How can I become a Civil Servant?
Years down the line, the picture has not changed much, and why should it, when tens of thousands of young people even today, are all willing to rough it out and chalk their way to the hallowed corridors of bureaucracy.
Needless to say, the Civil Services are an equally challenging career option for women. There have been, and there are many distinguished women bureaucrats who have done remarkably well in the field. Former Foreign Secretary of India, Ms.Choklia Iyer, an IFS officer, was the first woman to occupy the post in the year 2000; and Kiran Bedi, IPS officer, is all too familiar as one who fervently mooted the concept of prison reforms in Delhi's Tihar jail. The number of entrants into this Hall of Fame continues to grow…
The Colonial Past
The Civil Services have always had an air of "pride and power" around them. An offshoot of the Raj, they still hold the same sway even in the post-colonial era. Seen as a legacy of the British Rule here in India, the Civil Services, with all its connotations of hierarchical accountability and controls, was established soon after the suppression of the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny. It marked the transfer of power from the East India Company to the Crown in England. The sole objective of the Services then, was to govern the far-flung British Empire, which predominantly involved duties like - preservation of law and order, dispensation of justice and the collection of taxes.
In the 19th century, these services were restricted only to the 'White Babus' and 'Sahibs'. Only from 1920s, after the constitution of the Indian Civil Services (ICS), were Indians admitted to the service.
The Democratic Present
Today, the Civil Servants, as the officers of the Civil Services are called, work in a wholly different context, different form the days of the Raj. Following the Preamble of the Indian Constitution, they now operate to create a 'Sovereign, Democratic and a Welfare State' with a singular focus on developing the nation.
So, if you are one, who visualizes the nation as a developed country, as a potential superpower in the days to come, and if you strongly believe that you can lead the nation towards this vision, then get set to chart your way to Bureaucracy and Babudom!
An overview of the services
The Indian Civil Services are organized into two main sections:
I. The All India Services
II. The Central Services
All India Services
The officers who make it to the All India Services, on appointment by the government of India, will be deputed to different States and are at the disposal of the respective State Governments. These services include:
The Indian Administrative Service (IAS): The IAS officers handle the affairs of the government. At the Central level, their job involves the framing and implementation of policies. At the district level, they manage the affairs of the district, including development related activities. At the divisional level, they look after law and order, general administration and development work.
The Indian Police Service (IPS): The IPS officer's job mainly involves maintaining law and order. (At the district level, they share this responsibility with the IAS officers.) The IPS officer is responsible for ensuring public safety and security; crime detection and prevention; and traffic control and accident prevention and management. There are several functional departments that help IPS officers to carry out their duties. They are:
Criminal Investigation Department (CID)
The other agencies at the Central level that aid in similar functions are:
Intelligence Bureau (IB), which gathers information that will aid in predicting and preventing threats to public order.
Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which investigates into cases of corruption and major crimes that are referred to it.
Cabinet Secretariat Security, which looks after the personal security of the cabinet ministers.
Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), who are called in times of emergency, like a natural calamity, or when the law and order situation cannot be controlled by the local police alone.
Border Security Force (BSF), these forces are responsible for the protection of life and property in the border areas.
The Indian Forest Service : The officers in this category manage the forest reserves of the nation. Their job involves the protection and conservation of forest resources and wildlife. They also look after the management and supply of forest products.
The Central Services
The Officers of the Central Services serve the Government of India only, irrespective of which State or Country they are posted in. Some of the predominant services that come under this category are:
The Indian Foreign Service (IFS): The IFS officers look after the country's external affairs, including diplomacy, trade and cultural relations. They are also responsible for the administration and activities of Indian missions abroad; and for the framing and implementation of the Government's foreign policy.
The Indian Railway Service (IRS): The Indian railway network is one of the largest in the world. The IRS officers ensure the smooth operation of this network.
The Indian Postal Service: This department looks after the functioning of the mail, telegraphic and other communication services in the country.
