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The work of the Civil Services affects virtually all aspects of modern life. Getting into the Indian Administrative Service is difficult but once you are through, there is great prestige and immense satisfaction, says Pranab Ghosh.

education Updated: Jun 20, 2012 17:38 IST
Pranab Ghosh

Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers handle affairs of the government. Therefore, the work of the Civil Services affects virtually all aspects of modern life — environment, education, health, agriculture, law and order, defence, foreign affairs, social welfare, urban development and taxation. In a nutshell, it is the job of an IAS officer to look after civil administration and be involved with policy-making.

With a Master’s degree in industrial psychology, Radhika Jha, 33, joined the service in 2002 as an IAS probationer. Today, she is the additional secretary (basic and higher education), government of Uttarakhand. The work she does, says Jha, is challenging, satisfying — “and it’s a good life.”

“The scope of work for an IAS officer in the country is immense and much diversified,” says Jha. “You start off as a sub-divisional magistrate and go on to man government departments — health, education, technology etc, and then move to nodal co-ordination as secretary.

“This kind of a work profile is unmatched in the country. The challenges it entails makes it the most interesting career possible.”

It is, however, not easy to become an IAS officer. The recruitment process is extremely tough. Only the top 80 to 100 candidates in the Civil Services Examination become IAS officers.

“Out of around 4 lakh aspirants every year, the final acceptance level of about 0.00025 makes it the toughest competitive examination in our country,” says Bhaskar Khulbe, IAS, 1983 batch of the West Bengal Cadre, who is at present the resident commissioner and adviser (industry), government of West Bengal, in New Delhi.

With liberalisation, there has been a shift in the role and responsibilities of an IAS officer. “Economic reforms in the country after 1991 ushered in a paradigm shift in the role and responsibilities of IAS officers,” says Khulbe. “From regulators, they’ve become performance managers, whose role in the decision-making process is focused on service delivery and improving governance. An IAS officer today has more challenges and opportunities.”

Indeed, this is so because while operating within the framework of a democratic welfare state, their focus has shifted further towards development. And this is, perhaps, the reason why youngsters now are showing a renewed interest in the civil services.
“There was a period in the decade up to 2005-06 when bright students were disenchanted with the bureaucracy, with private employment looking more lucrative,” says Khulbe. However, he adds, over the past couple of years, some factors have led to a revival of youth interest in the Civil Services — the factors are “job cuts in MNCs due to the economic slowdown; demand for better governance being made and met; accountability and responsiveness of the public administration being perceived positively after introduction of the Right to Information Act; and the pay structure revision.”

However, the mechanism of delivering results needs to improve further, feels Nitesh Jha, IAS, additional secretary (infotech, science-technology and sports), government of Uttarakhand.

To serve India better, the “IAS as a service has to modify itself as per the changing ground realities,” says Jha. “It has to become more responsive and result-

IAS is one of the three All-India Services (the other two being the IPS and IFS) constituted by an Act of Parliament, namely The All-India Services Act 1951, in consonance with Article 312 of the Constitution calling for the creation of all-India services common to the Union and the states. Although primarily allocated to a state cadre at the entry point, an IAS (as also the IPS & IFS) officer can serve the Central government on stipulated tenures of deputation, after which he or she returns to the parent cadre. This two-way movement of professional experience between the Centre and the states and the diversity of available service officers benefit not only the government but also the officers themselves, as they gain experience from the varied exposure. In short, IAS is the premier service for delivering good governance to society, with the administrators co-ordinating departmental works to ensure holistic development of the state/region they are serving. Only the cream of Indian students usually enter the IAS, as the first 100 successful candidates from the Civil Services exams are picked for this service

Clock Work
9 am: Check mail
10 am: Reach office
11 am: Meeting with minister
Noon: Chair meeting
1.30 pm: Lunch
2.30 pm: File work
3.30 pm: Attend meeting chaired by senior officer
4.30 pm: Answer mail/letters
5.30 pm: File work continues
7 pm: Call it a day, unless anything urgent comes up

The Payoff
At entry level: Rs 21,000 basic pay plus allowances
At middle level: Rs 35,000-45,000 basic pay plus allowances
At senior level: Rs 50,000-90,000 basic pay plus allowances

An inquisitive mind
. Incisive analytical ability to quickly weigh the pros and cons of an issue
. Ability to sift through data to focus on the essential
. Clarity of approach, coupled with the talent of planning by balancing present and
future needs
. Dedication and ability to work hard

How do i get there?
There are three stages in the competitive examination one has to clear before becoming an IAS officer — Preliminaries (Prelims), Mains and Interview. This three-stage annual competitive selection process, conducted by the Union Public Service Commission, requires a candidate to have at least a Bachelor’s degree in any subject. The recruitment process is extremely challenging, testing everything from a candidate’s ability to handle numbers to his/her knowledge and understanding of current affairs

Institutes & urls
Abhimanu IAS Study Group,
SCO -147, sector 24 D, Chandigarh,
e-mail: iasstudygroup@
. Vajiram & Ravi Institute for Civil Services Examination
79, Old Rajinder Nagar Market, New Delhi
. Cosmos IAS Academy
B-3 Basement A 37-38-39 Ansal Building, Mukherjee Nagar, New Delhi
e-mail: cosmosacademy
. Study Circle
Virat Bhawan (MTNL Bldg.), Dr Mukherjee Nagar, near Batra Cinema, Delhi
. Rau’s IAS Study Circle
309 Kanchanjhanga Building 18 Barakhamba Road, Connaught Place, New Delhi
. Brilliant Tutorials Pvt. Ltd
Centres all over India

Pros & Cons
The variety of experience one gets as a member of the IAS is stimulating
. Immense satisfaction derived from the fact that you work for the people
. Prestige and considerable perquisites come with the job
. Frequent transfers and the remoteness of the places one is transferred to may prove
to be disheartening
. Political interference and even misdemeanour by netas

Individual preparation helps

Bhaskar Khulbe senior IAS officer talks about the Civil Services Examination and more

What are an IAS officer’s main responsibilities?
The IAS, as the administrative arm of the Indian government, is responsible for management of regulatory and development works, with officers in strategic positions throughout the country.

The principal responsibility of an IAS officer is civil administration, planning and formulation of policies and their implementation.

There are many institutions imparting coaching for the Civil Services Exam. How helpful are these?
My personal view always has been that until the main examination, individual preparation that suits one’s schedule is more useful — except for the personality test. A short-duration course in a coaching institution helps one gain confidence, soothing pre-interview nerves. Mock interviews help one gauge how others are faring.

What are the negatives plaguing the service?
The immense variability of factors associated with working in the bureaucracy, inadequate accountability charters, curbs on independence on some occasions, erosion of command and control on subordinate personnel for creating desired performance pressure, lack of transparency in the work procedure owing to archaic systems, red-tapism leading to reduced motivation and cynicism.

What are the challenges facing the IAS? What is its future as a profession in the country?
Emergence as a performing, professionally competent, objective and conscientious service in the country remains the foremost challenge for the IAS. The growing number of brilliant students trying to join the services should be seen as a positive indicator of the necessity of continuing this service.

Interviewed by Pranab Ghosh