In 2014, Mouzam Ali Qureshi, started preparations for Civil Service Examination with zeal and zest to become an administrator. He failed in three consecutive attempts but didn’t lose hope. The 29-year-old resident of Lal Bazaar, Srinagar, gets his drive from his aim to “serve people in my own area.”
He was so focused on getting through the examinations that he dropped a job offer of banking associate at Jammu and Kashmir Bank in 2016. This year, he was aiming for Indian Administrative Service (IAS) examination – but, now stands in dilemma.
On 6 February, the Central Government abolished Jammu and Kashmir state cadre of Civil Services and made it a part of Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, and Mizoram and Union Territories (AGMUT).
Mr. Qureshi was taken aback after learning about the government’s decision. “The move has let me down,” he says. “Now, I am planning to take another line of profession.”
AGMUT division deals with all legislative and constitutional matters relating to Union Territories (UTs), including the national capital territory of Delhi. Besides, it is also responsible for overseeing the crime and law and order situation in UTs.
The decision came six months after the erstwhile state of J-K was split into two Union Territories – J-K and Ladakh. Like Mr. Qureshi, among thousands of civil service aspirants, Abrar Ahmad Badana, a 25-year-old resident of north Kashmir’s Tangdar area in Baramulla district believes that the removal of J-K civil service cadre will stop attracting youth towards the competitive examinations.
The posting of the candidates is among the major fallouts of the decision. Earlier, J-K cadre officers couldn’t be transferred outside the state except for central deputation. Similarly, the government could not have transferred a UT cadre officer to J-K. However, the 2020 batch will not be eligible for J-K cadre for the first time and the posting in J-K will depend upon the vacancies in the region.
“Most of civil service aspirants like to work at their own locations to avoid losing social bond,” says Mr. Badana. “Now, when no such choice is left, large number of students might hesitate to prepare for the competitive examination.”
In the notification, the Central Government has assured that IAS, Indian Police Service (IPS), and Indian Foreign Services (IFS) officers already posted in J-K will retain their cadre and will not be merged into AGMUT cadre. The same position will continue for the civil services officers already posted in J-K till 2019 while those seeking posting in J-K from 2020 batch of UPSC will have to opt for AGMUT cadre.
Director of Centre for Career Guidance and Counselling and an academician, Mohammad Yaqoob Khan, says, “The order will have worse consequences because seats in UPSC for J-K UT will now be pretty less leading to lesser local administrators holding senior positions in the administration.”
The issued notification by Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), Government of India, also mentions the slashing of the five-year age relaxation for the local youth appearing in the examination conducted by the Union Public Services Commission (UPSC).
Mohammad Aslam Ganaie, 33, is confused if he is eligible anymore with the upper-limit being 32-years for general category, 35-years for Other Backward Classes (OBCs), and 37-years for Scheduled Castes (SCs).
“I have appeared twice in civil service examination and I was planning to try again this year,” says Mr. Ganaie. “I might not be eligible anymore.”
In 2016, too, the DoPT had done away with the age relaxation in the Civil Services examinations for J-K aspirants. Though, the coalition state government – of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – had intervened on aspirants’ demands and the order was eventually withdrawn.
Another civil service aspirant, Nighat Talat, a resident of Pulwama, south Kashmir, who has qualified prelims of the examination twice, was one of the students who had raised concerns in 2016. This time, she thinks, the order is irreversible.
“There is no hope of the government withdrawing the order,” she says. She believes so because of the discussion around the Central government’s 5 August decision, which abrogated the Articles 370 and 35A.
A few aspirants in the Valley, including Mohammad Omar from Tral, south Kashmir, are also calling out Jammu region’s silence over abrogation of Article 370.
“The Article was actually not just fleshless bone but it had a lot to offer. Following this order, the idea of son of soil has now become irrelevant,” says Mr. Omar. “Every civil service aspirant wishes to serve his or her own people but now it seems impossible.”
Irfan Amin Malik is a Reporting Fellow at The Kashmir Walla.
The story appeared in our 10-16 February 2020 print edition.