The Accounts and Auditing Service: This department functioning in four categories deals with accounts, audits and inspections of: - public sector, central and state government undertakings; all military establishments; and the fixing, assessment and collection of income tax.
The Indian Customs (IC) and Central Excise Service (CES): The IC deals with the checking and levy of duty on taxable goods brought into the country; and the CES carries out the duty of taxation of goods manufactured within the country.
The Indian Ordinance Factories Service: This service oversees the production of goods made particularly for the use of the Armed Forces.
The Indian Defence Estates Service (IDES): It is concerned with the administration of military cantonments.
The Indian Information Service (IIS): This comes under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The IIS officers handle the press and/or public relations both within the country and abroad on behalf of the government, its various ministries, Public Sector Units (PSUs) and the defence forces.
So, if you want to contribute more than your mite to the process, read on to know how you can enter the Services.
The three pre-requisites for entering the Services through the Civil Services Examination are:
The candidate must be an Indian citizen. He/She should be between 21 to 30 years of age, as on August 1st of the examination year. Age relaxation of 5 years and 3 years is available to those belonging to SC/ ST and OBC categories respectively. The candidate should have a Bachelor's degree in any discipline from any recognized University.
The Starting Point:
Cracking the Competitive Examination
Entry to the IAS, IPS and the Central Services is through the combined Competitive Examination for the Civil Services. Recruitment to the Indian Forest Service is through a separate examination. The Competitive Examination takes place in three stages:
Stage I: Preliminary Examination
The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), an autonomous body that ensures unbiased recruitment to the Civil Services, conducts the examination. The notification for obtaining the application forms for the examination will appear in the Employment News and also in other leading dailies.
The preliminary (prelims), a written examination is held in the month of June every year. It consists of two papers, both in the objective type format.
Paper I: This paper is called the General Studies and carries a maximum score of 150 points on 150 questions. It is of two hours duration. It covers these six topics - Indian History, the Constitution of India, Geography, Economics, Science and Current Affairs.
Paper II: This is an optional paper on a subject of your choice, for instance, Political Science, History, Economics, Psychology etc. A list of the optional subjects that can be taken, can be obtained from the UPSC website - www.upsc.gov.in. Paper II carries a score of 300 points on 120 questions and is also of two hours duration.
Since, it is an extremely competitive exam, the candidates taking the prelims must be extremely diligent and hard working. Only the highest scorers qualify for the second examination, that is, the Main Examination. The success rate of preliminary exam is less than 10%.
Stage II: Main Examination
The Main Examination is a written examination in the subjective or essay type format. It is generally held in the month of November/December. It includes nine papers:
Papers I & II: These are the language papers, of 300 marks each. One is the English language paper, which is compulsory; and the other is in any Indian language mentioned in the eighth schedule of the Indian Constitution. Marks obtained in these papers are not added in the total score, however qualifying or passing in them with the specified minimum percentage is necessary.
Paper III: The third is an Essay paper of 200 marks. The candidate can choose to write the essay in either English or in any Indian language mentioned in the eight schedule of the Constitution.
Paper IV and V: These are the General Studies (G.K. and Current Affairs) papers of 300 marks each.
Paper VI, VII, VIII & IX: Here, the candidate will have to take two optional subjects, which would contain two papers each. Thus, a total of four papers, where each paper would be of 300 marks, with a total score of 1200.
The number of candidates, who pass through this stage successfully, is further reduced in percentage when compared to the numbers who succeed in the prelims. An indication of the tough competition is the fact that, (on a 1:10 basis), if for instance, a thousand candidates pass the Main exam, there is in reality, only 100 vacancies or civil service posts available.
Stage III: Personality Test
In this final round of elimination, the competition gets the toughest. Candidates are selected on a 1:2 ratio. So, if there are ten vacancies, then twenty candidates will be interviewed.
The personality test follows the pattern of an oral interview or a viva voce. An expert panel judges the candidate's over all personality, his/her social traits, presence of mind, and leadership qualities, apart from their intellectual capabilities and aptitude for the work involved.
