In Service of the Nation

For the last few weeks the newspapers have been filled with paeans written on those who cracked the Civil Services Exam this year.Their struggles, hard-work and triumph have found their way to interviews, motivational articles and congratulatory messages from friends and family. Needless to say, the Civil Services  still remains one of the most sought after careers and success in this exam,enough to make heroes out of the most unknown students. Amongst the services, the IAS still remains the first choice of hundreds of applicants who apply for this exam. As the electronic media beams down success stories and documents stories of their perseverance and determination you can almost see the stars in their eyes as they elaborate the trials they faced while preparing for the exam and the joy felt in finally making it into the hallowed portals of what is known as the premier service of India. What makes it one of the most sought after careers? The power as most would like to believe? The surety of a stable career( mostly) as those who decry the service often point out? Or is it something else? Something deeper?

Ten years ago when as starry-eyed new recruits into the service we walked in through the imposing gates of the  Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie most of us did not know what being a part of the service meant and what lay before us. Amidst the mist covered mountains and the towering pine trees we set out on this new journey being trained by some wonderful senior officers. During the course of this training we were fortunate to meet and interact with some of the finest officers of the country and listen to their stories about making a difference. Their was a lot of idealism in the batch;90 young men and women waiting for a chance to go out into the world and live thier dreams of being part of the system.

Through the classes and the lectures, the horse riding and the long runs, friendships were forged and the interactions served as an insight into what can be called some of the brightest young minds in the country. The zeal and enthusiasm in the batch was infectious, each one of us was eager to get into the “field” and get into full time administration. I believe that the enthusiasm has remained the same year after year and I am sure that the batch that joins this year will feel the same thrill and excitement that was a part of us during our days in Mussoorie.

The Indian Administrative Service to my mind presents the broadest canvas to any young officer. The opportunities to make a difference are tremendous. While the debates on the merits of generalists and specialists  and technocrats and bureaucrats rage in the country, in remote corners of India, in villages and small towns, young ,dynamic officers are dealing with complex issues and providing solutions for development  in sectors like health, education, water supply , irrigation, micro credit . The cynics may point out aberrations and try and paint the government system as lethargic and inefficient but there are several unsung officers working tirelessly, implementing plans and projects, delivering and providing help and succour in extremely harsh and difficult circumstances. There are very few jobs that provide the kind of diverse opportunities as are available to an IAS officer in a district; the ability to reach out to people across sectors and provide relief and make a life changing difference is unique probably to the IAS. The experience is enriching and rewarding both professionally and personally.

Sure the negative news stories paint a dismal picture of a corrupt system populated by suppliant ,pliable officers. Probably, very few stories of upright, sincere and hardworking officers do not make the headlines the way the negative ones do. That’s not to say the latter do not exist. Anonymity was an attribute of a officer in the colonial bureaucratic system and officers are not meant to be in the front lines. But an active media and the social media has ensured that more recently some stories of tireless striving and passion do make it to the mainstream.

Over generations there have been officers who have in the most trying circumstances worked for improving the system where ever they have been posted. I hope as the new batch walks into the hallowed portals of the LBSNAA this year, they too keep their dreams and beliefs alive and strive to make a difference in whichever sector they are posted.There is a blank canvas before them,it is now upto them to paint it in the colours that benefit the nation.

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