'In UP/Bihar there is no industry. There are no other jobs, you either herd cows, teach or join the IAS. The brightest go to the IITs. The rest go to arts college and they become IAS officers and it is this crowd that is now agitating.'
'English is the business language of the world, we have to accept that. If I had done my IIT in Hindi, I would be stuck in the cow belt without work.'
IIT graduate, entrepreneur and politician R K Misra on the row over English in the UPSC prelims.
Born in a small village, Sonari in Sitapur district, Uttar Pradesh, R K Misra dreamt of studying engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology. He not only studied in India's premier engineering institute, but also in Japan. He then became an entrepreneur, setting up three successful companies.
Misra has helped set up rural BPOs to retain the youth in their land and homes, and has built roads in Bengaluru by getting the public and government to work together. He entered public life at 40, founded the Nav Bharat Democratic Party and contested the election from Sitapur.
In this interview with A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com, he speaks out on the current controversy whether English should be compulsory for the Indian Administrative Service prelims exams.
What is the importance of the IAS cadre?
If you want to be an IAS officer, it means you want to administer the country. The founding forefathers of the country while writing the Constitution declared that India needs two official languages. They must have known what they were doing.
If you are going to govern the country, you better know these two languages -- English and Hindi.
The IAS cadre, working all over the country, have made sure that there is no regional chauvinism. They give uniformity to the country.
Why do you support English in this controversy?
If you are from Uttar Pradesh and you get posted in Tamil Nadu, how will you work if you don't have a basic knowledge of English. If after you join the IAS you are prepared to learn Tamil, why are you not prepared to learn English before you join the IAS.
Who do you think are behind this stir against English in the prelims?
Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Yadav. They are both still living in Takshila and Nalanda. With an eye on the bye-elections in Bihar and the assembly elections in UP they have stirred up the students.
They think they can get votes by starting an anti-English agitation. They equate English with the British Raj. Their favorite quote is 'Angrez tho chale gaye, aulad chod gaye' which means the British left behind their heirs when they left.
English is the business language of the world, we have to accept that. If I had done my IIT in Hindi, I would be stuck in the cow belt without work.
Isn't school education in Hindi in UP and Bihar?
I know that. I am from UP. I did my schooling in UP. But what they are not telling you is that from standard 6 to 12, my second language was English. So I knew basic English when I entered IIT.
You know how much I had to struggle to keep up with the teachers in IIT where everything was in English. But as I said earlier I already knew basic English, so how come these graduates don't know basic English.
The English questions in the IAS prelims are worth 22 marks or 11 per cent of the total of 200 marks for that paper. They questions are in basic, simple English. Any school child would be able to answer them, these are graduates.
Without English you think these IAS officers would be at a disadvantage?
Yes. When you first join the IAS you are in a district. You learn the local language and you get along. But later in your career when you are promoted and you are back in Delhi handling departments which have to interact with every state.
Rather than learn the languages of all states wouldn't it be simpler if you knew English which is the link language.
Have you noticed that the agitation is only in Delhi? Why are there no agitations in the South, the West and the East? This is the agitation of the Hindi belt, they don't know that there is a India beyond the Vindhyas, or beyond Kolkata.
What about the fact that rural students are at a disadvantage over urban students in their knowledge of English?
Whether they belong to Dantewada or to Jammu, all come to Delhi to study in the private coaching classes here. Or they study in their nearest city. If they can study for a year preparing for the exams they can study another six months and learn basic English.
You know the dean of IIM, Lucknow, he sent me a message saying he was shocked to hear my elitist views supporting English. I replied telling him to have his CAT entrance exams in Hindi. The IAS main paper is in English, so why not the prelims?
Why are there so many IAS officers from UP and Bihar?
In UP/Bihar there is no industry. There are no other jobs, you either herd cows, teach or join the IAS.
The brightest go to the IIT and other professional colleges. The rest go to arts college and it is this crowd that become IAS officers and it is this crowd that is now agitating.
Why are more people now applying from the rest of the country?
There is more awareness now thanks to the spread of the Internet and satellite television. News is now well spread across the country. As the people become aware of the world at large, their horizons expand and they are ready to go to places which they were not aware of earlier.
So a child in the North-East and in a village in Tamil Nadu knows that 'Delhi ab dur nahi (Delhi is not far). The IAS is known as a Delhi-based cadre.
In what way has the entrance exam changed?
Earlier it was for muggers. They learnt everything by heart, came there and coughed it out. Now it is more analytical, it makes you think, it questions your leadership, aptitude and also your communication ability.
So what is your final say on this agitation?
It is bogus. It is political. It's using young emotional students for political gain. The IAS cadre promotes unity across states, there is no regional chauvinism.
In the national interest, English is a must. It is a link language and must be treated as such.