Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Life as an honest IAS Officer

1. Don’t want to do self boast “by name”.
2. Can’t criticize the system and IAS (for wrong things) openly, myself being a part of govt.
Will also try to compare with other jobs, esp other govt services.
I have done more than a decade into the field (i.e. DM, Commissioner, etc) are reasonably good posts, though not best ones. My answer is for the most powerful position enjoyed by us i.e. DM. When you become secretary, you are just like any other govt servant in state capital or Delhi. No one will recognize you there. On an average statistics are like this.
1. More than one week leave- only once for my marriage.
2. One week leave- only once. To go for family trip on LTC. (Could not avail two LTCs due to work, so was determined to go this time. This time also called on penultimate day to join back for some urgent issue).
3. Out of 52 Sundays per year, zero work Sundays are around 5 to 10. Saturdays, despite being holidays are usually working. Field officers usually do most of the work on holidays because on that day less no of visitors and phone calls disturb thinking process. All judgments, complicated files are usually cleared only on holidays or after 10pm.
4. Usual working hours are 9.30 am to 9 or 10pm. In situations like disasters, elections, major events, etc usual working hours are 8 am to midnight. I personally remember having worked upto 2 or 3am in the morning for at least 50 times. Then I also remember having worked for 36 hours at a stretch with only 1-2 hour break for 5-6 times. Mostly elections and disasters. Once for “non emergency” i.e. clearing 1100 certificates of candidates who were interested in filing nominations for gram panchayat elections. All DMs could have easily said that applications filed only 24 hours ago need not be disposed as officially we have 15 days to take decision. But I remember that then almost all DMs in my state didn’t sleep to ensure that these are disposed off.
5. During slow emergencies/crisis like drought and organizing major events (unlike say earthquake or floods), for months together, I have consistently clocked more than 100 hours a week. 70-75 hours a week is a norm during routine days. (Mind well, things are worse for CMs and senior ministers).
6. All DMs and Commissioners of major places “normally” clear files past midnight, many a times upto 2am, as a matter of routine. At small places, one can go to bed by 10 or 11 pm.
7. Even secretaries and chief secretary usually sit till late night because it is not possible to work during daytime due to visitors and other meetings, etc.
8. Now coming to facilities, the only facility which stands out is really good house. But that is enjoyed by family and not by IAS officer who goes there only to sleep. About vehicle, IAS officers (and any officer for that matter) are not allowed to use official vehicle for personal or family use. Some states allow so at payment. I am paying around Rs. 1000-1500 per month in govt treasury for family use that happens in my case. (I had asked school auto rickshaw for my son but my ADM told me that this will create “uncalled for news” and suggested this “official way out”). Btw, why single out IAS officer for this misuse? It is maximum in uniformed forces followed closely by PSUs and IAS.
9. Free phone facility depends upon post and state. In one state, DMs are entitled for only Rs 2000 per month for residential landline plus residential internet plus mobile. So around 20% DMs in such case quietly pay around Rs. 1000-2000 per month from their pocket. Others tell their subordinates to bear these expenses unofficially (You know what I mean). All states have some upper limit on bills. Handsets: in some states govt provides, in other officer has to purchase himself. Btw, almost all phone calls done by us are official. Don’t have time for chatting on personal matters. Not even with spouse or kids. My son has learnt to send me a recorded voice on whatsapp at the age of 5. Usually it is a request to come home early which he sends as feels sleepy. He knows I don’t speak much on phone.
10. Cable wallas usually don’t take monthly rent if you are DM. But around 10% DMs still pay. Again, most of us have shifted to sky TVs and this option is not there. Many of us infact don’t watch TV. Really. Electricity bills: Those posts with camp offices (like DM) have two meters. One is paid by office. Another should be paid by officer and many a times is paid by his subordinate (unofficially). Sometimes a trick is made by which most of the load is shifted to office meter. And electrical engineers themselves will give you this idea.
11. Around 30% DMs get their household things like vegetables, milk, etc. Rest pay. (For such courtesy’s, add 20% for states north of Vindhyas and deduct 10% for south of Vindhyas).
12. Restaurant and cinema hall owners usually refuse to take payment. But this is usually 2-3 times in a year luxury.
13. Body guard is there when you are DM, Divisional Commissioner and Chief Secretary. That is around 5 to 6 years in your career. Rest of the time, no such facility even if you are equally vulnerable.
