Why Did UPSC Introduce the Ethics Paper in UPSC Mains Exam

“Ethics must be reintroduced to public service to restore people’s faith in government.”  – Walter Cronkite

The UPSC introduced the ethics paper, officially called the General Studies Paper IV into the civil service mains exam in the year 2013. Aspirants may wonder at the need for a paper like this in the civil services exam. Although there is a definite syllabus for the ethics paper, the paper balances theory and practical parts equally. Out of the total 250 marks allotted to this paper, theory worth 125 marks are asked. The remaining 125 marks are for reserved for case studies where a lot depends on the candidate’s ability to think ethically and make correct, justifiable decisions. This article explains the need for the ethics paper in the UPSC civil services exam.

To understand the need for a paper on ethics, one needs to look at the purpose of conducting the civil services exam. The exam is conducted to recruit officers into the country’s civil services and the diplomatic service. The civil service is one of the most important institutions in the country. It is the administrative backbone of a nation and the country literally runs on it. Its officers have an important role in policy formulation and implementation. Their functions have a deep and direct impact on citizens. So, it is crucial that the civil services be a transparent and honest institution. The officers must portray the highest standards of integrity, honesty and scrupulousness.

Unfortunately, today the civil service has largely diminished in values and its image has taken a severe beating in the eyes of the public. The officers are seen as corrupt although there are many numbers of upright and honest officers who place service before self.

The solution to any problem might be to nip it in the bud; prevent an issue or a blemish from mushrooming further. It is in this light that the Ethics Paper was introduced by the Commission. A look at the UPSC syllabus for GS Paper 4 reveals the traits on which candidates would be assessed in the paper. Attitude, aptitude, emotional intelligence, ethics in public administration, probity in governance, etc. are areas where a candidate’s personal discretion and nature come into play. USPC hopes to assess the candidate’s adherence to rules in the face of temptations and restrictions. It also hopes to assess a candidate’s ability to make decisions despite pressure from various quarters. Through this paper, the UPSC wishes to eliminate those candidates who do not fit into the picture of an honest and sincere officer for whom duty comes before personal choices and biases.

In simple words, a paper on ethics is needed in the civil services exam because of the need for ethics in the civil services.


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