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Dreams have Wings!

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Fervent desires most often have wings that make one soar higher and higher to achieve those goals and aspirations. Wings that is so strong that they can withstand the hardship of years of struggle and sacrifices. Family, friends and well-wishers usually provide the wind beneath these strong wings with their unwavering support...

The All India Civil Services are made of such fervent desires and dreams. Lakhs of students and professionals from all over India toil away year after year hoping to crack it. Some lucky ones make it in a year or two and some take up to 4 years or even more to appear in the final list. But they make it nonetheless with their sheer hard work, immense patience and dogged determination.

However, what is interesting to note from the results in the recent years is that joining the Civil Services is pre-dominantly a middle class dream nurtured by students from small towns, tehsils, under-privileged backgrounds, economically backward areas, vernacular mediums etc. Their counterparts in the metros are, meanwhile, aspiring for MBAs from IIMs or foreign B-schools and a whole new breed of professions. The students from metro cities also seem to be losing their interest and charm for the Civil Services. While lack of fluency in English can be a serious deterrent in other professions in an increasingly globalized world, in the Civil Services, one’s vernacular medium of instruction could be a plus point. Joining the Services is a definite way by which these talented boys and girls can leapfrog onto a path of development, leaving their middle class backgrounds far behind. This is one career which can give unbridled power to a 25 year old as a District Magistrate or Collector. 

IAS and IPS is that privileged service that one can not be fired from unless the termination letter has the signature of the President of India on it. No other career in India can give you this kind of power, privileges, perks and exposure as the Civil Services. The power and the size of their jurisdiction make them almost like kings or feudal lords within our democratic system. The flashing red lights of their pilot cars, the cavalcade, the security around these officers, the pretty sprawling DM’s bungalows in the best locations of a district headquarter, the battalion of people to serve them, are the images most people associate with these Civil Servants. They are the images youngsters from small towns dream of and aspire to be part of. They also realize early on that the role these officers play in the development of the country is phenomenal. 

Though a few stories of the underdogs make it to the headlines every year, what is otherwise extremely heart-warming to observe is that age old caste and class divides are melting away in the face of single minded determination of our talented and meritorious average middle-class, small town students. We see more and more middle class families erupting in joy as its dream of having a member in the Civil Services come true. Even though India is divided over 27 percent quotas for OBCs in higher educational institutions, this year’s successes have shown that students from underprivileged backgrounds can make it too given half a chance. It almost reads like a remarkable coming of age story of modern day India, in which hundreds of men and women have beaten the odds to make it to the country’s most privileged professions. 

However, it was not always so. It was once the bastion of the elite, the educated and the super-privileged. Indian Civil Service (ICS) was a competitive examination instituted in 1861, for the recruitment of officers to help the British Empire run the country, considered to be their crowning glory. Earlier than that there was an examination meant for only British and European candidates to help the affairs of East India Company. Indians were thought to be fit only for lowly jobs. But things turned around in the year 1857. The need for a team of well trained and efficient officers was felt more than ever. Thus a competitive examination for civil services was instituted in 1861. But recruitment rules were made very strict. The entry age was 21 and later on it was reduced to a ludicrous 19 years. To top it, the location of examination was London. This restriction made it almost impossible for Indians to appear for this “public” examination! Over the years, the British realized their mistake and the rules were liberalized regarding the age. The ratio of officers of Indian Origin which was very less and increased to 33% in 1923 and to 75% by 1935. Indian police, medical, forest, irrigation services etc. came under the purview of Indian Civil Service. ICS posts were the dreams for the educated elite, as the prestige, salary and perks were very high in ICS. Anando ram Barooah was the first Assamese to be selected for ICS. Examinations too later started to be conducted in India paving the path for hundreds of our educated youth to join it. 

After Independence, ICS made way for Indian Administrative Service (IAS). The examination to get into the Indian Civil Services is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission stationed in Delhi. This august body arranges numerous examinations for different posts in administration to run the affairs of the land efficiently. 

 

Every year we see, thousands of under graduates, graduates and post graduates move out of Assam and flock to Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune etc. heading towards higher studies, city exposure and better career opportunities. And not surprisingly, a sizeable portion of those students nurture in their hearts the dream of becoming a Civil Servant. In Delhi especially, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Delhi University provide all the right ingredients for these aspirants. Whether it is books, coaching material, coaching institutes, the sights and sounds of fellow civil servant aspirants etc., its all around almost like a sub culture. While some students enjoy life to the hilt (after all, isn’t this the age to enjoy life?), you see this other group of students slogging away in their hostel rooms; their lives put on hold at the altar of civil services. From personal experience, I know for a fact, that most of these civil servant aspirants were not exactly flush with pocket money to enjoy the good life in Delhi.   

 

This year, eleven candidates from Assam have cleared the Civil Service Examination, 2008 conducted by the Union Public Service Commission, Govt. of India. The Commission has already announced the results of the examination in early May. They are Varnali Deka, Ashiq-uj-Jaman, Biswajit Pegu, Prakash Borgohain, Pritom Dutta, Shiladitya Chetia, Padmapani Bora, Pallavika Dutta,, Rakesh Pandey, Montu Kumar Das, Sankar Prasad Sarma. Out of these 11 successful candidates from Assam, 5 are from JNU. They are Biswajit, Pritom, Shiladitya, Padmapani and Pallavika. 

 

We offer our heartiest congratulations to all of them. Posoowa Delhi Bureau is very pleased to interact with some of the success stories in Civil Services from Assam. In this issue we are carrying interviews of Padmapani Bora and Nabanita Chakrabarti and we promise to bring you more such stories in our future editions. We believe that with more and more of our youth getting into the Civil Services with their idealism and zeal, it is one sure shot way of ensuring progress and development of Assam. Though we understand that candidates can only state their preferences and getting home cadre is not in their hands... However, we still see them as harbingers of hope! 

 

Barnali Das
Delhi