14. Most of the states officially allow 2 to 4 class 4 employees at residence. Few states don’t allow this. Even in these states, some class 4 employees are posted at home “unofficially”. But this is a huge risk these days due to video cameras, etc. Again armed forces, IPS, judiciary, railways, PSUs have these facilities institutionalized in far better way than IAS.
15. When you are secretary to govt, you reside in big 3 BHK flat in posh locality of state capital usually near secretariat. All other perks and facilities are gone. You get your maid, you go to bazaar like normal person, can go to restaurants/movies without being watched by press and people and that’s actually a good return to being a normal human being.
16. About hobbies, many of us are voracious readers. Many don’t read at all. I am moderate one who reads when travelling, otherwise not. Usually we are like anyone of you on quora. Like movies, trekking and what not. I have typically noticed that many don’t like TV though. Around 40% go for regular sports. This is yet another perk in IAS since in most of the cities you get easy membership in best club. However all is not free. I know one secretary rank officer who didn’t want to spend Rs 12k per year for availing club facility as his son was in higher studies and he wanted to save money. He would do morning walk on roads like any other middle class person. In many cities like Delhi or Mumbai, even these perks are not easy now. Also, some good singers or painters or writers are there in IAS. Remember English August?
17. Coming to official work, I would request corporate honchos or MBAs or technocrats on quora to imagine if they are reporting to Lalu or Mulayam or Mayawati and still work without breaking the rule. These kinds of characters are usually in all districts from MLAs upward. Usually all ministers are unreasonable. However must say that all senior ministers (like in top 2 to 5 in the state including CMs), most of the times are reasonable and won’t bother you if they know that you won’t do anything illegal.
18. Then also imagine when you have to deal with subordinates whom you can’t select/recruit/transfer/punish (all state service officers). Just imagine this in private sector. In few states, DMs can’t even transfer or punish even class 3 person.
19. Salary of young IAS officer SDM is upto Rs. 40k and most DMs get Rs. 50-65k per month. That’s simply not enough in present times. We have our aspirations and do feel like going once in a while to say Dubai or Singapore or to some resort in Kerala. Our wives and kids do feel like going to 5 star hotel or resorts. It is not possible for us for the reason of time and money both. It does feel bad when you see your wife (who must have had other ideas when marrying) walking past windows in malls and selecting which is in “our budget”. When travelling, many like me are bag packers and usually manage with govt rest houses, which usually has no room service and simple room for private purpose can cost from Rs 500 to 1500 per day. Just imagine, govt guideline for giving LIG house states upper limit of monthly income at Rs 50k per month, which is more than juniormost IAS officer’s salary handling small district or a subdivision. 
20. To add further, seniormost officer of the country, cabinet secretary gets Rs 90k basic (around Rs 1.7 lakh pm) for being right hand man of the PM. Chief Secretaries and Secretaries to Govt of India gets Rs 80k basic (around Rs 1.6 lakh pm). I sincerely feel this is paltry compared to the responsibilities entrusted on them. Btw, almost all district judges, senior professors and of course all VCs and HC/SC judges get far better salaries compared to these heads at state and centre. DGP and PCCF gets equal to Chief Secretary but they are head of one dept each and CS is head of all departments including police and forest. So why this logic of pay parity? Ever imagined concept of pay parity between Mukesh Ambani and all directors/VPs of Reliance?
21. At district level, SSPs and all dist heads get equal to DM. (same pay parity concept). Taluka level judges get more. Almost all engineers, doctors, college teachers/professors get far more for far less no of working hours and stress. Armed forces get equal or more for the same seniority. Colonels get more salary than DMs. And lesser said about facilities better. But with all due respect, ask them how many hours of stress and work they do. Ask them to report to Madhu Koda and then show performance after following his instructions.
22. I request readers not to talk about corruption. This is irrelevant for this topic. Corruption is there in all fields including private sector. In fact, maximum booty of corruption in govt goes to politicians and private parties and govt officers get lesser share. Percentage of corrupt IAS officers vary statewise but I can say around 10% are extremely corrupt looking for money in each and every file and all these facilities/perks really don’t matter to them. They make a tens of crores every year. Other 20-40% are moderately corrupt with rates fixed for certain types of works (like layout approvals). They also make a few crore rupees every year. Next 20-40% are less corrupt as they take money if offered otherwise don’t really harass if bribe not paid. Usually builders, industrialists, etc do offer rather than not as a matter of routine. Others don’t offer as a matter of routine. Another 10% (i.e. total upto 90%) will accept freebies like free cinema ticket, free dining, free vehicle to go somewhere, free hotel stay, etc. Remaining 10% are extremely honest and I have seen at least 10 officers travelling in state transport bus or sleeper coach of train (for personal travel) to save money. (10 is a big no in one state with 200 IAS officers).
