1. Prologue
  2. Shocker#1: Why was GS Mains 2013 too long? (5000 words)
  3. Shocker#2: Mains paper is checked by Single Examiner!
  4. Shocker#3: Nigvekar did not recommend world history & World geography etc.
  5. Shocker#4: Why IFoS merged with IAS/IPS exam?
  6. Mains Reforms
    1. Essay & Language papers
      1. Why Compulsory language paper irrelevant
      2. Compulsory English marks need to be counted in Merit list
      3. Remove Essay paper; Reform Compulsory language papers
    2. Optional subjects: Need for reforms, why?
      1. #1: Not all subjects covered
      2. #2: Medium problem: Physics in Bodo language
      3. #3: Floor Crossing: When Science grads pick humanities
      4. [Table] Most effective/safe optional in 2011’s exam
      5. Toppers quality has declined thanks to Coaching factories
      6. Optionals: Nigvekar’s final recommendation vs UPSC
  7. Mains reforms: Misc.
    1. #1: Make Public Administration compulsory
    2. #2: Special papers for each service
    3. #3: Set Tougher papers
    4. #4: Syllabus and Question Paper
  8. Appendix1: Nigvekar’s General Studies Syllabus
    1. Nigvekar’s GS Paper1 (History, Geography, Society)
    2. Nigvekar’s GS paper II (Polity & IR)
    3. Nigvekar’s GS3 (Economy, Sci-Tech)
    4. Nigvekar’s GS4 (Social Justice & Governance)
  9. Appendix2: No. of candidates failed in Language papers
    1. 2011
    2. 2010
    3. 2009
    4. 2008
  10. Download Full Report of Nigvekar


Highlights of [Nigvekar] Committee on civil service exam reforms: this article series has four part

  1. PART1: What inputs Nigvekar got from eminent people including Dr.Kalam, CAG , CIC, various UPSC members, + age attempt related issues.
  2. PART2: prelim reforms.
  3. PART3: mains reforms.
  4. PART4: Interview reforms.

but first, let’s check the four shockers:

Shocker#1: Why was GS Mains 2013 too long? (5000 words)

In Mains-2013,

  1. General studies paper were ridiculously long (write 5000 words in three hours)
  2. Compulsory English paper was longer than previous years. (reasons explained here click me)
  3. Compulsory (regional) language was also longer than previous years.

Why did ^this happen? Because UPSC got the idea from Nigvekar Committee report Page 144:

  1. The Compulsory (GS and Language) papers should be set in such a manner that knowledge of the candidate can be assessed in a comprehensive way wherein the candidates are required to maintain their stress level also.
  2. Instead of 5 or 6 questions of descriptive nature in each papers, if 30 questions are set in each of compulsory subjects so that the answers can be very brief and to the point and in that way the questions can be asked in a manner which will bring out the analytical ability of a person and genuine knowledge base.

Shocker#2: Mains paper is checked by Single Examiner!

  • Single answer paper may be evaluated by more than one examiner to assess different facets. “suggested UPSC members IMG Khan & Surinder Nathin (page 163.)
  • Meaning, right now (entire) single mains answer paper is evaluated by just one examiner, irrespective of what UPSC’s official site claims.

Shocker#3: Nigvekar did not recommend world history & World geography etc.

