With several speaking engagements in the past few weeks, I read, presented and interacted, but did not get time to write. However, I did get opportunities to reflect, based on the questions asked at the end of these sessions.
Here is one question that stayed with me in view of the evolving scenario concerning governance challenges and changes being driven by no one other than the Prime Minister.
Several of these are making the headlines through movements launched by the PM. The latest being the 'Make in India' movement, which is exhorting people to restore mutual trust in doing business. One of the first executive change the PM directed was to take away the need for attestation of documents by gazetted officers. Mutual trust is being considered the core of good governance.
This question I am addressing is from a probationer of the All India Civil Services. Once the training is over, he will be at the cutting edge of public services most needed for the delivery of sensitive governance.
The question, which resonated with several other probationers, was, "Why do we look down upon those civil services and civil service officers who do not make it to the top services, such as the IFS (Indian Foreign Service), IAS (Indian Administrative Service), IPS (Indian Police Service), etc, but instead get the revenue services, railways, statistical, posts and telegraph, etc?"
I was left aghast! I asked him if he thought these allied services didn't matter.
He said, "No, why do society and the officers in these allied services consider us below par? Why don't we abolish the groups of these services and consider them all as one?"
I got a feeling that hierarchy in services has already set in them even before they have gone to the field, and to some extent there was an atmosphere of despondency prevailing among the young new probationers who were doing their basic foundation course.
No doubt there were a few others who were settled and perhaps reconciled.
My answer to them was: Tell me which service is of less value? Can you do without anyone of the allied ones you mentioned? In fact there is no service in the government which is of less value. It exists because it was needed or else why would it be there at all?
Either you accept the service you have qualified by way of your exam result and be happy or reappear by a fresh preparation. But you can't be training at the people's cost here. And already breed negativity.
Matter of mindset
I told him it was his own mindset. "You are not valuing what you have. How long will you depend on others' perspectives? Don't you have a mind of your own? And don't you realise that you are the very few selected out of lakhs who take the civil services exam every year? Should you not celebrate your selection and look forward to serving your country instead of undermining the service you have qualified for? This is the real challenge before the country today," I told them.
No wonder Indian bureaucracy has been considered the worst in Asia.
How does one value what one has instead of undermining that and looking for what is not? In the process, failing to deliver at the cutting edge is failing the system as a whole. Good governance is like an organic whole, where each one's performance or failure impacts the other.
India is rising. Its aspirations are growing. Who will meet them if the services do not deliver for others?
The Prime Minister is visibly doing his best. What about us, each of us, wherever we be, in whatever profession, service or rank? Recall what the PM said in one of his speeches, "It's not about what you want to be but what you will do with it."
India needs a positive Indian. One who will be willing to take responsibility for his duties. One who seeks responsibilities before his rights.
Once this becomes a critical mass, India will not only be the world's largest but also the most energetic democracy of the world in the next few years. Let us see how soon we make this happen for happen it shall. Make India, While we Make in India.