What it means to be a civil servant?
The concept of a merit based modern Civil Service in India was introduced in 1854 and competitive examinations were started in 1855. Initially, the examinations for Indian Civil Service were conducted only in London. The syllabus was designed such that European Classics had a predominant share of marks. All this made it difficult for Indian candidates. Nevertheless, in 1864, the first Indian, Shri Satyendranath Tagore succeeded. Throughout the next 50 years, Indians petitioned for simultaneous examinations to be held in India. From 1922 onwards the Indian Civil Service Examination began to be held in India also, with the setting up of the Federal Public Service Commission. The Federal Public Service Commission became the Union Public Service Commission after Independence which conducts the following examinations for All India services like IAS/IPS/IFS and group A & group B of Central service on a regular basis for appointment to various Civil/Defence services/posts.
“You are the pioneers in the Indian Service, and the future of this service will depend much upon the foundation and traditions that will be laid down by you, by your character and abilities and by your spirit of service.” – Sardar Patel. He famously called the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) the “steel frame” of India’s government machinery. To this day, even with vastly increased opportunities in the private sector, the IAS continues to attract India’s best and brightest. Since most top positions in government like the Governor of a state, Chief Election Commissioner, Secretary, etc are reserved for members of the IAS, the Indian Administrative Services continues to be the preferred option for a majority of young career aspirants. According to a survey carried out by industry chamber ‘Assocham’ the reasons are that the IAS provides visible and invisible perks, social status and benefits with 100% job security, which remain totally incompatible with private sector counterparts.
The Civil Service is an essential part of the government. It supports the government of the day in developing and implementing its policies, and in delivering public services. Civil servants are accountable to ministers, who in turn are accountable to Parliament. As a civil servant, candidates are selected on merit, on the basis of fair and open competition and are expected to carry out your role with dedication and a commitment to the Civil Service with its core values like integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality. For example, nearly 1200 child brides are rescued from their marriage mandaps and hundreds of victims of trafficking and abuse are empowered to speak up last year by an IPS officer Rema Rajeshwari.
It took Ira Singhal, this year’s Indian Administrative Services (IAS) exam topper, four years to get to that position. Nearly seven out of every 10 candidates require at least three attempts before succeeding in the civil services entrance. Abysmal success rates, years of preparation and multiple attempts by candidates past their mid-twenties studying subjects other than what they have been trained in, are some of the key attributes of the IAS entrance process. However, Citizen of the country had greater trust in the office of the Collector (manned by the IAS officers) than even the President and the Prime Minister. The country is certainly proud of institutions like the Election Commission and the UPSC that are primarily manned by senior civil servants. Let us hope that it will further raise the standards of life of people and work to offset the divide between rich and poor to minimise inequality by effective delivery of public services.
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