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Age Relaxation in CSS Exam: The Most Neglected Area

Modifications and changes in our present system are essential to bring CSS selection system in line with modern-day requirements and practices.

Today’s issue is age relaxation for CSS hopefuls. I would like to make some suggestions after reviewing the age-limit decision, with reference to our neighbouring countries. Let’s see how they relax age-limit for competent people to sit exams.

During Musharraf’s regime, the best strategy was to control the government institutions and public offices effectively. Therefore, the concept of devolution of power at grassroot level was revived and introduced with some changes in the departmental role of civil servants. The Police Ordinance and the DMG restructuring methods were made; only to suite the vested interest of the then regime. Reducing the age-limit was also one of the tools which were applied to block the entry of competent persons through this tedious process of examination. The other ulterior motive was to allow contractual hiring of favourites on key positions on the pretext of availability of less experienced and relatively young age for the required positions. As a result the retired servicemen regained the ‘lost paradise’ and clung to the position they had retired. It is really commendable that the Supreme Court eventually took notice and declared null and void all contractual hiring, consequently paving way for within-the-department promotions.

On May 17, the Senate Standing Committee arranged a debate on age relaxation for the FPSC offered job (other than competitive exam, proceeding is available on the internet). The initiative was taken by Senator Haji Ghulam Ali. The proposal of age relaxation was unanimously accepted. It is beyond logic that why government is reluctant to take competent people on the board by just removing a restriction imposed by a dictator, even though candidates would secure their seats after competition. Why the government does not allow them to take the exam and prove their competency? The age restriction was imposed about a decade ago since then the education system has undergone a number of changes e.g. now universities are offering Four-Years Graduation Programme. To complete this education, one has to study for four years. Therefore, 28 years of age makes no sense. Secondly, after completion of education a number of candidates join private sector to their living and to support their families. How is it possible for an average middle-class to continue the studies without supporting his or her family?

In 2008, FPSC gave 10 years of age relaxation to the hopefuls to sit the exam and prove their worth. As a result a number of candidates appeared and only handful of ‘best of the best’ could make it. What’s a problem with CSS exam? However, there is a rumour that the government would relax age by 5 years and education qualification would be 16 years but that’s not finalised as yet.

On 24, June 2010, the Establishment Division had issued an Office Memorandum (No: 9/2/91-R-5), as ‘Most Immediate’ was mentioned on it, with regard to the Clarification on general age relaxation of upper limit prescribed in the recruitment rule. In this memorandum, the general age relaxation is given for five years to all posts except through CSS. No one could understand the reason or logic behind this decision. Why the government seems reluctant to let aspirants compete and take best-of-the-best on board? The point#2 of this office memorandum is read as:

 Tightening the age limit was also one of the tools which were applied to block the entry of competent persons through this tedious process of examination. The other ulterior motive was to allow contractual hiring of favourites on the key positions on the pretext of availability of less experienced and relatively young age for the required positions.
2- In light of the recommendation of the Senate Standing Committee, the Ministries/Divisions/Departments are advised that henceforth, the concession of 5 years general relaxation in upper age-limit shall be clubbed with the maximum age limit of the post on their advertisements. In case the usual upper age-limit of posts in various Basic Pay Scales is as in column (2) below, the maximum age-limit shall be as in column (4) below:’It is quite ridiculous that the BPS 17 officer of ex-cadre is given 5 years age relaxation and age-limit is already set 30 years but for the CSS exam, age is restricted to 28.

On July 1, 2010 Chairman FPSC presented the annual report to the President Asif Ali Zardari and explained the dearth of competent candidates especially from Sindh (rural/urban). In order to retain and attract the smartest people in the civil services the president had ordered to give incentives to the bureaucrats and young civil servants in terms of constructing high-rise buildings and increased pay packages. It is indeed a good move forward but the basic question remains unanswered that how would government attract ‘competent’ people for civil services? In 2008, the annual report was presented to the president highlighting some problems in which the prime one was ‘declining education standard’, the real road-block for skimming out best-of-the-best. In 2006, approx 82% and 68% the failed in Essay and English Precis Writing respectively. This percentage rose to 92% in English Precis Writing, quite pathetic. On the basis of such drastic and declining education standards, the recruitment system was gravely demanding improvement. Owing to this need, consultants were hired through word bank as stated in annual report 2008 which is as follows:

Improvement in CSS Recruitment System.

Consultants hired through World Bank have completed their study on CSS recruitment system and after thorough analysis; FPSC’s recommendations for improvements have been forwarded to the Government. Modifications and changes in our present system are essential in order to bring CSS recruitment system in line with modern-day requirements and practices.

Consultants’ fee was paid off from taxpayers’ money, yet we are unable to implement the changes suggested by them. We are so much radical and conservatives that we seem to be in love with our old archaic practices.

India and Bangladesh have very flexible and relaxing age criteria for the prospective candidates of Civil services having graduation as academic qualification. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have the same system of government as inherited from the British Raj. But how the others evolved their system to compete the modern challenges of globalization and how nave are we to complicate the system to suite a regime’s vested interest. In India and Bangladesh the eligible age is from 21 to 30 to facilitate the maximum participation, becauseit is the democratic right of every ‘capable and competent’ person to serve his or her country.

By: Rai Ansar

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