An evening to remember with stalwarts of civil services at Nehru Museum

In January 2019 while skipping through my morning daily I came up with a news item indicating that a brilliant young person who had shone exceedingly well in the Civil Services Exams just a few years back had decided to quit, citing certain social issues as reason for disillusionment with the services.The news came as a bit of shock to me.

I have been fortunate for being a part of bureaucratic setup in a cadre which offered postings in more than one  State and Union Territories. Moreover being offspring of a civil servant, in one of the largest States in the country, I have also been witness to the all pervasive presence of civil services during my father’s service tenure. Over my formative years I had developed a feeling that Civil Services were the only option for a person who desired to be always in the main stream of events and it was the vehicle which helped growth of  those who nourished a hunger for contributing to the maximum extent in the task of doing public good

Later while being in Civil Services the perception which had persistently grown within was that Civil Services touch lives of so many of people that one can always look back with contentment about achievements in hardest postings and most challenging environment.In other words if anyone wants to be a part of process of change there was no option but to join Civil Services.In fact it was this perception which had attracted bright young men and women with diverse professional qualifications, including the young man in question to the Civil Services. However I also felt that everyone has a right to decide about his life and career matters and we can only wish good luck to the young man who has decided to quit in support of his convictions.

 My feeling of gloom was however short lived . Shortly thereafter I received a message for attending a book launch on 10th January by Mr.Suresh Prabhu a Central Minister at Nehru Museum Auditorium New Delhi.The book titled “100 ideas to Improve Governance in India ” has been authored by Mr. JK Dadoo an ex IAS from AGMUT cadre. (AGMUT stands for Arunachal, Goa Mizoram and Union Territories ). The career of the author has spanned postings offering varied experiences at senior and junior level . In fact it appears to be a true example of potential offered by Civil Services to young men and women to shine and make impact in multiple postings with extremely varied environments.His success all over his career reinforced my perception of the glorious opportunity offered by a career in Civil Services for making contribution in varied sectors all over the country .

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Mr. Dadoo who had been in Civil Services since early 80s had a background of impeccable academic credentials as alumni of St. Columbas School & St.Stephens College Delhi and one of the premium Management Schools beside periodic stints at business schools outside the country.The Civil Services no doubt offered him an ideal platform for growth. While presenting the book to readers the author has explained how the material came up from experience gained from his assignments on key posts in various sectors .

wdr0g0rru6xruildzjkna Key note address by the author

The author has shared knowledge in form of compilation of short notes suggesting reforms for varied sectors spread over topics such as taxation, commerce, technology, health sectors etc.The book touches on subjects as wide as Rationalisation of Tax rates to Development of Artificial Intelligence for face recognition.The author seems to possess exceptional ability for having been able to find time for futuristic ideas such as Use of Drones for Medical Assistance in Remote areas and Promoting Sperm Banks with Modern Technology with equal adeptness.

Having opened the book an interested reader is inclined to complete it in one sitting. As the Author has himself suggested it is also very useful piece of compilation for persons appearing for interviews in Civil Services as core issues on so may contemporary topics are discussed.While the book launch also provided excellent opportunity for interacting with stalwarts of AGMUT cadre including Mr. Shakti Sinha an Ex IAS of AGMUT cadre now at helm of Nehru Museum- another example of Civil Servants shining in varied sectors, I also felt vindicated over my perception on importance and role of Civil Services. 



How hard is the hard posting ?

After initially working at Delhi for more than 2 decades I had to move to several other reigons  in the country  covering in the process  Goa,  Andamans and North East  . While the initial understanding was that I would return to Delhi in 2-3 years times , the ex Delhi tenure has kept on stretching. Since several of my colleagues managed to remain at Delhi for longer period and also got back to Delhi after short stints outside Delhi I felt cheated sometimes and wondered whether this banishment from Delhi was fair. However  after maturing through  several destinations away from Delhi I could see the silver lining (pun unintended) and started wondering whether the craze for sticking to Delhi is not an indication of a self centered  individual with an attitude which is not progressive .

Self centered because , although the  job offers  a possibility of rotation to various nooks and corners of the country but a group of people  consider it their divine right to be posted to a metro city , by all possible manipulations  or even if posted outside Delhi they would  try to get a place of choice , such as  one connected by land route  to the country ( so that there is possibility of an overnight train to Delhi!).These divine righted colleagues forget in the process that by cornering the comfort zones they have pushed out many other colleagues in the sun and  forced them to remain at the so called hard postings for longer period . The assumed difficulties of a hard posting would have appeared less uncomfortable and would not have been prolonged if all of us shared the hard areas on equitable basis.But for many mortals  a posting in Delhi injects a feeling of power and immortality which somehow  insulates them from grasping the essence of such mathematical analysis of  a social issue.

