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Civil Services as a Career

“If I were to be born again and if I could make it (with the increasing competition and fewer vacancies), I would like to be an IAS officer yet again. The reason is simple. No other job on the earth gives you this much freedom and these many opportunities. This is one of the rare jobs where you can afford to remain honest in an increasingly vitiated socio-political environment. The Indian Administrative Service provides tremendous avenues for working towards public welfare and deriving immense satisfaction that more than compensates the comparative disadvantage in financial terms vis-à-vis a lucrative private sector assignment.”

These words by former IAS officer Anil Swaroop in his book ‘Not Just a Civil Servant’ aptly highlight the significance of civil services in our country.

The Indian civil services is regarded as one of the premier services which paves the way for joining the IAS, IPS, IFS and other prestigious services. Civil Services offer a lucrative and challenging career to the ambitious, the aspiring and the talented. The wide variety of jobs within the fold of the Civil Services have relatively greater sphere of authority and power than any other services in India.

In 1947, the ‘Iron Man of India’- Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel famously referred to the civil servants as the ‘steel frame of India’, – the executors of the policies of the government of the day – a pillar on which the wheel of governance that churns policies and programs for the country.

What does it offer?

Recently, on the occasion of National Civil Service Day on 21st April 2023, the Vice-President of India described the Indian civil servants as the world’s most potent human resource, repository of enormous talent and expertise who are commendably engaged in transforming lives of one sixth of the humanity and who, as a class, are role model to millions and powerful influencers for effecting change and growth.

Further he acknowledged that it is a known scenario that even after succeeding in the toughest exam, the fiscal benefits of civil servants are not comparable to the alternatives available. However, there is something unique and special about civil services that make it the envy of their peers in the alternatives. It affords one a sublime and godly opportunity to serve the people and bring about their upliftment.

The services offer all that an individual can wish for: high social status, job security, job diversity, decent salary, plush accommodation and ample allowances, opportunity of foreign tours, paid study leaves, job satisfaction, etc.  The prestige that comes with being a civil servant can easily be observed in the society. Civil servants are seen not only with huge respect but also with awe. An IAS or an IPS officer moving around in official vehicle with security guards is enough to inspire many to join the civil services.

Civil services offer a wide variety of work like maintenance of law and order, developmental work, disaster management, representing India on international forums, administration, upliftment and empowerment of marginalised sections of society etc. Being a civil servant can entail occupying some of the most powerful positions in the land, second only to politicians. 

The deep sense of job security that civil services offer is unmatched as a civil servant cannot be fired easily due to protection provided by the Constitution of India. Once selected, a civil servant works till the age of 60 and is possible for him to get an extension. As far as salary is concerned, the 7th pay commission has raised them substantially with the Cabinet Secretary drawing a basic salary of 2.5 lakhs. However, salary is probably the last of the factors that attract the youth towards civil services. 

It is worth mentioning that ‘civil services’ is not just another job where one works for a private organization or for a person. Here, one works for public interest and social welfare. Therefore, the kind of job satisfaction a civil servant may derive merely by plain performance of his duty may not be available to even those billionaires who engage in social or voluntary work by spending from their own pocket.  

Agents of change

Destiny of the nation is, in a way, decided by the civil servants as the implementation of all developmental and other government policies rests with them. As said by Otto von Bismarck – “With bad laws and good civil servants it’s still possible to govern. But with bad civil servants even the best laws can’t help.

Vice-President of India recently observed that Government is working towards the emergence of an ecosystem that promotes a series of system solutions – ‘Minimum Government, Maximum Governance’; direct benefit transfer; Shift from Rule to Role; Citizen-Centricity; transparency and accountability in Public Service Delivery; and Civil Service is the considered as the fulcrum in effecting this change. Civil servants have a key role to play in achieving Viksit Bharat (विकसित भारत), which is the also the theme of this year’s Civil Service Day. This theme is a reflection of the Preamble of our Constitution that seeks to secure to all its citizens: JUSTICE; LIBERTY; EQUALITY and FRATERNITY. 

Values to be possessed by a Civil Servant

Merely chasing civil services for the awe and aura that is associated with it defeats the purpose which it is meant for. There has to be a sense of commitment towards helping people and addressing their problems. Therefore certain values like integrity, objectivity, non-partisanship, tolerance, compassion, dedication to public service, etc. are a pre-requisite in order to do justice to role of a civil servant. In this context Jawaharlal Nehru rightly said that the true test of a civil servant is not how much he knows, but how much he cares.” 

Addressing the valedictory function of the 97th Common Foundation Course at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, the President Droupadi Murmu said that good governance is the need of the hour. “Lack of good governance is the root of many of our social and economic problems. To understand the problems of the people, it is necessary to connect with the common people. Therefore, it is important for the officers to be humble and compassionate to connect with people. Only then they would be able to have conversations with them, understand their needs and work for their betterment.

7 principles of public life as given by Nolan Committee

Are you meant for it?

