New Delhi: The government on Friday indicated that the civil services preliminary exam is likely to be held on schedule and that there may not be any significant changes to the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) format—at least this year.

Civil services aspirants, especially those from Hindi-speaking states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, have been protesting against the format, which they say gives English-speaking candidates an unfair advantage.

Proceedings in both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha were disrupted over the alleged discrimination against Hindi and regional language students, causing adjournment in upper house of Parliament. Friday marked the end of a week’s time that the central government had given itself to resolve the issue.

Home minister Rajnath Singh said in the Rajya Sabha that the government was still studying a report submitted by a committee on the Union Public Service Commission’s (UPSC’s) examination format.

“Government has taken the issue very seriously and is considering every aspect. The report has been given by the Committee on the issue only a day ago. The report is being studied. Government wants this to be resolved as soon as possible," Singh said.

A senior minister in the cabinet, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the committee did not favour any changes in the format of the exam.

Parliamentary affairs minister M. Venkaiah Naidu told reporters outside Parliament house that “what should be done will be done in due course of time."

The present controversy is around the second paper of the preliminary exam known as CSAT. It’s a 200 marks paper comprising 80 questions about English, comprehension and reasoning and math, among other things.

Hindi-speaking students find this tough to crack. They say it is tilted towards aspirants coming from science, engineering and management backgrounds and want CSAT to be scrapped.

“The committee seems to have not been in favour of giving students any relaxation but we are hopeful that the government will come out with something before Monday," said Neeraj Jaiswal, a civil services aspirant from Uttar Pradesh.

He has been in Delhi since 2008, preparing for the exam that opens the doors to a career in the bureaucracy.

An official close to the development said the UPSC had not received any formal communication from the government regarding any changes to the CSAT. Unless there is a formal instruction, the UPSC will go ahead with the 24 August exam, said the official on condition of anonymity.

Another government official said any significant changes to the format of the exam this year seemed to be difficult because it could delay the conduct of the test and may lead to litigation as well. The preliminary exam is already taking place two months late because of the general elections in April-May.

The official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said there was a chance that the English comprehension segment may be simplified with effect from next year. There is a possibility that the government may allow an extra attempt to civil service aspirants to calm the protests.

“Any changes now mean no civil services exam in 2014. The question papers are made, and admit cards have been downloaded by over 200,000 aspirants. Any change in status quo means delay of six months," said the first official.

It was the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government that approved the changes in the civil services exam pattern in 2010, replacing a previous choice of optional subjects in the UPSC preliminary exam with CSAT.

“This (CSAT) will enable screening of candidates having a right aptitude for civil services. The CSAT is aimed at providing a greater degree of level-playing field to candidates of different backgrounds," then minister for personnel, public grievances and pensions Prithviraj Chavan told the Lok Sabha on 4 August 2010.

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