23. IAS usually enjoys more public attention including media coverage. This was an advantage over other services but these days media usually focuses on non issues and makes IAS officers in all districts villain for which he is not at fault or even when there is nothing wrong. False and defamatory news items are routine now.
24. After these many years, I have saving not more than Rs 10 lakh. No house or plot as yet. There are many like me. We can’t purchase a plot or flat in state capital at current salaries. And after spending 30 years in state capitals can’t really think of going back to hinterland. That is why in most states, govt was providing houses at very cheap cost by way of societies. But now that has also stopped after Adarsha scam. If there is one worry in my life, it is this one. How do I purchase a plot/flat?
25. All these concerns apply if you are straightforward. But then I can confidently state that in terms of percentage of honest officers, IAS ranks just below armed forces and higher judiciary and way above all other services including IPS, IRS, PSUs, engineering services, lower judiciary and of course politicians.
26. About so called perceived work load on other services vis-à-vis IAS, just let me tell you some figures. Typically police is seen as very stressful service. Take the example of Mumbai or any metro. No of IPS officers doing city policing is more than 50. No of IRS officers in metros varies from around 150 in Chennai to 400 in Mumbai. Mumbai has 12 CCITs (equivalent to Chief Secretary of the state). Mumbai suburban is overseen by 100s of IRTS/IRES/IRPS/etc officers. Compare this with around 10 IAS officers in BMC and Collectorate combined who looks after all other aspects except these. From hospitals, schools, roads, buses, electricity distribution, crematoria, slaughter houses, water supply, street lights, building permissions, land use, town planning, encroachment removal, slum rehabilitation and what not. Or compare SSP handling one dept with focused work with DM looking after 30 departments including police, few of the departments being much larger than police force. Still you feel, IAS is all luxury and no work?
27. Try getting an appointment of Judge of High Court, Lt Gen of Armed forces, GM railways, CP of Mumbai/Delhi and Commissioner of BMC or Secretary of dept for any complaint and tell me who is more accessible and responsive. Try this at all levels in any state/city, btw. Though I must admit that this edge which we typically had in earlier days is being lost fast or probably lost. Still I maintain, IAS is only slightly better than other services.
28. Those of you still thinking why have a generalist service, try observing any election or response to disaster or management of any event by any IAS officer. And think if this is really a generalized job or specialized one. Indeed to be a good generalist is most difficult specialization one can achieve. Also try to interact with any secretary to Govt of India and tell me if you feel that his knowledge in that subject is less than what is required to guide the officers in the field. Just compare for example, performance of govt in management of commonwealth games in New Delhi before and after IAS officers were given charge of the situation. IAS officers were brought in for last few weeks, btw. Or see the state of affairs of those departments which are purely headed by experts of those fields. Like Universities or PWD and Irrigation dept in few states. Or compare performance of countrywide work of census or national population register or socio economic survey (headed by an IAS officer) with Aadhar card distribution (earlier headed by Mr Nandan Nilekani) with exactly same machinery down below. Also compare the money spent on these exercises so far. Still you want all lateral entries? (Btw, all is not well in IAS also and there are very incompetent officers but I repeat their proportion is much less. Also I am in favour of lateral entry but on merit and not lobbying as is happening now).
29. So why still I am in IAS? Or why still IAS is preferred over all other services and even armed forces. Only one answer is sense of satisfaction. (Yes, opportunities of corruption are also high but IRS has more, IPS almost at par, other services less). But this service is unparalleled and the happiness it brings to you is much more than all these things. Happiness of connecting a village by road or providing water to some hamlet or conducting smooth elections or providing relief in disasters in unparalleled. No other job provides you an opportunity to work for mankind from his birth (rather before than even birth- remember ANC care) upto his death, touching each and every aspect of his life. Only if you become senior minister or CM, you may do more but then it is not possible for everyone. I can’t explain you happiness when a poor villager bring few kg of vegetables from his farm for having done small work or just out of affection. I can’t describe the happiness when villagers eagerly wait for their DM to share their problems whenever he is on tour. My wife constantly reminds me never to indulge in corruption so that we can held our heads high. She is ok with less money and and not so ok with less time I give to her. At times, I can’t speak to my son for days together due to odd hours of my work. Still, I have no intention whatsoever to leave this job. May be I will try for foreign assignment in UN, etc to get some more white money and will seek a side post for few years to give more time to myself and family. But leaving this job? No way.
