Sunday, 20 February 2011

Sheep Cellulose, Gutenberg’s Rift and Civil Servitude

Tell me this.

The Digestive products of herbage consisting of cellulose in sheep are
a. glucose
b. maltose
c. dextrins, maltose and glucose
d. fatty acids

An extract from a test paper on agricultural science? Biochemistry?

Hardly. It's from the General Science Section of the UPSC conducted Civil Services Preliminary. Here's another

What is meant by "willy-willy"
a. tropical cyclone near Australia
b. An Earthquake
c. A very high tide
d. tropical cyclone near India

It's only an iron will(y) that prevents me from making the requisite comments involving ailing sports masters, female villains and Diphallic Terata.

These are sample questions from the general studies paper. Watching my nephew struggle through reams and reams of paper - Brilliant Tutorial Notes, Tata McGraw Hill Manuals the size of single volume editions of the Complete J.R.R.Tolkein makes me wonder what the fuck its all about.

What’s next? Multiple choice questions to identify Paris Hilton’s dog?

How does most of the stuff even matter to a civil servant?  Is the district collector supposed to recognize podzolisation in his or her province and get the farmers of the area to turn their fields to pastures? I get that India's bureaucracy is arthritic and making changes near impossible, but if I had to go through all this I would certainly not be interested in making anywhere a better place.

Ultimately, the result is the most corrupt bureaucracy in Asia and one of the slowest moving. I mentioned this to my nephew and he nearly tore my head off, talking about national diversity and the insulation of the educated middle class from the polity and a hundred other things that make system change difficult to impossible here.

And that’s true too. By and large, the exams work. The quality of people who make it through the IAS is high. But even the most principled ones can at best hope to end up like this – if they don’t kow tow to the closest elected thug and end up cleaning footwear.

Even so, I still don’t get why someone who has to deal with law and order or revenue collection and policy implementation must learn the Gutenberg’s Discontinuity has little to do with pioneering printers and is the boundary between the earth’s core and mantle.

And the sheep shit? No clue.