GS1 he did not recommend world history they still introduced world history
did not recommend world geography, location factor they still introduced those topics
in-depth syllabus on census and water resources nope
wars, terrorism, internal disturbances nope (Although some in GS3)
case studies in GS1 nope
GS2 detailed syllabus of election and politics nope
only UN, IMF, World bank, SAARC (all) Important International institutions
laws of SEZ, EEZ, high seas nope
case studies in GS2 nope
nope civil service, governance, transparency, accountability etc.
case studies in GS2 nope
GS3 he only said livestock “resources” “economics” of animal-rearing (for which hardly any material available)
he only said challenges to food processing industry in-depth syllabus: supply chain  Management, upstream-downstream.
detailed syllabus of TRIPS, GATT, WTO etc nope
nope investment models
detailed syllabus of service sector economy nope
exchange rate regime: capital account convertibility, RBI & public finance, fiscal deficit nope
detail syllabus of space research nope
detailed syllabus of energy resources nope (although some topics in GS1)
case studies in GS3 nope
nope money laundering, role of media
nope disaster Management, EIA
nope various securities agencies & their mandate
GS4 HDI, Welfare schemes nope (Although contains some in GS2)
NGO, Urban cooperatives etc. nope (although some in GS2)
National commissions for SC/ST/OBC/Women/HR/PH nope (although all bodies under GS2)
nope emotional intelligence
in his scheme, ethics is a very ‘minor’ topic under GS4 almost entire GS4 paper dedicated to ethics only. [perhaps from Dr.Kalam’s recommendation.]

Mrunal comments:

  1. If Nigvekar’s syllabus was accepted verbatim, it’d have cost less books, less man hours (in digging internet), because Nigvekar ignored world history, world geography, investment model, disaster Management, emotional intelligence, ethics, security agencies, international bodies and lot other topics.
  2. Agreed his syllabus has detailed coverage of TRIPS, GATT, Census etc. but still if you compare Nigvekar vs UPSC topic by topic, you’d see Nigvekar syllabus costs less books and less hours in internet digging. (Thus it could have helped rural/ smalltown candidates AND candidates without coaching). But alas, UPSC chairman has backbreakingTM ideas of his own.

btw, Nigvekar’s detail syllabus is given in the bottom appendix of this article.

Shocker#4: Why IFoS merged with IAS/IPS exam?

Nigvekar did not officially recommend the merger of IFoS with IAS.t. However, in the appendix he has given all of the ‘feedbacks’ received by stakeholders. It seems from there, UPSC got the idea.

  1. TK Nair, PMO advisor- He had suggested that forest service exam should be brought into the ambit of civil service exam, since it is also an all India service. (Annex Page 167).
  2. Curiously some of the more radical recommendations of Mr.TK Nair were:
    • only two attempts
    • one specific paper for each service (e.g accounts paper for candidates of Indian Audits and Account service)
    • case study in essay paper

Anyways, enough shockers, let’s check the report.

Mains Reforms

Nigvekar Committee reforms on Civil Service Mains exam

In the mains reform: Nigvekar mainly talks about three things:

  1. Why Essay should be removed, and compulsory language paper should be counted in merit list
  2. Why optional system is ridiculous and what reforms are necessary
  3. New syllabus for General Studies Papers

#Essay & Language papers

#1: Why Compulsory language paper irrelevant

Nigvekar “wisdom” in ch6, Page101 onwards

  • After introduction of CSAT system (2011), the number of candidates failing in Compulsory English paper (At mains level), have reduced.
  • Because lot of candidates who are poor at english = they’re eliminated at prelims level itself. observe data
Year % of total candidates failing in Compulsory English paper in Mains
2008 9.96
2009 11.89
2010 6.95
2011 3.76

Therefore, Nigvekar Committee feels that the testing of Indian/English language as a qualifying parameter is (as such) irrelevant. But it should be continued:

  1. to test essay skill of candidate in two languages
  2. to test the comprehension and précis skill.

So, Nigvekar recommends (1) reform language papers- count their marks in merit list (2) remove essay paper.

Compulsory English marks need to be counted in Merit list

  • lack of working knowledge of candidates in English which is presently serving as a major functional link language, especially in the international context
  • We’ve got feedback from the training institutes that the candidates finally recommended are generally not having good communication skills both oral as well as written. It was reported by the Heads of Training Academies like the Director, Foreign Service Training Academy and Heads of organizations like the C&AG that at the training level also, some candidates are found to have very poor knowledge of English.
  • They are unable to comprehend the existing training material which is mostly in English.
  • The existing language testing is not found to be sufficient.
  • Since communication is one of the major skill sets for the Civil Servants, suggestion was made that marks obtained in the language testing should be counted for merit ranking to make it more meaningful in the scheme of examination.