(Sorry for long answer. Thanks for patient reading. All comments welcome. But I may not respond quickly. Abuses- I don’t care. We are used to and immune to them. It only shows culture in which abuser is brought up.)
Thanks for tremendous response. 1.2k upvotes in 18 hours is something (I enjoy such joys of appreciation from public... Now you know what I mean).
1. And yes. How did I forget those amber/red beacons? The fact remains that these beacons and huge huge colonial bungalows in my city DID inspire me to take up this job. However in many states posts other than DM and Secretaries now can't use these beacons. And after a while, an officer also is get so used to it that it loses its charm. I used it as it came as a matter of right. However many a times I would remove it when I wanted to do say inspections or make my visit bit away from media glaze. Firstly, you can't do inspections etc in media glare. These needs to be done at peace, esp if application of mind is there. Secondly, if you scold your subordinates during inspections (usually happens with me), it becomes a big headline next day. DM saab ki phatkaar and all that stuff. This has sometimes counter effect on morale. Daat phatkaar is better kept within four walls. Govt is a family and family matters (not corruption etc, btw) should remain within family. Btw, the very fact that I forgot to mention beacon in my original answer means I have stopped thinking about it. Isn't it!
Secondly, it is necessary in my opinion to have these symbols of power. Beacons, gun totting guard, big bungalows, etc for posts like DM or Commissioner or police officers. Just one example. On 4 occasions, I have faced crowd of 1000+ agitating and emotionally charged men about to do rioting. And all the times, I was successful in persuading them not to do so with handful of police with me. Under these circumstances, what matters is the crowd mentality. Because of these symbols of powers, they know that they are talking to or are being persuaded by someone "big" and "powerful". It is simply not possible to convince these mobs if DM is seen "just like any other person". This also applies to police, magistrates, ministers, etc. Many such examples can be given, apart from law and order. Getting a clear right of way is just one reason. For the record, Indian police can control larger crowd per policeman compared to all western countries and lot of this is because of these symbols of power. Otherwise how do you reason out how could handful of Britishers (few thousand only) controlled this subcontinent with vice like grip? One thing sure. I was attracted towards this service because of these symbols of power and opulent life styles as perceived by others. Social service factor was around 20%. I would not have been an IAS officer if these symbols never existed. Now it is reversed. Social service factor is most important and feeling of being powerful matters less. So if you remove these symbols, UPSC will surely go down in preference as career. It already has gone down in last two decades. IITs, IIMs have gone ahead. Do you want it to go down further? UPSC won't attract merit otherwise.
2. I also forgot to mention about kinds of stress and mental strain. (Again it means I am used to it as a part of life.) Everyday I meet at least one and at times numerous morchas and aggressive groups demanding anything and everything. For example, a small incidence suspending an employee can take communal/caste colour in no time; usually such erring persons do everything possible to give these colours. Many a times they are aggressive physically. I know names of more than 10 IAS (yes IAS) officers who were beaten up by such mobs and in some cases their faces blackened. Then few others have false cases of molestation and atrocities lodged against them. These tactics are used by "lower level politicians". Senior politicians ensure some departmental enquiry or at times frivolous police cases. (Many well known cases are frivolous and malicious). Know a few cases where IAS officer was hiding to avoid getting arrested. I am told that around one third of IAS officers in Maharashtra has frivolous cases lodged against them, so they are demanding changes in CrPC for protection- esp in sec 156(3). (Someone can cross check). Daily pressures from top to do certain things in certain ways also takes mental toll on you.
3. Lastly, these days newspapers and media channels usually show false news than true ones. Every day every newspaper will have some factually wrong news. Like a photograph of some other place's roads to show bad condition of roads in other locality. Or demand for enquiry in innocuous matter by some social activist. (They are there in every nook and corner). I remember that in probation first such bogus news made me very upset. I have seen good officers on posts which are not as public oriented (like professors) losing their sleep over such allegations. We face it everyday.... at all levels. But there is only one answer- Just remain answerable to your own conscious and nothing really matters later on. We are three IAS officers at this place and one of them has stopped reading newspapers. This is his style to avoid such stress. I usually glance through it casually and the next moment consider it as "raddi". I also get lot of positive coverage btw. Infact lot of extremely good officers take extra precaution to ensure positive media coverage. Very small percentage also give regular or occasional gifts to reporters. But since I know what these media houses are made up of, these positive news items don't really give that much joy which they otherwise should. What gives you joy is what I am feeling after your response. And this keeps us going.


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