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IAS officers fume on being asked to undergo psychological tests

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Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officials are seething at the state government’s decision to make them take psychological tests. On January 30, the government had issued a notice asking officers above the age of 40 to undergo two tests Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI-2)/Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory and Rorschach Inkblot Test which were included in the long list of tests officers have to take every year.

These tests are used by professionals often to analyse and diagnose mental disorders (See box for details). What is surprising is that officers in only 11 districts in the state had been prescribed the exams. The IAS officers association objected strongly to the decision and the state has been forced to drop the tests.

“After receiving adverse reactions by officials, the state is going to make changes in the decision. Though the medical tests prescribed for officials beyond 40 years are valid and justifiable, the psychological test was something unjust and without any rationale,” the officials said. The medical tests have been prescribed as per the All India Services (Performance Appraisal Report) Rules- 2007, issued by the central government.

The tests are mandatory for the officials who are above 40; their results have to be forwarded to the central government every year. Though the psychological test was not suggested by the central government, ex chief secretary Jayant Banthia decided to introduce it. Sources at Mantralaya said the IAS officers raised strong objections after receiving copies of the decision that also prescribed a renowned city hospital and a Pune-based hospital for the exam.

The test was meant for officials from 11 districts of the Konkan and Pune divisions, which include Mumbai, Thane, Raigad, Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, Sangli, Satara, Pune, Kolhapur and Solapur districts. “Why was it not suggested to officials from north Maharashtra, Marathwada and Vidarbha that comprise 24 districts?” asked a senior official.

According to him, when the discontent among officers was conveyed to Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, he, too, expressed his surprise. The chief secretary also was unhappy with the decision. It is still a mystery as to who included them in the routine exam list.

Explaining his decision, Banthia told MiD DAY, “We included the tests to check the mental stability of officers, since there was a suicide case recently, in which a police officer shot himself. We wanted to be in a position to help officers, if needed. Hence, we took the step. Officers are under tremendous stress; some speak to their colleagues, some to their family.

But those who don’t do so, this will help. This is just not for the IAS officers, but for all government officers.” Now, the state will exclude the test and issue a fresh decision, sources said. The officials will have to submit reports of the 15 regular medical tests by the end of this month.

What the tests are used for

>> Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI-2): It was developed in the late 1930s by psychologist Stake Hathaway and psychiatrist J C McKinley at the University of Minnesota. It is used by doctors and mental health personnel to assess mental illnesses and disorders.

It is also sometimes used as a screening instrument for high-risk jobs, and in criminal defence during court cases. The MMPI-2 comprises 567 test items and takes 60-90 minutes to complete. The test has 10 scales, each of which indicates different psychological conditions such as hypochondriasis, depression, paranoia, schizophrenia etc.

>> Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory-III (MCMI-III): It is an instrument that provides a measure of 24 psychological disorders. It has 179 true-false questions and takes about 30 minutes to complete for an average person. The results show 29 scales – 24 clinical and personality disorder scales and 5 on how the person responded in the test. It is often administered when a specific diagnosis has to be arrived at for a patient.

>> Rorschach Test: This test, named after Swiss psychologist Hermann Rorschach, is used to analyse a person’s personality traits and emotional functioning. In the exam, a person is shown inkblot patterns (see pic) and asked what he/she perceives of the image. Based on the replies, a psychological evaluation of the personality is made. This test is usually useful in detecting thought disorders, especially in cases when the person is reluctant to describe his/her thinking process openly.

Experts say
>> Dr Parul Tank, head of the psychiatry department at Rajawadi Hospital, Ghatkopar, felt the officers should have consented to taking the tests. She said, “These are like personality tests and I think it’s a good idea. Many corporate companies are using psychological tests to find out various traits in individuals.

It’s very important as IAS officers deal with many different strata of our society and instead of disagreeing to undergo psychological tests, they should have taken it up as a challenge. These tests give good feedback and are not negative. On the contrary, it it gives one’s personal profile and could also help in ruling out mental illnesses like anxiety and depression that could have been treated at an earlier stage. I hope it is approved in the future.”

>> Dr Anshu Kulkarni, consultant psychiatrist at LS Raheja Fortis Hospital, said, “I believe in any profession, one should undergo any one of these tests because of the high amount of stress one goes through, especially for IAS officers and those who are a part of the army. It also determines how well one can handle stress. These tests, used to determine personality profiles, should be administered, as we frequently hear about people in high-stress jobs succumbing to the immense pressure and taking drastic steps.”

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