It has been a trend for decades for many students in India to opt for Agricultural Studies with a predetermined UPSC mindset. But what are the compelling reasons behind such a tendency?
The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) recently announced qualifying results for the yearly Civil Services preliminary examination held in June. Touted as one of the toughest papers in many years, the UPSC seems to be upping the game with each exam, in order to choose candidates who display the mettle to cope with multiple testing levels.
However, experts and achievers still don’t prescribe a singular approach that’s ideal to crack the most competitive exam in India. Each aspirant needs to work his/her way towards charting their optional choices, study regimen and preparation pattern. However, years of experience and previous trends have deemed certain subject areas to be better at aiding the civil service training.
Agricultural Sciences remains to be one of the most preferred branches of study for many young students who wish to join India’s elite services. What makes it such an easy choice though?
There are many reasons why this trend persists- firstly, agriculture as a subject in itself is an easy one to understand and remember. Secondly, students are predisposed to learning the basics of various subjects like Physics, Biology, Psychology etc., during their under graduate period, which come in quite handy for their General Studies paper. And, lastly, the material support and guidance that aspirants receive from their seniors and other sources is quite incredible in this field, says BM Santosh, who holds a doctoral degree in Agricultural Sciences from Annamalai University.
It’s difficult to guess the percentage of people who opt for Agricultural Sciences with a predetermined goal of cracking the UPSC exam. But an ever increasing number of Agriculture students appearing for the exams makes the subject's appeal to the candidates obvious. “Each year, at least 10 percent of the students in each batch come with a pre-decided agenda to prepare and appear for the exams at the end of their four-year UG course. They start collecting course material from seniors who are happy to hand it over and share tips on how they need to prepare during their time at the agricultural universities,” explains Santosh, who is now working as a Research Manager with a private agricultural firm in Hyderabad.
SD Sharnappa, currently posted as Deputy Commissioner of Police, South Bengaluru, decided to give Civil Services a try only in his second year of Masters in Agriculture. A dull phase from 1995 to 2005 which was marked by limited placements and employment opportunities in the agricultural sector forced such a decision.
Many students who opt for Agricultural Sciences are from poor economic background and are hence hardworking and desperate to make the cut. That attitude coupled with dedicating efforts in the right direction helps many from this background succeed in getting into the services, he shares.
“The guidance I received during my master's days at Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Delhi was abundant. I was part of a very committed study group of about 32 people in the institute. In the period from 2007-2010, about 28 from that team cracked all stages of the exam and enrolled into various services,” Sharnappa adds.
Such facts and figures show how an overwhelming percentage of people from Agricultural Sciences take a shot at the Civil Services and their impressive success rates only go to show how most of them get it right. Many successful candidates opine that a relatively shorter syllabus and the scoring nature of the Agriculture optional paper in Mains exam also helps many students.
Moreover, Civil Services aren’t the only exam that many agriculture graduates aim for. Though it is inevitably the first choice, many banking exams also top their list of competitive exams. Nevertheless, though the percentage of fresh agriculture graduates appearing for the UPSC exams keeps exceeding, their success rate might have taken a hit with the recent pattern change that included changes like math and logical reasoning to be part of the preliminary examination paper.
The pattern change has doubly disadvantaged many agriculture students, especially those from the rural backdrop who have difficulty comprehending aptitude questions, Sharnappa explains.
Unlike before, jobs in the agriculture field are now picking up, and the percentage of students opting for research and innovation is also improving.“Since 2012 we have seen an upward trend, with many universities and government ministries opening up avenues like that of assistant professors, scientists etc., for new agriculture pass outs,” Santosh says.
In a country deep rooted in agrarian economy, a large number of agriculture graduates opting for Civil Services is a comforting trend, for their skills can be put to effective use that benefit new-age farming communities. With repeated droughts and soaring costs of agricultural inputs rendering many farmers suicidal, the need to promote organic farming techniques is important. In this context, the latest positive change that has kicked in might seem promising. However, it remains to be seen how agriculture students contribute to the modernisation and improvement of the problematic agricultural scenario in the future.
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