By Ira Saxena, Batch of 2016
In the heart of Central Delhi, scores of students flock everyday to the murky by-lanes of Rajendra Nagar, a residential area, to sit in auditoriums swamped with two hundred other students. They conscientiously note down every word that the teacher breathes, absorb everything that they hear while making mental notes simultaneously, and then, without even exchanging a glance or two with the person sitting on the next seat, they leave with their dozen notebooks and course books and stay put at their study tables, where their minds move like clockwork. Their lives are confined within the four walls of facts, figures, names, and numbers. The tension piles up as D-day approaches. Not a second to waste, not a minute to breathe.
This above is the life of an aspiring civil servant. Tough, isn’t it? Yes, the future bureaucrats of our country spend years rigorously grilling and preparing to climb the ladder of governance and administration. So what lies ahead at the end of the tunnel for them? Is this drill really worth it? Let us find out.
CIVIL SERVICES AT A GLANCE
Civil Services are considered to be one of the most elite, prestigious and empowering jobs in our country. The officers employed in these services carry with them the onus of running the administration of this country. They facilitate the execution of policies and reforms, supervise law and order, and act as emissaries to sustain diplomatic relations with other countries. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. The magnitude of responsibility that rests upon their shoulders is humongous and mentally challenging. Which is why, the brightest minds of this country vie for a position in the Civil Services every year.
WHAT IS THE JOB DESCRIPTION OF A CIVIL SERVANT?
Depending on the department, the job of a Civil Servant could vary from formulating policies and implementing them to working as a diplomat. Yes, the duties of a Civil Servant are very diverse and extensive. For example, an IAS officer, besides running the administration of a state or a district can also be posted to head Public Sector enterprises like a Metropolitan Development Authority, Trade Promotion Council, etc.
Likewise, an officer in the Indian Foreign Services has to manage offices like Indian Embassies and Indian Counsulates. While doing this, he/she will also have to work on promoting trade and cultural relations with a country.
IPS officers will be controlling not only the state police force but also heading important organizations like the Intelligence Bureau, CBI, SPG (Special Protection Group) and security forces such as CISF, BSF, and CRPF, when on central deputation.
ENTRY INTO THE CIVIL SERVICES
The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) conducts the Civil Services Examination annually for which, on an average, 2 lakh people appear. The prelims examination consists of an objective-type paper which is further divided into two parts (ie. General Studies and an aptitude paper). This examination eliminates the non-serious aspirants and creates a level playing field for the crème-la-crème in the next round. Around 10,000 people who are chosen for the mains examination are judged on not only their academic mettle but also their ethics, integrity and aptitude in public life. From this stage, around 2500 students are shortlisted for the personality test at Dholpur House, UPSC. The final selected 1000-1200 names are then recommended by the UPSC to be absorbed into the Civil Services of India. So, seeing the ratio of the people selected to the candidates appearing for the exam, the Civil Services Exam is naturally one of the most competitive entrance examinations to crack.
The road to success isn’t an easy one. Only those with determination, perseverance and focus can see this to the end. It can take aspirants as long as a year to five years. Sometimes, it is inadequate marks in the prelims, and if they do clear the prelims, then the personal interviews don’t go the way they expected. So the question here is – Is there any sure-short way to crack the Civil Services?
Tavishi Behal (Batch of 2010), an IFS officer, in her interview with NSIT Online, mentions that determination, prioritization and systematically strategizing your study plan can make the task seem less onerous. For an engineering student, the main struggle is to strike a balance between semester examinations, placement preparations and Civil Services preparations. According to her, studying 3-4 hours a day effectively for a year can serve the purpose. You may not relinquish your extra-co-curricular activities completely and you can still maintain a decent percentage if you organize your time efficiently.
There will be times, when you may feel discouraged or tempted to choose some other activity over the tedious preparations, but you must never lose sight of your destination and the reason you started out in the first place.
