THE DECISION TO GO FOR CIVIL SERVICES
Why did you choose civil services? What purpose in your life do services fulfill? Why do you want to become an IAS/IPS/IRS? All these questions and the likes are asked in interview. These form some basic questions in the interview. Then the reader may wonder why I am discussing it right in the beginning of this handbook. Because what you answer in interview may be very different and even contrary to what your actual reason was for taking to study for civil services!
The cause or the inspiration to study for civil services must be known to you. This must not remain in the latent form. I even assure you that there exists a tendency to hide the exact cause, especially, when you can not disclose it in public forum. You may not disclose it overtly but you must know it correctly, for it will help you genuinely mould it into some acceptable forms during the evolutionary process of preparations, so that you don’t have to lie or conceal the reasons at the interview! Let me tell you dear friends that those who are sitting in the interview panel of UPSC civil services are the expert and experienced intelligentsia and it is not advisable to resort to bluffing techniques, blurring or hiding facts. Honest presentation of thoughts is what is required and that can be done only with the clarity of thoughts. Thus, the interview preparations starts from the day you decide to take to studying for civil services. And the first step is introspecting and discerning the cause of study and slowly evolving it from a narrower to a much broader and socially acceptable perspective of the purpose of civil services.
For this purpose I list below various reasons the aspirants choose to go for civil services, some of them my own. From a narrower perspective of the cause to its broader vision a transformation must take place for which certain thinking mechanisms are provided which may be continuously studied and simultaneously imbibed in your personality.
a) Power : A candidate successful in his third attempt with a wonderful rank declared his source of inspiration in a public forum, “when I was a child I asked my father while walking in front of district collector office that who this office belongs to and what is the purpose of this office. My father replied, he is the god in our area descended from heavens, everything he says is done!” I admire that person for overtly announcing the fact that his inspiration to become an IAS officer is power. However, in person he revealed to me that one cannot be so overt in interview. Thus, there is no harm in acceptance of the fact that the power that civil services wield motivates one and serves as a cause. Yet, one should transform his/her thought to the just use of that power. This is the evolutionary process I am talking about.
You must have a constant undercurrent of this thought, “yes! I do strive for power and take up civil services but vouch for the just use of that power.” Dear aspirant with this thought imbibed in heart you shall be true to yourself and aiming for the right direction fit for civil services.
b) Money : One of the biggest motivating factor finds itself shrouded with an irony. It is not there in civil services, unless or until astute unfair means are used to procure it. Civil services promise a decent above average living standard. But honest bureaucrats are no match to the ‘corporatocrats’ as far as monetary aspect is considered. When I say corporatocrat I understand the term to mean those who are running the companies at the top level - directors, promoters, hedge fund managers, business families etc.
So how to reconcile the urge to earn money, the hunger of money with civil services? Many people witness the same dilemma. Here we must understand the fact that civil service throws open before us myriad opportunities into the private sector also. With a 5 or 7 years of experience as a bureaucrat, one can comfortably venture into a senior level position in pvt. sector, or better start his/her own venture with the functional experience of administration at hand. At some point of time you have to make a choice between two conflicting options!
c) Unsuccessful/mediocre people: A lot of aspirants are coming from IITs. These are majorly five or six pointers and could not do academically well in the very competitive environment of IITs. Thus, their placements were not upto their perceived standards.
Once I asked my friend, a nine pointer from IIT, who was doing Phd in USA, “why don’t you come to India and study for civil services? You can certainly clear it as you are a nine pointer!” His reply was astonishing, “I have expensed all my energies during the college life in studies. Now I want to relax a little and enjoy the quality offerings in a developed country.” Adding a little humor he continued, “on contrary, you are very well positioned to do it. You have surplus energies left which you saved in your college life and stood a five pointer.” After we shared a fit of laughter he continued, “And it gives you a reason and an opportunity to prove your mettle again.” Within a week after that conversation I found myself studying for civil services.
There are many aspirants, who have had their share of continuous failures. Some missed IIT landed up in NIT. Some could not make it into government colleges. Some did not fare well earlier in their adolescence and were awarded arts or commerce out of compulsion. All the commerce students can’t go to SRCC as all the medical students won’t get AIIMS. Many like me messed up in their college and ended up with poor grades. All these people are there to prove themselves to the society that they have the mettle and they are important. And Indian education system is such that it provides opportunity to correct the misdoings of the past. Civil services exam is one such means.
The important thing is that we must acknowledge our failures, mistakes and wrong decisions and then only we shall start an endeavor to rectify these.
d) Dissatisfaction with the present work profile: It may arise due to diverse issues. People from the IT sector generally find themselves prisoned in front of computers; the monotonous routine further takes a toll. Youngsters in PSUs majorly in the starting position of management trainee find not much liberty to take decisions. The starting job packages in engineering field are not much to attract the young talent. Teaching, whether in schools, colleges or in coaching institutes, suffer from a gender bias and labeled as a profession of failed persons. Lawyers find a huge struggle in the beginning of their career. A middle class person graduating from college finds it difficult to do business, both due to lack of capacity and skills as well as finances. Interlinking of capacity building, entrepreneurship, funding and commercialization is weak in service sector and virtually absent in production sector. This is what exactly I suffered from when I was running a business consultancy for the nationalized banks.