Remove Essay paper; Reform Compulsory language papers

  1. Nigvekar felt that Essay writing skills should be tested for merit both in the English language as well in any one regional paper.
  2. Present Essay writing does not cover (a) comprehension and (b) brevity of expression. This needs to be fixed.

Given above reasons, Nigvekar recommends that the current qualifying papers in Indian/English language as well as the Essay Paper should be replaced with two separate Papers as follows:

Paper made of marks
Indian Language (250 marks) Essay 150
Comprehension 50
Précis 50
English paper (250 marks) Essay 150
Comprehension 50
Précis 50
  • The marks in both the papers should count both for qualifying as well as for overall merit.
  • (Both the papers taken together would count for 500 marks i.e. 25% of the total marks. The essay component (of both the papers taken together), would now account for 300 marks (@l 50 each) i.e. 15% of the total marks and the skills related to comprehension and précis would count for 200 marks i.e. 10% of the total marks.)

Optional subjects: Need for reforms, why?

#1: Not all subjects covered

  • The first is the large number of subjects being taught in the Indian Universities at the graduation level, which are in no commensurate with the number of subjects included in the scheme of Civil Services examination.
  • if a particular subject/ discipline are not included in the scheme of CSE, candidates with such backgrounds are forced to select subjects which they have not studied. An example can be cited here in respect of engineering graduates. There are about 500 disciplines in which graduation can be done in Engineering; only 04 Engineering subjects are available in the scheme.
  • Similar is the case for many other disciplines. It is reported by the Commission that there are about 100 requests pending for inclusion of different subjects as optional subjects in the CSM Examination.
  • Besides it is difficult to maintain uniformity of standards of question papers and evaluation thereof between different subjects.
  • Such eventualities necessarily put a question mark on the validity of the optional subject in the examination system

#2: Medium problem: Physics in Bodo language

  • The second problem is the medium of language. Since the candidates are allowed to write optional papers in any of the Languages included in the VIIIth schedule to the Constitution, there are genuine problems in finding out examiners who are both proficient in a subject [ say Physics] and simultaneously in a regional language like Nepali or Bodo.
  • In such a situation of dearth of examiners, there may be every possibility of untoward bias in the evaluation process besides the problems being faced by the Commission in locating the right kind of examiners.

#3: Floor Crossing: When Science grads pick humanities

  • The third is the issue of floor crossing in the field of optional subjects by the candidates. A candidate hailing from an altogether different background is opting for a subject which he presumes to be scorable and easy to prepare.
  • Syllabus of all the subjects is also not comparable especially for the literatures of languages. Some subjects are chosen for the sake of score ability.
  • Out of more than 50 optionals, Majority of candidates pick among only 8-9 subjects out of the available of optional subjects, which donot have any relation to the subjects studied at graduation level.
  • Though the candidates can very well choose a subject related to his/her academic discipline, there is a perception that there is limited scope for scoring well in those subjects.
  • On the other hand, there is general notion that in subjects like Geography, Sociology, Public Administration and History high scores can be obtained.
  • These candidates are aided by coaching classes spread across entire India, which promote rote learning of those subjects.
  • The net result is that testing of a candidates’ knowledge in his/her actual knowledge area is not done.
  • Optionals encourage strategy and militate against level playing field.

[Table] Most effective/safe optional in 2011’s exam

[Note: in following table, total percentages will not be 100%, because in 2011- each candidate had to pick two optional subjects @mains, so there was overlapping.]

optional no. of toppers % of recommended candidates
  1. Public Administration
440 48.35
  1. Geography
294 32.31
  1. Sociology
156 17.14
  1. History
135 14.84
  1. Psychology
132 14.51
  1. Pol.Sci
77 8.46
  1. Philosophy
67 7.36
  1. Anthro
58 6.37
  1. Hindi Litt.
50 5.49
  1. Pali Litt.
48 5.27

Anyways, Nigvekar’s point is: despite 50+ optional offered, majority of the toppers only belong to these 8-10 optional taught in coaching factories.