When all the hard work of the candidate finally pays off and he finds himself smoothly cruising out of, even the interview stage, he undergoes compulsory training at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie as a probationary officer. Training will be imparted in academic areas, which comprise subject studies like economics, history, political science, etc. After this foundation course, specific job-oriented training is conducted separately by each service.
Climbing up the Career Ladder
All officers begin as Junior Scale Officers. With time and experience, they move on to the higher levels like Senior Scale, Super Time Scale, Additional Secretary, Secretary, Chief Secretary and Cabinet Secretary, with the last four representing the higher echelons.
The remuneration given to these government servants might not match corporate standards of the capitalistic world. But the allowances and facilities given to the civil servants are commensurate with the job. It includes housing, telephone, leave travel concessions, official vehicles and so on.
If you are a wannabe civil servant, these are the stuff you should be made of:
Apart from tonnes of intelligence and ounces of common sense, you must have a deep sense of responsibility and empathy with the underprivileged and the ability to interact with all kinds of people.
If you are an idealist, who believes that the world will be perfect one day, with optimism and positive thinking to go with it, you already fit the bill.
You will also require emotional stability to keep your cool when you have to make the unwilling colleagues or subordinates work.
You should also possess immense personal integrity, for there will be many offenders eagerly waving wads of pelf at you.
Any job that involves decision-making entails a sense of stately power. Not allowing power to get into your head could be a challenge to your level-headedness.
You get an opportunity to represent the Government
Working from the grassroots, you get the chance to contribute your mite to the development, day-to-day administration and for the overall welfare of the nation
The excellent training you receive as a probationary officer in a wide range of intellectual, physical and creative activities groom you into a well-developed personality.
You will work in different capacities, in different administrative departments. This rich experience can vastly expand your knowledge base.
With principal activities like decision-making and policy formulation, the job is vested with power.
It is a white-collared job with cushy allowances and facilities
You have to work in a rigid hierarchical system, answerable to those at higher echelons at every step. This may sometimes act as a hindrance to freedom and creative inputs.
You may have to work in an atmosphere of brazen corruption, red-tapeism and unaccountability.
Deployed in a different state/cadre, or in case of Indian Foreign Service officers, in different countries, you may have to spend a lot of time away from home, family and friends.
You might have to work under severe stress and pressure while handling situations that can create law and order problems. Most IPS officers, working in the C.I.D or C.B.I departments regularly confront such work situations.
When a project fails to take off, you alone are often made the scapegoat by politicians, people and the press.
There are many institutes spread all over the country that train Civil Service aspirants. Most of these institutes are full-time coaching classes that train students for various other competitive exams too, like the IIT-JEE, CAT, GRE, TOEFL, etc.
A look at the classified section of your daily newspaper will show the addresses of such institutes in your city and area. But beware, not all may deliver the standards they promise. There are a few reputed institutes, of which some also offer coaching via the postal or correspondence mode. The well-known among them are:
Rau's IAS Study Circle- http://www.rauias.com/Default.htm
Brilliant's Tutorials-- www.brilliant-tutorials.com
A search over the Net in a search engine like Google can provide you with other institutes and their contact addresses. You could also watch out for their advertisements in leading newspapers and magazines.
No matter how well the coaching classes try to aid you in your preparation, finally the onus is on you to put in extensive and intensive hours of study, digest what you have studied and in the end, face the exam with confidence.
So, most aspirants prefer to prepare on their own. And the past records have shown that they have fared equally well. Most preparation material for the optional subjects and general studies are available, including solved question papers of previous years' examinations.
Besides a regular habit of reading as many newspapers and magazines as possible, especially those related to the Civil Service exams is a big must. If you know somebody in the family or friend circle, who has cracked the exam, talking to him or her on how to prepare, could be of immense help too.
By now, you might be having a picture of what the Civil Services are all about. If you are convinced that it figures like your ultimate job destination and if you have the gritty determination and an indomitable will to get there, well, what are you waiting for? Start preparing now…See you there!