A Tryst with Indian Administration

Wed, Aug 1, 2012

Social Issues

Afraid, nervous, anxious, fearful are the words that describe my feelings before joining my summer internship with Madhya Pradesh Government. A brand new city for me and the name of Government attached to it which brought things like corruption, hatred, and politics to my mind. As usual, with some glitches, ups and downs, here starts the journey for two months in the city of lakes, capital of Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal.

Indian Administrative Services – During my childhood days, these three words used to be on my lips whenever somebody asked a question about my future dreams. Somehow the silent air of the dream got lost amidst the harsh winds of lucrative ones like engineers and doctors. We often don’t realize when our mind gets attracted to the buzz of town and we forget ourselves, our own dreams and aspirations.

Let’s begin with part one of this series – The hierarchy in Indian Administration, why it is still lucrative for students like us and why for others it is still not as attractive as it appears. The hierarchy looks broadly like this

Figure 1

Figure 1 shows a very broad hierarchy which lists the district collector, who is the head of the district at the top. The District Collector is an IAS officer selected through one of the most rigorous entrance test of India – The UPSC entrance test. He has the power and authority to take actions which affect the common man. He is head of the revenue department of district and also deals with law and order through the magistrate. One step down the hierarchy is the SDM (Sub Divisional Magistrate) who is the head of the particular subdivision. He is guided and helped by Tehsildars, Revenue Inspectors and Patwaris down the hierarchy. The major role of the revenue department includes assessing the damages done to people in the situation of a calamity and also fund allocation for various schemes of Government – basically dealing with money distribution and land records.

For students like us who are mostly Engineers by background and are future managers, this might not sound like a dream job – like the big four or the giants like BCG, but let me tell you this is where the real management lies – managing your own nation and believe me, it draws no comparison.

Let’s first count the positive aspects of these jobs –

• One factor which is desired by all of us but most of the times is found missing from our lives is satisfaction. Satisfaction from our jobs and lives. Mostly a job in MNCs drives people crazy and makes them forget their personal lives where even the weekends are occupied. There is no time to just be ourselves. Working for outsourced clients, making software – most of us have experienced the dearth of it and somehow no matter how much they pay you, it is frustrating in the end and the only thing that drives us is money.

• Working for the betterment of lives of people, their happiness and doing something which benefits the common man are the valued factors provided by your job, your hard work and that chair the IAS officer possesses. As Gandhi Ji has said – “Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him.”

• Power, status and reputation in the society are the most desired inner feelings of an individual. No doubt MNCs try hard to make sure we get them with their perks and incentives. But where is the power when everyday you have to succumb to the rigid rules and policies, when there is an engineer in every flat of a society.

• Civil services provide the medium to get power, to change things when most of us are just cursing the Government and policies. We need to understand that even a little effort by all can change the things and that money can’t buy power but power can.

Following are some negative aspects of the same. But before I proceed, I must say that true dedication and love for the people would never let anyone succumb to the downsides of these elite jobs.

• Money, a word which attracts everyone, right from a middle class Indian to a billionaire. It’s true that the salary offered to an IAS officer is way below the MNC standards, but there is no way both can be compared. According to my perception and personal experience, an individual never enters or leaves the job due to money. A recent study has showed that doctors and engineers are the ones who crack UPSC the most. So when a doctor who can easily make a lot of money in his own profession enters the administration, he is surely not there for money. But needless to mention that it is money only that is being the spoilsport here as we go down the hierarchy but trust me – efficient use of power can bring corruption to the minimum at the entire district level.

• Corruption – No need to explain the aura of corruption in our country where every day, newspapers report the story of frauds, inefficient Government, lack of faith of investors in India and the downgrade of credit ratings. In a country where an IAS officer, after rigorous hard work and tough selection procedures has to bow down in front of much lesser educated ministers, it is difficult to implement changes and raise a voice. Also recent cases like death of an IAS officer by a crane intentionally, while he was on field to check illegal mining, act as deterrent to an individual’s decision of opting the services. The laws are there but surely the implementation is modulated to suit the needs and culprits are mostly not taught a lesson.

• Political Pressure – Though the officers have to entertain the ministers but the extent they have to do it, lies purely in their own hands. The more you succumb to their will, the more you will lose yours. One thing you should not be afraid of while joining the services is a transfer order. The only power that the ministers possess is to transfer the officer at the remotest place of the country and even these transfers are controlled by the central Government only, hence you cannot be a victim of their harassment. If you have got the courage of your conviction, nothing can ever stop you.

The first part of this series concludes with an emphasis on joining the civil services by us, the engineering and management graduates for it is here that the real management lies. No doubt management is all about assets/liabilities, balance sheet of a company, marketing the brands and going to our dream destinations. But the other face of it is managing the country’s wealth, contributing towards the development, managing all the public amenities and making sure how each and every one gets his share amidst the growing paucity of resources. In short, it is about bringing smiles to everyone’s face by your management skills and dedicated efforts.

Next : The second part of the series will focus on the in depth relationships in the hierarchy, the role of people up and down the IAS and how the collaborative efforts sometimes make and at other times destroy things.


