A career in civil services

After the gruelling selection process for the civil services, the real challenge emerges once you take charge. How independent can you be?

Published - July 11, 2015 06:13 pm IST

Trainee IAS officers at Paidigudem Kondareddy tribal village in Khammam District. File Photo: G.N.Rao

Trainee IAS officers at Paidigudem Kondareddy tribal village in Khammam District. File Photo: G.N.Rao

Getting into the civil services is a gruelling task. The motivation to succeed must be very strong indeed; for it is not an easy task by any measure to scale the stages of getting selected for India government service. This year, 1236 persons have been selected for the Indian Administrative Service, Indian Foreign Service, and Central Services groups A and B, totally. They have faced a demanding selection process. The preliminary exam, the first stage, was held in August last year; filtering out most of the people who appeared, the Mains were held later and the Personal Interview, the final stage, was held in April and the result declared recently. The selection process this year has been the biggest so far, with 4.51 lakh people having appeared in the preliminary exam. There have been many firsts this time; four women candidates have bagged the top ranks, with the first ranker Ira Singhal being selected for foreign services.

Despite the process being so stringent, people try hard and try many times to enter this coveted career. What draws people into this attempt? Is it the prestige, the idealism, the power, the status it definitely brings? Perhaps a bit of all of this! Needless to say, the dreams of the new recruits are tied up with those of millions of people whose voices are never heard by us.

The effort

C. Vanmathi is one of the persons who has scaled this threshold. Born in a family with low income, her mother’s ambition was to educate her daughters up to Class XII. But Vanmathi has gone way beyond that. “My father works as a car driver, and my conviction that education has the power to uplift our status gave me the impetus to study further,” she says. Harendhira Prasad, who has secured the 93rd all-India rank (7th in Tamil Nadu), who holds a B.E. (Computer Science) and MBA, has worked in tech companies such as Wipro and Infosys.

He was engaged in preparing for the Civil Services exam while working with Infosys, and then realised that he needed to devote his full attention in order to succeed. He gave up his job and prepared full time (2013-14) and then succeeded. His motivation? “I always wanted to be different from the crowd. And with my tech background I can work towards taking technology to the people.”

Reality check

The civil services, on the one hand hold the dreams and aspirations of many, but there is another side — the less-than-ideal experiences of the officers in service. Ms P. Sivakami, former IAS officer, throws some light on this aspect. “Earlier a lot of policy decisions used to be brought about by IAS officers. Now the government decides most of the things. The inputs of civil servants in policy decisions have reduced,” she says. Civil servants are more involved in licensing, controlling, monitoring, evaluating and implementing the measures put forth by the government, she adds.

But Vanmathi is optimistic. “At the district level, to work in even implementation is good. One has to withstand the pressure,” she says. Harendhira Prasad takes a practical route. “We cannot change things in a day. I will be happy to do small things within my capacity. There are many good schemes which do not reach the people and I can create awareness among the people about these,” he says.

Her critical evaluation of the civil services aside, Ms. Sivakami has a positive word to add. “I like the service. It offers a variety and I couldn’t have learnt many things I know today without having been in the service. It does empower you and gives you a chance to learn,” she says.

The hope of the youth is reflected in her words. “You [officers] can stand up to authority if you want. You will have to face what comes. In every subject, cultivate knowledge, and how clever you are in putting across your idea will decide your success.”

Fresh ideas

There are many areas in which the hope and energy of youth will usher in changes. While Harendhira Prasad is keen on technology, Vanmathi is interested in women empowerment. “I want to make society better towards women. Now marriage is foregrounded and education of women takes a back seat. I wish to work towards changing this.”

Quoting Gandhi, she says, “There is enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed.”

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