The other aspect is that of being less progressive or narrow minded. While moving out from Delhi one is give  subtle hints  that the concept of a true nation state is  also colored by feelings of regionalism in various parts of the country . However  an open minded and mainstreamed  person can easily understand  that even in Delhi  persons coming from other parts of the country need time to accquire respect and acceptability in their social circle. The same process of social acceptability can be expected at other places also . However once you move out and settle down the other benefits of being away from Delhi also become prominent.

First  and foremost is the clean air and relatively tension free work style which prevails at smaller destinations  . And then in due course of time one may (or may not) get to know a bunch of people who can be counted as selfless friends irrespective of their background. The quality and pace of  social life varies from place to place but still social networkings are developed with ample time available for the same without burden of  traffic related worries. The social groups though small ( sometimes very small in fact) are cohesive and homogenous and sometimes based on common interest in readings or movies (downloaded via internet). Natural beauty is always close on hand and if there is a good camera you can get submerged with flickr or Picassa. There is so much to learn about flora and fauna and lifestyle of tribes . And then there are so many opportunities  for water sports , chopper ride , snorkeling and diving which a  person  in Delhi can expect only once or twice in a lifetime as part of some heavily priced vacation.

But…even with all above virtues there will always be a bunch of colleagues who are counting their days for return to Delhi and in the process creating a morbid atmosphere for silent survivors.The best course is to avoid such tear jerkers. In fact with internet and broadband having infiltrated everywhere who needs non virtual friends now.

Quitting the govt jobs :Is the grass really pale on this side

A few days back I came across a very beautiful post in Blogbharati on choice of civil services as a profession, articulating the reasons which make the services a continuing source of attraction for so many young men and women. Not long back there was another interesting article in a leading magazine on a similar subject which on the contrary indicated that a number of former civil servants were moving over to jobs in private sector since they found such jobs much more attractive and satisfying . The former civil servants now stylishly photographed in their Corporate environment were at pains to explain as to how they were now able to give output which was several times higher than what they could deliver in their previous assignments, which they found to be suffocating ( and managed to survive in the suffocation for several decades !). The two conflicting pictures need to be looked into carefully in order to ascertain as to which of the two is closer to reality.

One important information which one could make out from the article on exodus of civil servants was that the number of such senior officers was in the range of not more than two dozen in a year. Out of the massive strength of civil servants in various government jobs the departure of a handful of senior functionaries in a year hardly merits the type of sensational and glossy coverage which the media bestowed on these ex bureaucrats. Was it an impromptu attention of some serious journalist to this issue (which has little relevance or interest for majority of the readers) of social behaviour or something akin to behaviour of IPL cheer girls (who are paid for show of excitement irrespective of the stature or parentage of the players involved) will remain an issue to be pondered with.

Another important issue which calls for attention is whether the process for selection of these senior civil servants to private sector jobs was transparent and open to all others with similar experience and seniority. No doubt these civil servants while holding senior posts must have ensured that all recruitments to public services under respective departments were made through fair and transparent process .Can they say with certainity that their own exodus from civil services was preceeded by a similar exercise, or the selection process merely zeroed down on an officer who was earlier accquaintance of a corporate entity or business house.

Also, the information that substantial number of such bureaucrats were absorbed in infrastructure related companies , for which the ability to closely network with reltaed agencies including govt departments is a key job requirement , makes the situation a bit complex. Further if the challenges and opportunities to perform in Govt service are so limited and poor then what could make these officers who spent a lifetime in such inconsequential jobs , so valuable in the estimation of their new employers ? Is it their professional competence or their proximity to bureaucratic circles which constitute their ESP in the eyes of private sector employers ?

Perhaps these are uncomfortable questions which the ex bureaucrats would find unjustified on the ground that it is their personal life and career and others do not have a right to suspect their abilities or the compelling needs which prompted their new employer to call them to their service. Questions of this nature may also be considered as reflective of frustration on part of those who could not make to the Al dorado.

As civilized civil servants others may accept this argument in honour of departed senior colleagues. But one request that can be made to them is to not to belittle the civil services or present a gory picture of the scenario in order to justify their departure.

They know it well that the scenario is not as bleak , if we take into consideration the fact that we are still a nascent democracy and various social forces are still to come to a state of stable equilibrium in our management set up . The challenges before the administrators are complex, involving human beings and behavioral patterns with various conflicts within them. The country is struggling with modern administrative concepts like e governance and it will be some time before fruits of modern technology will be suitably harnessed to make the life better for common man.

We are ahead of many other countries but still have a long way to go. Till then we need pooled efforts of young and old in the civil, police and allied services to contribute in what ever humble way they can within this complex and sometimes oppressive structure. For every deserter there are thousands who know this truth and feel proud of their jobs. They may be allowed to continue without distraction and interference because the country needs their services.