Ground Realities – Why IAS is Worth all the Sacrifices
Raju Mishra, IAS
I stand here today having served nearly a year in the challenging field, away from the comforts and care free life that LBSNAA provides. In contrast to the soothing views of the mountains one sees at 5am each day en route for morning PT in Mussoorie, in the field we are brought face to face with the so called problems that plague the system today. Instead of delivering power point presentations you are now to deliver public service and justice that is both swift and effective. I wish it was as simple in practice !
Sitting at the Administrative Training Institute, after hustle bustle of a nearly 7 month long BDOship which is probably one of the longest ever during probation, I reflect on that ever elusive question “Is it worth it ?” . A question one asks repeatedly during preparation while making numerous sacrifices, and one that we face so often after making it big in the mother of examinations .
Undoubtedly today the pressure on civil services is enormous, apart from the huge burden of expectations from public, we need to cater to the legitimate directions of the political executive, senior hierarchy as well as the judiciary . Three strong views have emerged from this year long field experience of mine :
Firstly , There are genuine legitimate needs of politicians in consonance with public good and it is due to this reason that they hold enormous powers under the constitution by the will of the people. They are in fact the ones who need to answer to the people every 5 years or even less through various elections. Their career hinges on delivery of service to their clientele, and they often have a better grab of the pulse of the people and ground situation . With the increased awareness and an informed citizenry, gone are the days where mere sloganeering could ensure votes. Another thing is their highly impressive oratory skills. It was this power of words with the crowd that put me in difficult situation once but at other occasions I realised they could communicate things in the most effective way to a gathering. Professional speaking is central to their job I guess.
Secondly, It is the most dangerous thing to just put an allegation without substantive proof . Often the corrupt, create channels for themselves using the ill gotten money or kind . In absence of facts , these charges maybe given various colours by them to put you on a back-foot . Once you call out their lie , they shall stoop to any level of personal, professional attack to discredit you so that no one shall listen to you .But once you have hard cold facts, nobody shall listen to them for you would have then discredited them . In fact all others shall run for cover. But to uncover these proofs a combination of freedom, time and support is needed. And by the grace of god I had all three . Well to give you an example, a ferry ghat under government was constantly being auctioned for fifty thousand -sixty thousand per year for the past 3 years by the previous people in my block . Upon looking into the papers a strange pattern evolved where some bidders approached court on some pretext or the other and were given extension each year for a nominal fee as stated above on the condition that they withdraw the case. I decided to go for open auction , essentially an open bid process where you quote a price in rounds, and once you pass you are out of the process. Just before the bid process, I was handed a court case . my first court case. Well to be honest yes I got a dry throat for I did not want my very first tender to be challenged. I had always had the inkling that something like this will be tried . It was a writ petition filed by a lawyer on behalf of the bidder who had won the bid for the previous year i.e. 2016. It was not a court order , I explained to my perplexed staff and asked them to continue with the process . The final auction price reached upto Rs.19.01 lakhs , the second bid stood at approx. Rs.17 lakh and third one at Rs. 14 lakh from what I recall . It is anybody’s guess where the rest of the money was flowing all these years . Even the senior executive people in the district questioned such low returns for the government in previous years . Let me assure you I faced multiple court cases for this auction , some applications to cancel the process based on lies , and some complaints were made as well against me. Thankfully the DM and Zilla Parishad stood by my decision firmly. A big lesson learnt was the entire process of handling writ petitions and more importantly the need to keep seniors in loop an have their trust through your work.
The money so earned was used to install sanitary pad machines in all high schools in my block . A batchmate of mine had a harrowing time trying to procure sanitary pads in one of the biggest towns in the state and as she described it “ the shopkeeper looked at me as if I had asked for his kidney “. This very small encounter brought forth the huge asymmetry of knowledge that exists in the society today. Menstrual health remains a taboo topic and this affects the health of adolescent girls . The machines thus installed gave them the privacy , availability at affordable prices and above all remove the shame one had to face while going to over the counter shop. These machines were officially launched on Women’s Day this year, and the smile I saw on the faces of some of these young girls who welcomed me to the biggest school in my block for the inauguration, made all those sleepless nights, tension, pressure, allegations and answers all worth it !
