Tuesday, 30 April 2013

IAS as a career choice in contemporary India

 The governance system in India needs drastic improvements .We need young boys and girls who  have a mission to serve the public and build the nation  ,and have   character, integrity, competence and a strong sense of justice and impartialty.I delivered this talk to about two thousand students of classes ten , eleven and twelve of City Montessori School Lucknow on April 28,2013.What follows is  broadly what I said .
 Any goal-setting exercise is a complex one .The choice of a career is setting  a life-goal .Planning for a career is  a complicated exercise in forward planning .A person  who has entered tenth class in a school, is about 15 years old , is expected to choose a course of studies , which may ultimately lead her/him to the choice of a career . I remember "The art of choosing" by Sheena Iyengar  in this context .
                                    Do civil services offer a good career for the youth of India in 2013?Civil services are essentially public services .These are called civil to distinguish them from armed forces.Police and forest services are included in civil services, even though these are in uniform.Civil services  in India are of two types:
1.All India Services which include IAS,IPS and Indian Forest Service.
All India Judicial Service is yet to be constituted.
2.Central services like Indian Foreign Service ,Indian Revenue Service , Indian Customs and central Excise Service, Indian Railway Traffic Service , Indian Postal service , Indian Audit and accounts Service , etc.All India services are borne on/allotted to  the state cadres.They can go and serve the Central government on deputation .The central services are purely under the control of the Central government and state governments have nothing to do with them .
                            IAS  is a generalist service while all other services are specialized services.The members of the IAS hold generalist posts like those of District Magistrates/District Officers and Commissioners in the field , they occupy most of the top posts in the secretariat , both at the centre and at the States, advising the political executive on public policy and matters of public importance.
                                  Unique feature of IAS and other All India Services is that they have a constitutional status.Article 312 of the Constitution of India provides for the constitution of these services.:IAS,IPS,IForest Service.This gives these services prestige.The recruitment is done by Union Public Service Commission , which is a Constitutional body under Indian Constitution,Security of service is provided under article 311 of Indian Constitution.The predecessor of IAS was ICS , which in turn was set up by the Government of India Act of 1858.The then British Prime Minister ,David Lloyd George , speaking in the House of Commons in 1935 said:"ICS is the steel frame  on which the whole structure of government  and of administration in India rests."
                       This year (2013)UPSC has introduced some changes in the system of Civil Services Examination .A preliminary examination  in two papers (multiple choice objective type) is the first stage .This tests general knowledge and English language comprehension .The Main Examination has four papers of 250 marks each in general studies .The four papers cover:
1.History/geography of India/world.
2.Political science and International relations.
3.Economic growth/environment.
4.Public administration/Ethics,integrity and aptitude/emotional intelligence.
Number of candidates admitted to Main examination are 12-13 times the number of vacancies to be filled.
Visually impaired(40% or above impairment) are eligible for civil services .They are allowed extra 10 minutes per hour , and also a scribe .
The Main examination also has one optional subject with two papers of 250 marks each , one Essay paper of 250 marks, thus totalling 1750 marks .(1000 marks for general studies,500 marks for optional subject , and 250 marks for Essay paper.In addition , there are two qualifying papers of 300 marks each , one in English and one in an Indian Language.
Then those who  pass the main examination  appear for interview, of 275 marks .Number summoned for interview are about twice the number of vacancies to be filled.
From 2013, UPSC has decided to hold a preliminary examination for Indian Forest service also .This will be the joint examination for the civil services including the Indian Forest service .The main examination for Indian Forest Service will be held separately .
                But there are down sides of a career in  the IAS  , and these are quite serious.Some of these are:
1.Nexus with political corruption .Erosion of ethics and values.This results in doing wrong , immoral and outright illegal things including frauds , violence and encounters.Political intervention leads to acquiescence and at times , connivance.There is a culture of sycophancy stifling creativity and objectivity.
2.Lack of transparency , accountability .Discretion  leads to nepotism , partisanship and particularism.
3.Politicization and promotion of the interests of political party in power in policy formulation and implementation .
4.Poor competence building and mediocrity.Inefficient incentive system and systemic inconsistencies in promotions.
5.Frequent transfers,insecurity of tenures,alienation ,demotivation and erosion of professionalism.
If a young person wants to make money and be rich , then IAS is not the career for him or her .But if he or she wants to serve and also build the nation , then India and  the  IAS need youth with character , integrity  and competence .