Thus, in this current scenario civil service finds connect with the youngsters and that is why we find the competition increasing every year reflected by the increasing trend of the cut off in preliminary examination(Although, CSAT 2014 deviates from the trend but there are very different reasons for this). It becomes imperative to identify your reason to quit the job and deciding to go for the exam.
e) Vengeance: One tends to believe that upon clearing the civil services you may be able to settle your personal equations. I don’t know how far this is feasible. But in the worst scenario, even if it an illusion, an aspirant may continue to believe in it with a promise that he/she won’t reveal it till the task is achieved. This unorthodox mechanism can be a source of energy provided that it is not dissipated by revealing the intent publicly. Slowly, over a period of time, the broader pressing concerns shall be incorporated into the reasons for opting civil services.
f) Strategic alliance : When I was selected in CSE 2013 a close friend of mine, an aspirant himself, came to my house to congratulate me and said, “Mr. Sethi, your rate is now at minimum one crore.” We laughed off at his casual remark. But a profound thought into the matter would make us realize that some aspirants may also get motivated by the possibility of a strategic alliance, a business house or a political family. If you consider this as a factor then please discern it and accept it, however you may not reveal it.
g) Pursuit of excellence: You may encounter some people who have been continuously proving themselves. Their inspiration is the pursuit of excellence. They will excel wherever they go and would lash upon the best opportunity of that time. Some examples are Jayant Sinha, D. Subbarao, Raghuram Rajan and the likes. Check their career graph and you will find it. The one I know is a person who hailed from bihar and stood among first five in IIT JEE entrance in 2003. During his days in IIT he was throughout a nine pointer and in the second attempt he secured an All India rank under five in civil services also. This lot is rare and the aspirant must be true to core if he/she finds a place in this lot. If you are motivated by the pursuit of excellence and your past suggests the same then you will fall into this section.
Further, doing better for you, being career oriented and pursuing it simultaneously is not opposed to the goals of civil services. In fact they must be seen as reinforcing each other.
h) Broader outlook : All the above said personal driving factors have to be shaped into acceptable and socially presentable forms during the course of preparations. This needs a basic understanding of what are the goals for which civil services exists and why. Nation building and public service is two cornerstones of the civil services.
One must come to terms with the fact that apart from personal endeavors to get through civil services there is a contribution from the society too, howsoever, miniscule it may be. Apart from the immediate contribution of parents, siblings, relatives and friends, there is contribution from the society which we do not account for or is generally ignored. The sweeper that cleans our room, the cook that feeds us if we stay in rented apartments, the rickshaw puller that tows us from our room to the coaching institute, all the teachers right from the primary to graduation, the person who throws the newspaper every morning and so on. Try and recall their faces, step into their shoes and feel the challenges in their life.
These contributions cannot be ignored. They have to be returned to the society at large. And therefore the civil services. It gives us the opportunity to serve the people through our decisions, deliberations, enforcement of policies etc. The reach of civil services is wide and so is the responsibility. Just imagine the plight of our fellow men if civil services personnel are incompetent, motivated only by private accomplishments or are lacking the basic ethos of civil services. It is this tendency that we shall shed of from our personality during the study period and not one week before the interview!
Thus, as I said, the private pursuits, personal agenda must be clearly realized and discerned. Generally, there may not be one single personal cause of taking to study for civil services and it may be a combination of two or three existing together. Once the exact root cause/s is/are surfaced up the task is yet not finished. Now the goal is to accommodate that narrow personal cause into a broader view of civil services and that will take time. It will surely but slowly happen as we progress in the preparation; only with the full knowledge that this transformation can’t be accomplished in a single night. And thus I may correctly say that the preparation for the interview starts right from the idea of studying for civil services!
Now once you have decided to study for civil services the next logical question that comes to mind is what is the right time of starting the preparations? The question is more important especially for those prospective aspirants who have found the charms of civil services irresistible right in their college days. I am referring to those aspirants who are in the process of graduation and but have made up their mind to plunge into the preparations.
Two schools of thought exist here. The former, which I refer to as the idealists, who find the blood rushing into veins upon the very mention of such words or similar to these by college going students, “I am trying to make up mind for giving civil services.” Or may be, “How about a career in civil services? Is it worth it?” The idealists have all the guns loaded for their long list of how to start, do’s and don’ts and what not!
I take the liberty to narrate an incident or rather an encounter with one of my distant relative who had been at prestigious post of chairmanship of an institution of national importance. I somehow landed up at his house upon severe persuasions from my parents to discuss the present dismal state of my grades at college and what could have been done to circumvent the disaster of being stranded as an unemployable graduate after a few months! After briefing the unconvincing reasons for my gloomy track record in college, I mistakenly uttered the word, “Uncle, I also thought about civil services and…..” He cut me here and with a glitter in his eyes started off, “Oh yes. That’s the best option. You start right from tomorrow. But remember, you have to read two newspaper each day. Also, by the time you complete the last year of college you must have completed each NCERT from 6th to 12th class so that fundamentals are laid down. Simultaneously, listen to news on FM or watch Rajya sabha and DD news. Oh! Before I forget, you have to start practicing the past years’ GS questions in writing and show me after one month some of your answers.”
“I was right! It is indeed not my cup of tea.” I murmured to my mother sitting beside me and softly slipped out of their house and never came again. Now I refer to this as the latent power of the idealists – they would burden the soul with a heavy weight of preparations and this may induce a fear and flight response from the prospective or a would-be aspirant of civil services.
Now let us tackle the scenario with the pragmatic school of thought which I generally advocate to most of the college going students who wish to prepare for CSE in near future. I truly believe that the college-life, from where you attain your first degree, forms the best phase of your life and that should be cherished and enjoyed in a healthy manner. These are a few care-free days of your otherwise stressed lives which must be devoted to different but equally important tasks – such tasks that won’t overburden you or deviate from your immediate priority, that is, graduating with the best possible score in prescribed time period for the degree undertaken. And such tasks will form additional armory to tackle the war of CSE later on. Some of these important tasks are;
The college going students should do justice to themselves by taking up at least these three tasks mentioned above, of course, apart from the course curriculum they have to study. This would prepare them for the future battle whether it is job, higher studies or civil services.