AT the Service of a Billion Plus is a recently published, very insightful and interesting book on Group ‘A’ Civil Services (CS), particularly for those contemplating entering these services. The book is a collection of 20 articles of retired officers from 19 services ranging from the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) to the Indian Corporate Law Service (ICLS). Shankarganesh Karuppiah, a serving Deputy Commissioner of Income Tax with economics background, has done a commendable work by editing this compilation. The uniqueness of the book lies in the fact that it will be very informative for the Indian citizen at large, on the broad role-cum-performance of the CS and their functioning milieu, outlined lucidly with a reasonable array of facts and figures, apart from short narratives on experiences of superannuated officers of the IAS and other CS.
The reviewer of the book, by virtue of his advisory work with the Union Public Service Commission post-retirement, has observed that many of the CS aspirants appear before the personality test boards of the Commission with fanciful ideas. Many of them only have the IAS, or the role of Collector, as mentioned by Dr G Sundaram (IAS,’62) (who has written in great detail on the IAS), as their beacon of attraction. Some of them are either disdainful or uninterested or plainly ignorant on the non-IAS CSs, and even the Indian Foreign Service, which once used to attract only the toppers.
The book will help correct the uninformed impression of the aspirants, their parents and well-wishers, and the public at large. After perusing the book, the readers would have a more realistic and holistic perception of the higher Indian bureaucracy and different CS officers who function within its fold on an entire range of developmental, non-developmental, operational and also regulatory activities within the framework of the Constitution, various statutes and rules concerned.
The message which the pieces in the book tend to convey is that no service is uninteresting or lacking in opportunities for self-improvement and scope to contribute to India’s growth story. Though there are variations in creature comforts for the officers, each service has a range of facilities and these have been growing. Most of the officers mention in their own way—variety in presentation of experience is another unique feature of the book—that each Service has its own dynamics.
There are some candid references by some officers on the vicissitudes they faced such as an adverse service grading (through the Annual Confidential Report) because of incompatibility with the superior’s unjustified views, corruption within the department or organisation they served in, staff agitations, etc. However, the system also has its redressal mechanism. The real issue is, as one of the contributors to the book ponders, whether those who have been selected, can intellectually and psychologically fit within the service they join.
The worth of the book lies in the transparent manner in which the functioning of the services has been presented by the contributors from the different CS. Given my interactions with senior and junior colleagues of different CS, I consider the presentations truthful and also inspiring. Opportunities in different CSs cannot be equal or similar. But they are unique in their own way. The book should thus enable prospective CS officers to face the future with a more realistic disposition.
The articles of Dr G Sundaram (IAS), Nalin Surie (IFS), Navdeep Suri (IFS), M Ravi (IPS), Dr G Alagarsamy (IPT&AFS), S Nagalaswamy (IA&AS), Dr Chittaranjan Satpathy (IRS–C&CE), Usha Anthony (IDAS), Vinita Chopra (IRS–IT), B Pugazhendhi (IOFS), Saravan Annemalai (IPoS), SM Kumar (ICAS), NM Madhusudan Rao (IRTS), PV Vaidialingam (IRAS), Pichai Rajan (IRPS), AG Sekaran (RPF), AP Frank Noronha (IIS), Agnewar Sen (ITS) and Arun Prasad Meganathan (ICLS) have undoubtedly enriched the book.
Gautam Sen (IDAS, 1976, Retd.) last served the Government of India as Additional Controller General of Defence Accounts, and later as Adviser (14th Finance Commission)