STATUS-QUO OF THE CIVIL SERVICES
Once regarded as the ‘Steel Frame of India’, many consider the Civil Services to be losing its sheen and prestige with time. The bourgeoisie looks down upon the Civil Servants as nothing more than power-hungry, incompetent bureaucrats making a mockery of the democratic system, while the lower economic strata of our society only fear these babus and consider them to be nothing more than an impediment in their progress, rather than aides. The youth is cynical about joining the Civil Services as it doesn’t want to be a part of the mediocrity associated with the Civil Services today. There is always the fear of being made just another scapegoat in the power games played by our politicians and the pressure of acceding to the higher authority, which dissuades the youth from choosing Civil Services as a career choice.
Parents too hesitate twice before conceding with their children’s choice of career, that is if they ever consider Civil Services, as they don’t believe their children will be able to bear the brunt of corruption within the system. And with the cesspool of fraudulent politicians and bureaucrats that this country has witnessed over the past few years, the skepticism amongst people is peaking like never before.
Here, the questions arise. Have the faults of a few overshadowed the greatness of many? Is the public opinion shrouded with misconceptions? And is power the only motivation to join the Civil Services? Let us retrospect.
WHAT SHOULD BE THE MOTIVE BEHIND JOINING CIVIL SERVICES?
Yes, it is true that many make the folly of misunderstanding their desire for the perks which comes along with the job as the sole reason for joining the Civil Services. They run after the ‘Lal Batti Ambassador’ and the sprawling bungalow, without really introspecting why they want to join the services in the first place. You should realize early on that personal ambition alone will not take you anywhere. The will and determination to serve this country selflessly without any vested interests are the makings of a good Civil Servant.
CIVIL SERVANTS: PUPPETS OR CHANGE MAKERS?
For somebody who doesn’t want to just sit on the sidelines and criticize our flawed system and actually apply their skills and abilities to bring a change in our country, there couldn’t be a more appropriate career choice than Civil Services. But today, civil servants are merely considered pawns in the hands of politicians. So Civil Services aspirants fear that they’d be just controlled and manipulated by the higher authority and they won’t be able to exercise their own decisions. This is what usually brings their morale down.
Now coming to the misconstrued public opinion of the Civil Servants, it’s important to note that like all the fingers are not the same, not all civil servants could be said as corrupt, cheat, or sycophant. In fact, there are some who have left their footprints on the sands of time by setting examples that displayed their valor, honesty, and upright- ness in the most difficult circumstances.
When an officer from Haryana files an FIR against the son-in-law of the most powerful family in the country, it displays his up- rightness as a Civil Servant.
When an officer from Chattisgarh embarks on a journey to change the state of professional education in a Naxalite infested district, without the fear of constant threats from Left Wing extremists, it displays his courage as a Civil Servant.
When an officer persuades the CEO of Microsoft to set up its first offshore unit in Hyderabad, it displays his soft-skills as a Civil Servant.
When an officer doesn’t sleep for more than 100 hours to rescue the people in his cyclone-affected district, it displays his compassion as a Civil Servant.
When an officer aims to connect his district to the rest of state and plunges himself in the People’s project, it displays his devotion as a Civil Servant.
When an officer in the hinterlands of India, doesn’t hesitate to face the bullet or suspension letter while fighting the sand mafias, it displays his selflessness as a Civil Servant. When an officer of the foreign services, takes the oath as the first Dalit President of India, it displays the emergence of a new India for the 21st Century.
These are the silent heroes of our country who work every day in the interests of the citizens, at times risking their own safety and relinquishing their personal happiness. Yes, this job comes with its share of challenges and it isn’t all about glory and power as many may conceive it to be.
THE NSIT STORY
Satyendra Jha, Batch of 2009, cleared the UPSC exam right after his final year. He first worked as an IRS officer up till 2012 and then succeeded in getting into the IAS on his third attempt. Here is an excerpt from his interview with The Alliance.
“I was interested in Civil Services from my early days of schooling. It was always very close to my heart, though the major impetus came during my school days at Delhi, when I realized the vast gulf of opportunities for urban and rural areas and really resolved to do something about this gross indifference towards a large section of the country. And there are few better options than to get into civil services to achieve this goal in life. And as soon as I got into college, I started talking to people around in order to strategize and by my third year, I had decided on most of the things like optional subjects, etc, and I started working in earnest.”
NSIT has given us many noteworthy luminaries in the past, some of them being successful Civil Servants.
We applaud and commend our seniors for their hard work and good-will. They serve as the ideal role-models for the Civil Services aspirants from our college.