IAS remains the top career choice for a majority of youth.

Neither privatisation of the economy nor the glamour and prestige associated with IT and MBA have eroded the sheen and power associated with the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and other allied services, commonly bracketed under the Indian Civil Services (ICS).

The number joining the IAS bandwagon has not diminished and roughly about three to four lakh candidates appear for the preliminary examination which is of qualifying nature to be eligible for the main examination.

A survey titled ‘Have Civil Services lost their charm with advancement in liberalisation,' conducted by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), indicated that IAS remained the top career choice for a majority of youth. And the number of spirants is likely to increase this year as the total number of posts to be filled is around 965, which is reckoned to be the highest in recent years.

The two-stage recruitment process for the Civil Services is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) which has already issued the notification for the preliminary examination 2010. Completed applications must reach the Secretary, Union Public Service Commission, Dholpur House, Shahjahan Road, New Delhi-110069 on or before February 1. The preliminary examination will be held on May 23 and those qualifying in it will have to write the main examination commencing from October 29.

The prestige associated with the IAS may be a vestige of the ICS since the British days. With nearly 25 other allied services, it constitutes the steel frame of governance in India, responsible for enforcing law and order, implementing policy decisions, conceiving projects, instrumental in all the revenue administration of the State etc. And as one moves higher up the bureaucratic ladder, one may be heading any one of the myriad government departments ranging from tourism to education, higher education to urban infrastructure, agriculture to public works, housing and so on.

Traditionally, Karnataka has been badly represented in the IAS and not many youngsters from the State write the examination though of late there has been a minor change in the scenario. At the macro level, society in the State had always advocated engineering and medical as the two stepping stones to success and being educated was construed to mean being a doctor or an engineer.

The general level of awareness about the IAS or the UPSC is pretty low at the college level or even the postgraduation level when the grounds should be prepared for the examination.

Crucial factor

But the greatest dissuading factor is the marathon preparation stretching to nearly 18 months and sometimes even more that goes in for this examination. This puts off lots of contenders. This is in addition to a nearly year-long examination and recruitment schedule comprising the preliminary examination that is held in May, the main examination that is held in October/November and the interview that takes place during April/May. The examination requires a combination of intensive studies and mastery over one's core subjects apart from a sound knowledge of current affairs from science and polity to economy, history and society.

But with changing times there has been a proliferation of coaching institutes in the State which may not be a bad idea if it provides the focus to prepare for the examination. R. Subramanyam, a resource person at Srinivas Ramanujam Literary and Education Centre in Mysore, pointed out that if one ingrains the right attitude of not being intimidated by the vast syllabus then half-the-battle is won.

He pointed out that even engineers and doctors from the State were making a beeline to the coveted services in recent years.

Satyanarayan Gowda of Jnanabhutthi, a training institute which renders free coaching to students appearing for various competitive examinations, echoed the same view. He said earlier Jnanabhutthi used to have a workshop in the run-up to the examination. But now IAS coaching is a year-long process which underlines the growing number of aspirants. “The focus is on general knowledge and current affairs while we provide guidance on the choice of optionals available for aspirants.”

Krishik Sarvodaya Foundation, with its branches in Mysore, Bangalore, Hassan, Tumkur, Madikere and other centres, provides similar guidance for IAS aspirants and the trend is only growing across the State.

The UPSC has announced the schedule for Civil Services Examination 2010 the details of which are available on its website www.upsc.gov.in