Toppers quality has declined thanks to Coaching factories


  • Rote learning due to influence of coaching institutes and candidates’ attempt to master the pattern of the examination and crack the prestigious examination by repeated attempt have caused deterioration of the quality of candidates.
  • The candidates selected are found to have deficiencies in oral and written communication English. The above view was also corroborated by eminent persons.

Optionals: Nigvekar’s final recommendation vs UPSC

what Nigvekar recommended (2012) What UPSC accepted and backfired present system (2013)
keep only one optional subject instead of two. yes yes
Reduce weightage given to optional subjects yes, GS papers=1000 marks, Optional barely 500 yes
increase their difficulty level of question papers. silent yes (Atleast for history, pub.ad, geography)
Allow candidates to pick only optionals studied at graduation /PG level. yes this rule was removed after protests
Revise the syllabi and add/ delete subjects periodically. ?? ??
did not recommend this You can write mains exam in regional language (Gujarati, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu etc….) ONLY if you have done graduation in that medium. Otherwise, you’ll have to write mains in Hindi / English. this rule was removed after protests
did not recommend this Even if you’ve done graduation in a regional language (Gujarati, Tamil…) but less than 25 candidates decide to write mains in that regional language, then UPSC will order you to write mains in Hindi / English. this rule was removed after protests

Mains reforms: Misc.

following mentioned in Nigvekar’s report (as feedbacks in ch3 and annex1), But Nigvekar himself is silent on whether he agrees or not.

#1: Make Public Administration compulsory

(Input from UPSC’s own research wing, Ch3.Page52)

  • Remove optional subjects from mains exam.
  • Keeping in view the importance of public administration .subject in the changing scenario, it should be given more weightgge in the examination. Moreover, this subject can be taken as a compulsory subject.
  • In the Main exam optional subject should be removed and there  should be general aptitude question paper in the main examination to provide a level playing field to all candidates from different subject background.

#2: Special papers for each service

  • for example setting international Relations mandatory for those eyeing the Foreign Services.
  • This would cater to the need of requirement of specialists in the appropriate areas.
  • Nigvekar said he received such feedback, cited them in appendix but did not include in final recommendation.

#3: Set Tougher papers

  • Some stakeholders said that question papers must be more rigorous and the difficulty level be set much higher.

#4: Syllabus and Question Paper

(Input from UPSC’s own research wing- from Page: 49)

  1. Syllabus should be clearly defined and list of recommended books should also be provided for each subject: One reason why student join coaching institute is unawareness about the book they should read.
  2. In Question papers, the Hindi translation is very mechanical. It should be more logical to give complete meaning of full sentence.
  3. It will be helpful to all aspirants if UPSC announces change in advance, so that all aspirants can plan accordingly.

Appendix1: Nigvekar’s General Studies Syllabus

Nigvekar’s GS Paper1 (History, Geography, Society)

History of India

  1. From the middle of the nineteenth century till date;
  2. traditional and social structure, feudalism, colonialism and their historical impact on Indian society and economy;
  3. rise of nationalism and pre- independence social movements for change related to equity, social and gender justice;
  4. important personalities who shaped the freedom movement;
  5. post-independence consolidation of India; linguistic reorganization of the States;
  6. wars fought by India, cross border terrorism and international disturbances.

