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'Kids Are Wasting Their Time on UPSC', Says PM Economic Advisor Sanjeev Sanyal

Jaya Vishwakarma
New Update
PM Economic Advisor Sanjeev Sanyal on UPSC exam craze

PM Economic Advisor Sanjeev Sanyal on UPSC exam craze

Sanjeev Sanyal, an economist and a key member of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, has sparked a conversation with his views on the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) exam craze in India. 

During a conversation on "The Neon Show" podcast with Siddhartha Ahluwalia, Sanyal critiqued what he sees as a "poverty of aspiration" in India, where for decades, ambitions in certain regions were limited to becoming intellectuals, union leaders, or local politicians.

Sanyal argued that the intense focus on these exams limits young Indians from exploring a broader range of opportunities. He believes that if the same energy were redirected towards other fields such as sports, entertainment, medicine, and entrepreneurship, India could achieve more in terms of innovation and societal contributions.

“I still think way too many young kids who have so much energy are wasting their time trying to crack the UPSC,” Sanyal stated, emphasizing the need for a shift in mindset towards risk-taking and entrepreneurship.


Highlighting the limited number of positions available through the UPSC exams, Sanyal questioned the rationale behind the massive investment of time and effort by lakhs of aspirants. He suggested that aspiring for administrative roles should be a choice made by those genuinely interested in becoming administrators, rather than a default ambition driven by societal expectations.

“Yes, every country needs a bureaucracy. That's perfectly fine. But I think lakhs of people spending their best years trying to crack an exam, where a tiny number of few thousand people actually [are] going to get in, makes no sense,” Sanyal said.

Sanyal also touched upon the regional aspirations in states like West Bengal, Bihar, and Kerala, criticizing the traditional ambitions of becoming intellectuals, union leaders, or local politicians.

He pointed out that such aspirations reflect a limited scope of ambition and called for a broader vision that includes dreaming of becoming entrepreneurs and innovators like Elon Musk or Mukesh Ambani. 

“At the end of it if you must dream, surely you should dream to be Elon Musk, or Mukesh Ambani, why did you dream to be Joint Secretary?” 

“We need to get used to Indian billionaires. Our problem is not Indian billionaires, but that we don't have enough of them. I want more billionaires, new first generation billionaires, they will generate the jobs, they will generate the energy, and there should be a continuous churn of them,” Sanyal said.

Sanyal also noted a positive change in the middle-class mindset towards entrepreneurship and innovation, indicating a shift in societal attitudes. He believes that encouraging a culture of risk-taking and innovation across various fields could lead to significant advancements in science, literature, and other areas of societal development.

“In the middle class, it has significantly changed. People are taking risks, and this is going back to my original point. This is an opening of mind, which is not just happening in that little space of entrepreneurship. This is a change of attitude and this change of attitude will manifest itself in everything,” he said.

“It will manifest itself in science, it will manifest itself in music, in literature. There's an explosion of Indian literature as well. All kinds of innovation will happen. Because we will naturally live in this world, where doing new things and so on is thought of being as a natural thing, that people do and it is encouraged,” he added.