BY DR. GYAN PATHAK
India is at a cross-road. The country needs to ensure the administration to be more sensitive and humane for which women's spectacular success in UPSC is a good signal. The UPSC results show women at the top 4 ranks, while they grabbed 6 in top 10, and 14 in top 25 ranks. The number of successful women is highest this year making a history who are set to enter the civil services. However, overemphasizing on this remarkable success of women candidates must not be allowed to hide the grim reality that only 320 selected candidates are women among 933, which comes to just 34.29 per cent.
Though women's entering into the IAS has risen a little from 31 per cent by 2020, it is still much less than their share in population at 48.39 per cent in 2021 according to the World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially recognized sources. The data from the National Informatics Centre show that currently India have only 21 per cent IAS officers compared to men. This shows that gender equality in public administration in India still remains a dream that would need greater efforts on the part of the government and the people by supporting more women candidates during their education. Mere celebration of spectacular results of women compared to men at top ranks would not do the magic, since the results are the proof that women could excel if given enough opportunities.
Women candidates fared better this year than the last year when a total of 177 women candidates were selected among the total 685, which was just 25.83 per cent. First three rank holders were women, and their number was 10 in top 25 ranks. Thus, the result of the last three years shows very high fluctuation in successful women candidates revealing lack of continued support to them in comparison to men aspirants.
Women had bagged the top three slots in 2021 after six years. In 2015, the top four positions were held by women. Thus, it is after seven years in 2022, women have achieved the top four ranks in UPSC. Therefore, overenthusiasm over success of women candidates must not be taken as a normal feature. Rather, it provides an opportunity for gender sensitization of the India society to shed its bias against girl child which was root cause of several evils including in inhumane attitudes prevailing among very many officials in Indian Administrative Services who happen to be suffering from male chauvinism or complexes of superiority making women administrative officials to feel inferior. It should go for good for larger interest of the country and its people.
The latest annual report for 2021-22 of the UPSC says that the number of women candidates recommended for appointment on the basis of the results of Civil Services Examination (CSE) 2020 was 238 as against 220 in the year 2019. The number has increased to 320 this year but it is still very low.
It is still a matter of concern that share of women appearing for UPSC civil services examination remained below 30 per cent between 2010-2018 as per the UPSC data. Only for once in 2017 it touched 30 per cent. The latest annual report for 2021-22 of the UPSC says that the number of women candidates who appeared in the Main Examinations of CSE 2019 and CSE 2020 were as low as 1,510 and 1,333 only. The number of women candidates interviewed were 454 and 437 respectively. It reveals the women are still not generally encouraged enough to take civil services examinations or they are not getting required support.
Women from the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS), Other Backward Classes (OBCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), Scheduled Castes (SCs) are suffering more that women from the richer and educated households on account of social biases in their household and in society apart from economic hardships. It not only prevents them in accessing better educational facilities but also have discouraging effect on their taking Civil Services Examinations. It is clear from the general data of successful candidates, who are generally from the families that are able to support their girls. It goes without saying that India needs to enhance support for girl child and efforts to empower them has become of paramount importance. It is simply wastage of talent if we go on discouraging girls which is ultimately harmful for growth and development of society.
Though women candidates are given certain facilities, such as relaxation in fee for civil services examination, they are too little to overcome other hurdles. Society tends to marry them off as soon as possible. They also suffer general bias against girl child causing them to suffer from even health issues and they have lesser access to educations institution and less opportunities to appear in Civil Services Examinations. Men can safely appear in CSE upto age 33, but for women it is a great age on marriage point of view. Therefore, government must act for girl child to educationally empower them to achieve within the limited time they can avail in their life. Rule restricting married women being in the administrative service has been removed but the responsibility of married life comes as hurdle in their way to succeed in Civil Services Examination.
Importance of women in public administration has been well documented by several national and international organisations including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) which had bought out a report in 2021 on “Gender Equality in Public Administration”. “Gender equality is at the core of an inclusive and accountable public administration,” it said. Ensuring equal representation of women in bureaucracy and public administration improves the functioning of the government, make it more responsive and accountable to diverse public interests, enhances the quality of services delivered and increases trust and confidence in public organisation.
Waiving the application fee for women by UPSC is certainly a good start but the government needs to think of covering their educational costs, especially for weaker sections of the society. They must also be supported financially and through other care programmes such as health and child care. Examination format could be changed to give more time to women candidates between two exams. Gender sensitisation can help improve the situation. In brief, India needs to create more supportive environment for women civil services aspirants. (IPA Service)