MBA Batch of 2013

9 Responses to “A Tryst with Indian Administration”

  1. Pramod Kumar Gupta Says:

    My compliments to Taruna for putting up her findings of the face of beaurocracy to the readers for their thoughts about joining the same or otherwise.
    I am with Indian Railways for about 25 years now, and have quite a few of my classmates in IAS, IPS and other Government sectors as well as Public Sectors. I have my classmates as Enterpreneurs or employed in Private sectors abroad as also in India.
    When I joined my service as a fresher, I had the resposibility to control and manage 1000+ strong workforce as their technical guide cum administrator and HR administrator; this in addition to responsibility of maintenance of 150 km of railway track alongwith the bridges and Railway stations enroute. Such was the enormity of responsibilities that question of working hours and days never occured to our minds.
    With my interactions with my IAS friends, I can state with no hesitation that their responsibilities far exceed those of my service. So, I would like to add a word of caution that in IAS getting weekly or even monthly vacation may be too much to ask, even finding time to get 8 hours for daily sleep may be very rarely possible.
    Salaries are not High, but more than adequate for a normal healthy living. So for the ones aiming to build up wealth, without indulging in corruption, this is not the right choice.
    Power and status are achievable to very high degree.One starts working as MDs and CMDs of large public sector Corporations within 6-10 years of joining the service.
    OPPORTUNITY to serve and help a very large number of PEOPLE is the REAL ENGINE to drive anyone for joining IAS.
    The negative aspects, mentioned by Taruna, are in fact the challenges which an intelligent and committed IAS officer enjoys.
    Thanks again for a thought provoking article.
    (PS- I also have a classmate of mine Ganesh Datt Bhatt, who has recently joined IME deptt of IIT-K as faculty.)
    My webpage Http://p_k_gupta.tripod.com

  2. Taruna Says:

    Many many thanks for your appreciation sir. It is a pleasure to receive your comment and a motivation for us to keep publishing such articles in our magazine.
    You rightly mentioned sir that being an IAS officer requires extreme hardwork and dedication on one’s part and a commitment of a lifetime. I personally draw a lot of inspiration from my experience of working with an IAS officer and learnt that even the negatives aspects can be minimised to the least extent possible if one wishes.
    Thanks once again for taking your precious time out for students like us.

  3. Abhishek Says:

    Well written, waiting for next one covering further details

  4. Samet Says:

    Your atrilce was excellent and erudite.

  5. rajeev parashar Says:

    The article is an ordinary piece of writing. Most of the sentiments are also contrived. Most aspirants for the UPSC exams are looking forward to gain a lifetime of recognition, perks and progress based on a single exam. In fact Gp A civil services are a very good way of putting out life’s grind and challenges at a young age with just one two year shot at the exams AND that is the attraction. Most folks comfortably RETIRE into a Govt job for the next 30-40 years. Expensively trained Engineers, Doctors if they were Public spirited would have enough scope for Public good available to them right after Graduation. It is this cosy and sahib lifestyle which attracts them to the grind. Note that this years topper Shena is a grad from AIIMS, was training to be an Income Tax officer and eventually topped for IAS in her second attempt. What do you have to say? Is it a good trade off for the society she says she wants to serve? So lets be real. Look at the VRSs from the CRPF, etc and the shortage of Army officers. Where is the zeal for service amongst the youth in these sectors? Extensive recruitment and career progression reforms are called for.

  6. taruna Says:

    @ rajeev parashar..
    Thanks rajeev for posting your views. The article is indeed an ordinary piece of writing but whether it is contrived or not needs a little verification. I would like to clarify a few points. One,no doubt UPSC exams are all about perks and recognition but they are also about being at the bottom of the hierarchy to bring about a change. It is upto an individual what he decides to do. I would like to quote a reference here of an IAS officer who lost his life all because he dare not let the tractor(illegal mining case) move ahead without worrying a little about his life.Such is the spirit and zeal which cant be controlled once you are determined to change things. What would be your say in this case ? Blame the govt. , corruption but you cant blame those efforts which cost a valuable life.
    Source :http://ibnlive.in.com/news/illegal-mining-ips-officer-killed-in-mp/237367-3.html
    Two, Engineers and doctors have certainly the scope to do public good. Infact that opportunity is available with every individual like me and you.What I wanted to convey here is that there is a spark and a realisation behind most of the professionals forcing them to rethink on their decisions. The opportunity and limits of actual “public good” requires you to get head over heels for people’s and ultimately the nation’s good. Or else why anyone would leave lucrative and posh MNC’s , big hospitals ,a relaxed life, hot pay packages to end up in a very small often backward district to start his life afresh. The statement is open for debate.
    Lastly, I agree that there is a dearth of Army officers and major reforms are needed in the sector. It is more of an individual’s choice in deciding the way he opts for serving the nation.
    I hope I made myself clear.

  7. Rajeev Parashar Says:

    Dear Taruna,

    Thanks for taking my rant in the right spirit. You must be a sincere person to take time, think and respond to another point of view. I can only wish the very best to a person like you. However, just think if the trolley had turned the other way round AND the trolley driver killed with the young IPS officer on top of the heap! The whole country and media would be talking of Police brutality and the licentiousness of a young IPS probationer!! After all it was circumstantially clear that it was an accident AND also confirmed by a subsequent enquiry. The idiot Trolley driver may not have realised that he has been asked to stop by a senior Officer rather than the usual guys and must have thought it better to speed away into his village.
    Any ways you have your heart at the right place. An unsolicited but sincere advise to you would be to temper your idealism with the pitch and groove of the world around us if you want to be effective through out your career.
    All the best.
    Rajeev Parashar.

  8. taruna Says:

    Dear Rajeev,
    Thanks a lot for your highly motivating remarks. Indeed the platform of our magazine is to serve the very fundamental base of open discussions. Hope to receive more comments and analysis from readers like you in future.
    Once again thanking for the appreciation and suggestions.
    Cheers !!!!

  9. Nisha Says:

    Hi Taruna,

    Enjoyed reading your article and I share your sentiments.
    Could you tell us how you got the chance to intern at the Collector’s office in Bhopal? I’m a Civil Service aspirant and would love to get such exposure to “Ground Zero”.

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