Way back in 1988 an Indian civil servant gave the country and the world an insider’s account, albeit fictionalized, of a city-bred IAS officer’s initiation into service in one of the country’s small provincial towns. In Agastya Sen and those around him, author and civil servant Upamanyu Chatterjee, had captured not only the sense of disconnect between urban and rural India, but also the ways of those working in the government and administration.
Twenty-eight years later, another civil servant lays bare the life of an IAS officer, in answer to a query on Quora, a question-answer site where questions are posed, answered, edited and organised by users. The response of the anonymous civil servant has attracted over 2,28,000 views and also been shared on social media. The writer, who says he has “more than a decade’s experience” gives candid details of salary, working hours and even allegations of corruption, but chooses to remain anonymous because “don’t want to do self boast ‘by name’,” and “can’t criticize the system and IAS (for wrong things) openly, myself being a part of govt”.
The writer’s projection of a young IAS’s officer’s salary and the gap between earning and aspirations is almost enough to convince one that they are only justified in accepting bribes. “Salary of young IAS officer SDM is upto Rs. 40k and most DMs get Rs. 50-65k per month. That’s simply not enough in present times. We have our aspirations and do feel like going once in a while to say Dubai or Singapore or to some resort in Kerala. Our wives and kids do feel like going to 5 star hotel or resorts. It is not possible for us for the reason of time and money both,” he writes.
His own savings, after more than a decade in the service is not more than Rs 10 lakhs, he says. But even with the comparatively low salary, he insists that it would be wrong to assume that civil servants are more corrupt than others. “Corruption is there in all fields including private sector. In fact, maximum booty of corruption in govt goes to politicians and private parties and govt officers get lesser share,” he writes. He adds, “Percentage of corrupt IAS officers vary statewise but I can say around 10% are extremely corrupt looking for money in each and every file and all these facilities/perks really don’t matter to them. They make a tens of crores every year.”
He does not stop there, but goes on to write in detail about the degree of corruption among IAS officers. “Other 20-40% are moderately corrupt with rates fixed for certain types of works (like layout approvals). They also make a few crore rupees every year. Next 20-40% are less corrupt as they take money if offered otherwise don’t really harass if bribe not paid. Usually builders, industrialists, etc do offer rather than not as a matter of routine. Others don’t offer as a matter of routine. Another 10% (i.e. total up to 90%) will accept freebies like free cinema ticket, free dining, free vehicle to go somewhere, free hotel stay, etc. Remaining 10% are extremely honest,” he informs.
And by the time one completes reading his piece, one begins to feel that honesty and working by the rules is no mean feat. “I would request corporate honchos or MBAs or technocrats on Quora to imagine if they are reporting to Lalu or Mulayam or Mayawati and still work without breaking the rule. These kinds of characters are usually in all districts from MLAs upward. Usually all ministers are unreasonable. However, must say that all senior ministers (like in top 2 to 5 in the state including CMs), most of the times are reasonable and won’t bother you if they know that you won’t do anything illegal,” writes our anonymous civil servant.
IAS officers corrupt? why? their lifestyle, what motivates them (honest ones) despite all odds -- a brilliant piece https://t.co/dH7hOvQbTP— Soumitra Mishra (@soumitmis) August 8, 2016
The popularity of his article has inspired the writer to answer some of the comments in a follow-up edit. On Twitter, economist Ajit Ranade expressed his appreciation with the tweet, “Excellent eye-opening post. Do read.” Navin Kabra, co-founder of ReliScore.com, a platform for job-seekers to showcase their skills by solving problems, completing programming challenges and where required, submitting the software code, wrote, “What is the lifestyle of an IAS officer? Great answer by an anonymous IAS officer on Quora”. Many of his followers retweeted his post. Another Twitter user, Vinayak Naik supported the anonymous civil servant and wrote, “As compared to people in corporates, some govt officials work harder for lesser pay”.
And in case you are about to point out that the officer must have taken time off to write the lengthy piece on Quora, hold your horses. “This answer was written as I was travelling from state capital to my place. And yes, I have good typing speed. Almost 50 wpm”, says the anonymous civil servant in his parting shot.
(Quotes from the anonymous civil servant’s response have not been edited and no changes of even language or grammar have been made to maintain authenticity)
What is the lifestyle of an IAS officer? Good insights.. http://t.co/LXmPwNaw1O— Jay Galla (@jaygalla) August 2, 2015