IAS trainees gear up to join Covid-19 fight
Trainee officers normally spend anywhere between a month and three months at state academies mostly at the beginning of their field training and attend lectures.Updated: May 16, 2020, 04:02 IST
A majority of trainee Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers--96 out of 182--left Mussoorie’s Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration for their respective districts by road amid the national Covid-19 lockdown last week to begin their year-long field training as assistant collectors. The rest, allotted postings in farther states, are awaiting the resumption of flights to follow suit, officials aware of the matter said.
Trainee officers normally spend anywhere between a month and three months at state academies mostly at the beginning of their field training and attend lectures. Officials said due to the unprecedented nature of the Covid-19 pandemic, they are being moved directly to districts.
“Those who could travel by road left on Saturday morning for their respective districts. The others, who will be travelling to states such as Sikkim, Assam, Telangana, Karnataka and West Bengal, are waiting for flights to resume,” said an official at the Academy, which is India’s premier training institution for civil servants. The official said the trainees left after their convocation was held on May 8.
Some of the 96 officers travelled in cars sent by their respective states to pick them up from the Academy while others first travelled on 30-seater buses from Mussoorie to Delhi before leaving for their districts.
“There were 15 of us on each bus to ensure social distancing norms,” said a Rajasthan cadre trainee officer. “Once we reached Delhi, seven of us were screened at the Rajasthan House, where we stopped for lunch.” The officer said after that, they took cars and reached Jaipur on Saturday evening. Each car had two people. The officer said normally, they have month-long lectures at the state academy. “But this year, we are moving directly to our districts... on Wednesday.”
The officer said he had been in touch with the collector of his district. “My district is in a red zone... We have also had call-ins with various additional secretaries to understand what [our] different roles will entail.” The officer said there was a feeling of apprehension, anxiety and excitement at starting work during the pandemic. “This is a once in a lifetime learning opportunity. We have a lot of questions but are eager to learn.”
A second trainee officer, who was picked up from the academy, said he reported directly at his district, a Covid-19 hotspot, in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday. “... I went to one of the areas where people had tested positive for Covid-19,” the second trainee said. “Today, I was attached to the DC at the railway station where a train with migrant labourers from Ahmedabad arrived.”
The second officer said he observed the overall process of screening of the labourers, understood the quarantine norms and how to distribute rations. “It is a great first-hand learning experience.”
Those, who are still at the academy, are brushing up their regional language skills and getting clued in about the state administrations. “Since many of them are not familiar with the regional languages, they are taking language courses, watching films and keeping tabs on the local news,” said the official cited above. “Many are also in touch with the respective state administrations. ...the West Bengal trainees had a video call with the principal secretary of health over the weekend.”
A trainee from the Assam cadre said they were in touch with the state government to work out the transportation details. “Travel by road or trains to our districts, nearly 2,000 km away, would not have been feasible. So we are waiting for flights to resume.” The Assam cadre trainee said they spoke to officials about their roles, the procedures they will have to follow, especially in light of the pandemic, once they reach their districts. “We are using the Microsoft Teams app to do our video calls with senior officials and learning how schemes like MGNREGS [Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme] will play a crucial role in the coming days.”
Padamvir Singh, the former Academy director, said the role of assistant collectors under training depends on their supervisors--the district collectors (DCs) and district magistrates (DMs). “This is the time they spend learning about the different departments they will be in charge of as DCs and DMs,” said Singh. “However, in this pandemic situation, they can be used to collect data and help out in administration. They have no legal powers. So their role will be ancillary.”
Singh added that after spending some time under training, an officer can also be put in charge of their own projects. “Since they have no legal powers yet, they can effectively act as helping hands so long as their training is not hampered.”