The selection process of UPSC is highly rigorous and daunting and only a handful is selected out lakhs of aspirants every year with selection rate less than 1 percent. Still, clearing the civil services exam is just a beginning and not the end. The road ahead will be waiting with various challenges like political pressure, work-life balance, accountability and scrutiny by the media and public, bureaucratic hurdles, red-tapism, high public expectations and emotional breakdowns. However, if one has a clear conscience and strong conviction as to serving public interest and working for a change in the society, every challenge can be dealt with as has been shown by various public servants through their illustrious careers. Civil servants like Anna Rajam Malhotra, T. N. Sheshan, Kiran Bedi, Ashok Khemka, P Narhari, Armstrong Pame, to name a few, have left an indelible mark through their strong commitment to public interest and public service values.

Therefore, if you dream of a career that offers you great power, authority and respect and at the same time enables you to bring a meaningful change to the society, then Civil Services is indeed is the right option for you. If you have the necessary grit to face the challenges involved during the preparation and after you join the service, and remain steadfast to your commitment of nation-building and ensuring social justice, the then Civil Services is indeed is the right option for you. If you have an incorruptible character and can maintain your integrity under the most testing times, the Civil Services is indeed is the right option for you.

In this endeavour of yours, ProdEgy IAS can play a key role by providing you expert guidance under the supervision of Ashutosh sir who is training civil service aspirants for more than a decade now and has helped many aspirants become officers.

Here’s a look at some civil servants who have set an example for others to follow:


T.N. Seshan

A 1955 batch IAS officer of the Tamil Nadu cadre, Tirunellai Narayana Iyer Seshan served as a senior bureaucrat in various capacities including as cabinet secretary of India in 1989 and earlier as the administrative head of Indian Space Research Organisation. It was, however, as the 10th chief election commissioner (CEC) form 1990, till 1996 that he got national and international acclaim.

He became best known for his electoral reforms. He redefined the status and visibility of the Election Commission of India. He identified more than hundred electoral malpractices and reformed the election process. Some of reforms he implemented include enforcement of election code of conductVoter IDs for all eligible voters, limit on election candidates’ expenditure, appointing election officials from states other than the one facing polls. He curbed several malpractices like bribing or intimidating voters, distribution of liquor during elections, use of government funds and machinery for campaigning, appealing to voters’ caste or communal feelings, use of places of worship for campaigns, use of loudspeakers and high volume music without prior written permission. 

He received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for government service in 1996

Armstrong Pame

Hailing from Manipur and being the first member of Nagaland’s Zeme tribe to become an IAS officer, he has earned the sobriquet ‘Miracle Man’ for creating a 100-kilometre road connecting Manipur to Nagaland and Assam in a remote part of the hills state of Manipur without any government assistance. He was struck by the condition of the people when he observed how they had to walk for five hours to reach Tamenglong, which was only 50 kilometres distant, after crossing a river and then a length that could hardly be considered a road.  

In August 2012, he initiated public participation to raise over Rs. 50 lakhs for this purpose through Facebook. People came forward and supported him in large numbers and gave shape to the “people’s road” which connects the hill to the rest of the state. The road, aptly named the “People’s Road,” has brought joy and transformation to the people of Tousem, Tamenglong district of Manipur providing them with a motorable route that connects them to the outside world. This “People’s Road” has now been declared as National Highway 137 by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways

Armstrong Pame is the recipient of Padma Shri, Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavana Award, India’s Distinguished IAS Officers Award and India’s Most Eminent IAS Officer Award.

P Narahari 

P Narahari is credited for making Indian infrastructure accessible to the disabled and working on open defection-free initiatives. He joined the Indian Administrative Service in 2001. During his 10-year stint from around 2007 to 2017 as a district collector in various districts across Madhya Pradesh, he constructed and advocated for a barrier-free environment that ensures that people with disabilities can move about safely and independently.  

He made Gwalior district 95% barrier-free in two years to help persons with disabilities, senior citizens, women easily access public space; thus making Gwalior an example for other cities in India

In Indore as District Collector he focused on health, education and Smart Cities Mission.  Indore also became the cleanest city in India under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan where Narahari played a key role. Narahari is credited for not only establishing Social Media wing in the Public Relations Department of Government but also making it a frequently-used tool for publicity of the government programs, policies and activities. He has got more than 45 awards for his excellent performance in his administrative career till now.

Kiran Bedi

Kiran Bedi became the first woman in India to join the officer ranks of the Indian Police Service (IPS) in 1972. She remained in service for 35 years before taking voluntary retirement in 2007 as Director General, Bureau of Police Research and Development.

She started her career as an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) in the Chanakyapuri area of Delhi, and won the President’s Police Medal in 1979. Next, she moved to West Delhi, where she brought about a reduction in crimes against women. Subsequently, as a traffic police officer, she oversaw traffic arrangements for the 1982 Asian Games in Delhi and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 1983 in Goa. As Deputy Commissioner of Police of North Delhi, she launched a campaign against drug abuse, which evolved into the Navjyoti Delhi Police Foundation (renamed to Navjyoti India Foundation in 2007).

In May 1993, Bedi was posted to the Delhi Prisons as Inspector General (IG). She introduced several reforms at Tihar Jail, which won her the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1994. In 2003, Bedi became the first Indian and first woman to be appointed head of the United Nations Police and Police Advisor in the United Nations Department of Peace Operations.

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