserve this treatment where we’ve to struggle even for basic things in life.”

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Jyotsna Bharti

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