It was amidst this and so many other enquiries, files opened, problems weeded out and a structure installed in place to not let the weeds grow again that I realised the third important lesson . The misnomer of government servants being inefficient and unwilling to work. In my tenure we did a lot of work together . We were given such strict deadlines and if I could do any work it was due to the undying spirit of most of my staff who responded to my call at 5 am in the morning and some who stayed behind each day till the time I left office. Yes there are a few and shall always be who bring a bad name to the class, and sadly they are the ones focused on , captured and put up repeatedly in public domain. Bureaucratic and red tapes are heard often, but hardly shall you come across the term under staffed. In the government there are schemes to be implemented on an everyday basis starting from the birth of a child to the end of the life cycle , but their delivery is done inspite and despite of the infrastructure and not because of it in many cases. It is due to the indomitable spirit of motivated individuals. I do not say that there aren’t any issues or vices. They are very much present like any other sector but at the same time a motivated individual can bring a world of change amidst all the constraints and cesspools! My DM for instance has launched a program to survey the disabled in the district and ensure medical camps in each block on designated so that they don’t have to travel far for this important document along with provision of necessary medical aid . This may seem like an small thing , but imagine a disabled women who cannot walk , and has to travel kms to reach the sub-division/district hospital from her village first to get appointment/form, then again for the checkup and then once again for the medical aids. The harassment along with monetary and physical support may not be possible for her . In many cases they are not aware of these facilities and reservations . Add to it the fact that all included the expense to get a certificate with all the grease money can be between 4k-5 . Such initiatives are undertaken each day by thousands of civil servants across our country. Not all maybe highlighted, not all may get an award from dignitaries but these are the ones that give meaning to the word civil service. My simple point being you shall get enough opportunity to make a change , a difference and impact the lives of the people which I hope is the biggest motivation to join the job.
As for my DM he is a Presidential awardee for Elections this year and he actualized the words that live a life of integrity and dignity and sleep peacefully at night . His simplicity of lifestyle reminded me of a batchmate of mine who I considered philosophically Buddha !
My probation period seems to have passed off in a daze . Probably because good times always zoom past and go away faster . I had my fair share of very strenuous night , I remember calling on my DM at 9pm at his Bungalow heavily traumatized by this ghat experience and him saying its all going to be okay. In the end it was. Repeated calls and pressure to have me removed from my independent post by various quarters did test my limits. Thankfully in the end I came out unscathed and vindicated. But through all the ups and downs of the sine-wave of my short career till now, it was a great learning experience .
They say you remember the bad times and bad things about people more than the good stuff. I somehow today have the faces of the people in whose lives I could make a small difference. Be it those school girls, or that old man whose daughter suffered from cancer and I could ensure a pension for him or that disabled lady with no eyes for whom a house was provided. There were times a thought came by why go through all this , isn’t it better to just finish my training asap and get out , follow the principle “be and let be “! And then a memory flashed back when I was in college, all set to prepare for IAS and was watching the movie “Shanghai” in a movie hall with close friends and one of them asked “Kya tum bhi file band kar doge pressure aane pe ?“
“Bilkul nahi “ I had said then and it was time to follow my words and hope to do so again in the future when the time comes !
In a nutshell , with all the constraints and pressures and problems and more problems, I still firmly believe life in the civil services still has a lot to offer. These lines were true for me during my preparation days as they are now and hope it helps
आग्नेय परीक्षा की इस घड़ी में— आइए, अर्जुन की तरह उद्घोष करें : ‘‘न दैन्यं न पलायनम्।’’
P.S. Due to my work I haven’t been regular with replying to emails . Hope to be more regular in the coming weeks . Email firstname.lastname@example.org for any queries .