Geography of India

  1. Physical Geography; drainage system and watersheds; physiographic regions; mechanism of Indian monsoons and rainfall patterns; tropical cyclones and western disturbances; floods and droughts; climatic regions; natural vegetation, soil types and their distribution;
  2. land, surface and ground waters; energy, minerals, biotic and marine resources, forest and wild life resources; water — mapping of water resources; Water management; water distribution over different uses; water pollution; drinking water mission; water harvesting; scientific and technological solutions to water related problems — major issues pertaining to water-ecosystem their management and conservation;
  3. Environmental degradation, biodiversity and sustainable development; environmental hazards and remedial measures; policy, education and legislation.


  • evolution of Indian society; racial, linguistic and ethnic diversities; religious minorities; major tribes, tribal area; issues and problems; caste system; cultural regions;
  • role of women and women’s movement;
  • size, growth, distribution and density of population; demographic attributes — sex ratio, age structure, literacy rate, work force, dependency ratio, longevity; population policies and problems, health indicators, demographic projections into the future, migration and associated issues;
  • types and patterns of rural settlements and their problems and remedies; functional classification of Indian cities; urban sprawl; slums; problems of urbanization and remedies;


  • Indian culture, art and literature major trends.
  • Communalism, regionalism, secularism etc.
  • Case studies on contemporary issues.

Nigvekar’s GS paper II (Polity & IR)

  1. The Constitution- basic structure, federal structure, Centre State relationship, major amendments as well as all Constitutional, legal, administrative and other issues emerging from the politico- administrative system prevalent in the country.
  2. Powers and functions of the Election Commission; National and regional parties; ideological and social bases of parties; patterns of coalition politics, trends in electoral behavior; changing socio- economic profile of Legislators
  3. Foreign affairs with special emphasis on India’s relations with the neighboring countries and region. Polity of non- alignment , Security and defence related issues. Nuclear policy, issues and contestation.
  4. Regional Co-operation: SAARC- past performance and future prospects; South Asia as a Free Trade Area; India’s “Look East” policy, Impediments to regional co-operation : border disputes, river water disputes, illegal cross border migration, ethnic conflicts and insurgencies
  5. United Nations, IMF, World Bank
  6. Law of the seas- inland waters, Territorial Sea, Contiguous Zone , Continental Shelf , Exclusive Economic Zone and High Seas
  7. International efforts for protection and improvement of environment – India’s role and position.
  8. Case studies on contemporary issues.

Nigvekar’s GS3 (Economy, Sci-Tech)

  1. Indian economy and issues relating to planning, mobilisation of resources, growth development and employment
  2. India’s GDP per capita income – trends, aggregate, sectoral composition and changes therein; broad factors determining national income and distribution, measures of poverty, trends in poverty and inequality
  3. Agricultural infrastructure, irrigation, seeds, fertiliser, cropping pattern, livestock resources and allied sectors – economic reforms in agriculture, growth of agricultural science including biotechnology; technology applications in agriculture and allied sectors – seeds, soil fertility, irrigation and water harvesting structures, mechanisation et cetera; technology missions: green revolution, white revolution, oilseed mission, waste land reclamation – assessment in terms of socio-economic cost and benefits, need for an extension; implication of WTO agreements for Indian agriculture; subsidies; agricultural practices and public distribution system; foodgrain stocks and food security; supply bottlenecks and agricultural prizes; food processing; current challenges in this sector
  4. Industry – new economic policy and industry, strategy of industrialisation, role of foreign direct investment and multinationals; privatisation, disinvestment; technology implications of WTO agreements for Indian industry; intellectual property rights; implication of TRIPS,TRIMS,GATT; policy of encouraging industries in backward areas; policy of SEZs; what is traditional manufacturing industries; status and importance of cottage in small scale industries less need for continued the induction of science and technology in production, quality and marketing; current changes in the sector including land acquisition policy
  5. Service sector – the growth in the last two decades, pattern, location and employment generation; transport, communication, trade, banking and finance, insurance, entertainment and media, and easier, health, IT; the phenomenal growth of IT, current status and future potential; need for penetration beyond urban areas; shift from different control to regulators
  6. infrastructure – governments initiative and policies; pride that – public partnership;
  7. exchange rate regime – capital account convertibility; monetary policy – role of RBI; Public Finance – fiscal deficit, impact of subsidies and oil prices
  8. employment – unemployment rate, employment and poverty, rural wages, employment generation
  9. Space – evolution of India’s space program, GC; contribution to telecommunication, weather forecasting, agriculture; space products – GIS, GPS, remote sensing et cetera. – Potential for increasing the use in developmental efforts of different sectors
  10. energy, sources of energy and that technological status, Hydro, for sale, nonconventional and renewable energy, methane-based technology, energy losses, national supply and demand scenario
  11. Case studies on contemporary issues

