New IAS: Will They be Good Public Servants?

‘Outlook’ had published one wonderfully great analytical report ‘Backwoods Babus’ by Anjali Puri on the new breed of the babus (IAS). Increasingly, the new members of the IAS cadre are coming from the lower income group of the society and from smaller places- semi-urban towns and villages. Children of rickshaw-pullers, farmers, mill workers, and clerks are getting selected in the IAS. They may have better feel of the ‘aam aadami’. The trend may be a precursor of inclusive growth and equity. It raises some questions too. How will it affect the governance? Will it become more efficient and humane? It will be if the new generation has more of Sudha Devi, one of the officer who said, “My humble background makes me better able to understand and relate to people’s problems. When I see a farmer with grievances standing in front of me, I see my father.” Will their humble background change their attitude and make them work hard for the benefits of those who are underprivileged, needy or just like their parents, or over the time they shall also get distanced from the ‘aam aadami’ with many excuses, trained and transformed themselves into the typically snobbish babus with all the shortcomings for a desired efficient and people’s government?

Some of the information is disheartening. There are hardly few such as V. Anbukkumar who doesn’t go for coaching in metro. I feel bad when I read the story of the family of Govind Jaiswal, son of a father who used to pull rickshaw at one time. It had to sell land to finance coaching classes for Govind in Delhi. The loss of land and its memory may become the reason behind Govind getting into the business of money massing that the babus are charged with by the people. However, his refusal of Rs 4 crore as dowry is a good signal. I wish he kept himself away from these allurements. Unfortunately, many can’t.

I also feel bad when I read the success story of Muthyalaraju Revu, son of a farmer in Andhra for a different reason. Revu had already done his B Tech from Regional Engineering College, Warangal, and his Masters in Bangalore. Revu topped the list of 2006 batch. Perhaps, Revu could have done well in any career he would have chosen. With his brilliant academic record, he might have gone for teaching and research, and he could have succeeded like many others and left his mark in his area of specialization. I still remember Ramakrishna and Braj Bhushan Pandey from my batch of IIT joining teaching and doing extremely well. Many as engineers have succeeded much more than even the best of IAS. But I don’t know if Revu opted for IAS on his own or because of the pressure of the family. It is unfortunate that in many cases, the young men hardly get the right advice and information about different professions. But my main question here is different: Can’t the union public service examination be made such that coaching does not help? Coaching makes the real merit secondary. Coaching is costly too. It is difficult for a poor family to arrange money for that. Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge, no bank provides loan for coaching.

However, the perseverance of some of the candidates is exemplary. Sanjay Kumar Singh, son of the court clerk in Sasaram district of Bihar got in on his seventh attempt. “He switched from pre-engineering to the merchant navy to build up a bank balance, doing his BA by correspondence at the same time from the Indira Gandhi National Open University. Then, he gave up his $3,000 per month salary to join the IAS-coaching class in Delhi.” Perhaps he is a typical case of ‘perseverance pays’.

I really admire V. Anbukkumar, son of a retired police constable from the backward Vanniyar community, who had his schooling in village Chinnapalli Kuppam, Tamil Nadu got into the IAS on his 7th attempt. It is really great, as he didn’t take any private coaching. But can one think about the number of the candidates who would have been failing even after all the permissible attempts and after spending the family’s fortunes in coaching? What are their numbers? How do they go in the career? Should it not be researched?

Great is M. Sudha Devi, the daughter of a farmer from TamilNadu, who cleared at the first attempt. She had also gone for a coaching institute in Delhi. But she had a reason that is worth noticing. Married at an early age, Sudha had given up her studies. When the marriage broke up after four years, she finished her BA, and prepared for the civil services. Sudha is just exemplary for the girls next door everywhere.

Muhammed Qaiser Abdul Haque, 29, one of the eleven children of a former power loom worker, now grocer from the textile town of Malegaon, Maharashtra, is another success story that must be emulated by the youngsters. Under all odds, he did his Masters from Pune. Haque came to Delhi and managed to join a civil services study circle for backward and minority students at Hamdard University in Delhi. Is his determination and success not extraordinary?

IAS was and will remain star attraction as profession for many years to come with the type of halo and respect it has among the lower echelons of the society. If media helps with right perspectives about different professions, the professionals will stop preferring IAS.

Some good news are already there. “The impact of IT on civil services aspirants can clearly be seen in Bangalore where many coaching institutes had to be closed due to lack of candidates. There has been a 10 to 15 per cent fall in the number of candidates taking the exam from Karnataka in the last five years” a civil services trainer in Bangalore is reported to have said.

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