Community should set an agenda to increase its share in Civil Services


By Mumtaz Alam, Muslim Mirror,

Dr. Zafar MahmoodNew Delhi, May 30: In 65 years of Independence, the presence of Muslims in Civil Services has been almost static – hovering around 3 percent while the community’s population is about five times more. The reasons is not discrimination but low participation at preliminary stage, says Dr. Syed Zafar Mahmood, former bureaucrat and currently president of Zakat Foundation of India which runs Sir Syed Coaching and Guidance Centre. “In the UPSC Civil Services Exam there is no discrimination at any level. Among the 550,000 candidates in the Prelims, Muslim number is less than 0.5 percent,” says Dr. Mahmood in an interview with Muslim Mirror.




What is your brief reaction on this year’s final result of Civil Services exam in the context of number of successful Muslim candidates?

In the UPSC civil services results declared in 2013, thirty-one Muslims found place in a list of 998, i.e. 3.1%. This is pathetically low against 13.4% national Muslim population (as per Census). The trend for 65 years since Independence has been hovering around the same low level.

But, we Indian Muslims too have to take the blame of neglect and inaction. The percentage of Muslim candidates out of those who appear year after year for the competitive examinations is much lower than the Muslim success rate. We need to strategically activate ourselves.


Why is it that for years and years, the ratio of Muslim success remains almost static – around 3 per cent even though a number of community-run coaching centres have come up in the last 10 years?

It only shows that without the community-run coaching centers the success rate would have been still lower. Among the oblivious but potential candidates there is lack of information and lack of inspiration. Like in every other field (as documented by Sachar Committee) Muslims are going down in this field too. The solution is appropriate proactivity on the part of Muslim elders like ourselves.


Are Muslims not sitting in Prelims in good numbers or is there some systemic discrimination against the community at final stage?

In the UPSC Civil Services Exam there is no discrimination at any level. Among the 550,000 candidates in the Prelims, Muslim number is less than 0.5 percent. That’s why Allama Iqbal said about this characteristic lethargy:

Says Time to the inactive person:

Na tha agar too shareek-e mahfil, qusoor tera hai ya ki mera,    //    Nahin mera ye tareeq rakh loon kisi ki khatir ma-e shabaana.

If you did not participate in the feast is it my mistake or yours. I am not accustomed to holding back the nocturnal wine for the absentees.


How do you brief the success story of Zakat Foundation of India on the front of civil services?

May Allah bless Hakim Abdul Hameed Sahab with high pedestal in paradise and may He bestow blessings in both the worlds upon Janab Saiyid Hamid Sahab for together establishing, about quarter of a century ago, the Hamdard Study Centre in Talimabad, New Delhi. Prof Aftab Zaidi Sb and many others have been helpful. It houses, at a time, 50 candidates for civil services who study in serene ambiance. Without this centre the percentage of successful candidates would have gone down.

However, as you’ve rightly pointed out, the national percentage of successful Muslim candidates has remained static all these years. Dispassionately analyzing the issue one finds that statistically most successful institutes are all professionally and privately run elsewhere in Delhi and most of these are located in Mukherjee Nagar near Delhi University. Muslims need to put their candidates in these institutes even though their fees are very high.

Zakat Foundation of India’s Sir Syed Coaching and Guidance Centre was established in 2009. We’ve our hostels running in hired buildings near Mukherjee Nagar. Candidates are annually selected by us through a national level competitive examination. We house these ZFI Fellows in our hostels near Mukherjee Nagar in Delhi. They are coached in the country’s most successful civil services coaching institutes located nearby. ZFI pays the coaching fee directly to these institutes. This qualitatively enriched model has been paying rich dividends. Many candidates enrolled in even other community-run centers apply to us and we help them get such coaching at ZFI’s expense.


What could be the ways to improve the share of Muslims in the civil services?

Muslim elders should regularly fan out in places all over India where potential candidates are available. We should organize orientation talks. In Delhi, we should have near Mukherjee Nagar a huge facility owned by the community where five hundred academically brightest candidates should stay and they should be coached by India’s most successful coaches all of whom are available nearby. Central Ministry of Minority Affairs’s Free Coaching Scheme should be amended. The NGOs should be allowed to financially sponsor their candidates in the country’s most successful civil services institutes all of which are located in Delhi.


Do you think the community as a whole should set an agenda to achieve the target? 

Yes, surely. We need to follow the model of the Ottoman Empire (Saltanat-e Usmaniya). It had established Endurun Academy in the emperor’s palace where hundreds of brightest candidates systematically selected from the entire empire were coached for several years. They later ran the empire’s administrative and financial affairs. We too should have our own Sir Syed Coaching & Guidance Centre near Delhi University. The name Sir Syed has been selected as he established in 1883, the Mohammedans Civil Services Fund Association which had five hundred members each contributing two rupees. That was sufficient to annually send fifteen candidates to Britain to write the Indian Civil Services Exam. We appeal, through your columns, to the concerned Indians to participate in this noble cause of nation building.

Dr Syed Zafar Mahmood can be contacted at



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