Nigvekar’s GS4 (Social Justice & Governance)

  1. concept of “welfare state” and “social justice”
  2. human development index – factors considered
  3. government policies and interventions for development in areas of – health, family welfare, education, infant mortality, ruler infrastructure, shelter, poverty alleviation programmes, development of women, children and weaker sections, municipal and urban services
  4. role of non-– government organisations, self-help groups, user groups and people’s organisations, urban neighbourhood associations, producers cooperatives and newer forms of cooperative organisations with mixture of state initiative and people’s groups
  5. role of minorities commission, SC /ST and OBCs commission, human rights commission, women’s commission and national and state commissioner for disabilities
  6. probity in governance – concept of public service, philosophical basis of governance and probity, human values; lessons from lives and teachings of great leaders and reformer; internal/external factors which prompt/influence behaviour, actions/in actions and decisions, conflicts – internal/external – and their resolution, fundamental duties, RTI act, information sharing and transparency in government, codes of conduct, citizen’s charters, utilisation of public funds, vigilance, monitoring and public and social auditing and role of the Comptroller and auditor general of India, role of ombudsman lokpal and lokayukta, Central vigilance commission, growing public awareness, role of media, public interest litigation and recent developments
  7. case studies on contemporary issues

Appendix2: No. of candidates failed in Language papers

Data for English and Indian Language (Compulsory) failure rate in last few years’ CS (M) Examination.


Paper Appeared Failed Percentage
Indian Language(Indian Language Other than Hindi) 3514 82 2.33%
Hindi 7233 272 3.76
English (C) 11079 351 3.17


Paper Appeared Failed Percentage
Indian Language(Indian Language Other than Hindi) 3123 128 4.09
Hindi 8418 318 3.77
English (C) 11774 819 6.95


Paper Appeared Failed Percentage
Indian Language(Indian Language Other than Hindi) 2832 35 1.23
Hindi 8404 85 1.01
English (C) 11454 1362 11.89


Paper Appeared Failed Percentage
Indian Language(Indian Language Other than Hindi) 2633 8 0.30
Hindi 8424 14 0.16
English (C) 11274 1123 9.96

Note : Figure include common failures also -that is, candidates who failed in  both English and Indian Language.)

Download Full Report of Nigvekar

For the public record, I’ve uploaded entire report here:


But I don’t recommend you download his report (and waste your internet bandwidth). The reasons are following:

  1. ch1 talks about evolution of civil service exam- from British Raj till now. The summary already available in 2nd ARC reports. This chapter contains deep Ph.D, that useless for studies (Even for Public Administration).
  2. ch2 talks about the recommendations of Committees before Nigvekar (Kothari, Khanna, Alagh etc. but their summary also available in 2nd ARC report- in more eye candy fonts. This pdf has bad quality. (Because UPSC itself gave low quality Xerox to me.)
  3. Ch3, 4, 5, 6 and annex 1 is/will be covered in my [Nigvekar] series four articles.
  4. Annex 2 deals with recruitment system in USA, France etc. = useless because that syllabus topic was helpful in MCQs of Public Administration prelims. But now prelims doesn’t have Public Administration or any other optional subjects.

Visit “>Mrunal.org/RTI for more RTI misadventures.