Civil Services (IAS, IPS, etc) as a career

Before I delve into this topic, let me tell you why I think I have the authority to write such an article. I have had this dream to join Indian Civil Services from my childhood. Parents, movies like Tejaswini IPS, red beacon cars, etc attracted me towards this career. During under graduation and later, I really understood the power of IAS (Indian Administrative Service) and IPS (Indian Police Service) officers in this country to bring about a positive change. I tried my best over a period of 6 years to become an IAS officer but did not succeed. In 2011, I did clear the examination but could not get IAS and other services were not in my preference list. I did not even mark IPS as my preference. So I was considered as Limited Service Preference (LSP) candidate. That is something I will discuss while criticizing UPSC (Union Public Service Commission), the body that conducts the Civil Services Examination and gives India its top level bureaucrats and the Ministry of Personnel which is responsible for service related matters of these bureaucrats. I have also been close to some officers including my father-in-law who retired as an IAS officer and hence this authority to write this article.

If red beacon is what interests you, then let me warn you that States like Karnataka have banned officers from using red beacon cars after a high court judgement 🙂 Only cabinet ministers and High court judges can use them. I do not understand why Judges need red beacons 🙂 Maybe because it was their judgement and so they thought they must add themselves.

If you are intending to draw a starting salary of more than 1 lakh rupees per month i.e (around 13 lakh CTC), then Civil Services is not for you. In terms of salary provided in cash, civil services may never be able to match the private sector because of the certain principles on which civil services is based. You may want to find out how much salary you will given during Probation which lasts for about 1 year after you join the training and then the different grades of salary until your retirement. You must look for these salaries according to the Seventh Pay Commission which is the most recent one. You can check this link  though I may not vouch for the veracity of the same.

But in terms of benefits, these services are superior to those of the private sector. Lavish bungalows with gardens in heart of city, servants, vehicle, driver, electricity and telephone bills, children education, subsidized land costs, etc are something unique for these services.

Now. let us focus on the reasons why you must consider civil services as a career. I told you briefly that with these services, you get power to bring about a positive change in the country. Watch the video below to see an IAS officer in action. She is the District Commissioner of a District who is virtually the King or Queen of the district.

These videos may be more than enough a reason for you to think of writing and clearing this civil services examination and contributing to the development of our country on a paid basis.

Civil services due to its century old culture has become a way of life and I would like to call it as a full time paid social service.

Other than this positive feeling of satisfaction that you derive by doing something good on a large scale that has national and international impact, job variability is also another feature particularly that of IAS. You can be a district commissioner, commissioner of your muncipal corporation, MD of Air India, MD of BSNL, etc. During the entire span of career of an IAS officer, he or she will be posted to multiple departments. Such job variability with continued salary is not present in any other job in the world.

I will be guiding through some free videos and articles on how to crack the Civil Services Examination. Follow this blog regularly for new posts.


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Inducing moral courage in students at the school

Moral courage is the courage to take action for moral reasons despite the risk of adverse consequences. To understand this definition better, we first need to understand the meaning of “What is moral?”. In general, a moral is a message conveyed or a lesson to be learned from a story or event. For example, we are always being told the story of Satya Harishchandra to convey the importance of truthfulness. Morality is the differentiation of things and actions that are distinguished as proper and those that are improper. Should we always speak the truth? Should we place ‘money’ above everything else? Should we respect elders irrespective of their wealth and educational qualification? : these are the questions that morals help us to answer.

When we are born, we come into this world as ‘blank slates’ without knowing what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. This, we term the child innocence but as we grow, we learn from others. This process is known as socialization – the things that we learn from society. Immediate society is your family, then comes the school with your friends and teachers and later on in your life, it is the work place from where you learn many aspects of life.  In the 21st century, family has ‘outsourced’ most of its teaching process to schools and thus the role of schools becomes very important in creating a personality out of this ‘innocent child’.

Unfortunately, school education concentrates more on the ‘syllabus’ and ‘grades’ which in reality should have been the means to a goal – personality development. The means have become ends in themselves. As far as I remember, the school boards felt the need and introduced ‘moral science’ as a subject. But, we read this also just like any other subject, memorizing and reproducing answers in the examinations without understanding the morals effectively. Not everything can be taught according to ‘syllabus’ and as a subject. Schools must set apart sometime everyday to help students understand and develop their personality.

Moral courage is an important aspect on ones’ personality. We always hear people saying ‘Today’s children are tomorrow’s citizens’ but I doubt that our schools, colleges and education system are producing engineer, doctors, clerks, etc rather than good citizens and human beings. Schools must think ‘out of syllabus’ and introduce students to our ancient culture. One can appreciate how smart our ancestors were when we read something like ‘In the abundance of water, the fool is always thirsty’ in Rig Veda. There are beautiful stories in the Buddhist Jataka tales that will help students to understand morals. We must also introduce to the students, the great thoughts and quotations of our leaders. For example, Mahatma Gandhiji said ‘There is enough on this earth to satisfy everyone’s needs but not to satisfy human greed’. Dr. S. Radhakrishnan in a farewell speech told his students “Do not lose the foothold on earth while sweeping the skies’.

Teaching morality to students is one thing and practicing it is another. Both teaching and practicing must feed into each other if it has to make an impact on the student and his or her personality.  Moral behavior of students must be consistently rewarded and immoral behavior must be discouraged. To save a friend, one need not tell a lie to teacher. To help a friend to pass the examination, one need not allow the friend to copy. These are morals which must be introduced and imbibed in the students creatively and not through ‘rules’ and ‘stick’. Punishment only makes students to use more immoral means to achieve their ends. A teacher must act as a friend and philosopher and help the student to identify what is right and what is wrong. However, a line of caution here! There is a thin line between ‘teaching’ and ‘indoctrination’ and the teachers must be conscious enough not to project their thoughts and ideals on students.

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Delhi’s even odd scheme

The problem I find with Aam Aadmi Party and its prominent face Arvind Kejriwal is that their goals or intentions are good beyond doubt but the way they approach to reach these goals is definitely not the best. Be it corruption or pollution, they start with a  lot of pessimism. In fact, Kejriwal’s tone of voice is also a kind of crying tone. “Sab mile hue hain ji”, “Pradhan mantriji, hame Delhi chalane dijiye” and so on. I do not intend to use this blog entry solely for AAP criticism because I have written good things about them too and also spent hours in Delhi’s Ram Leela Maidan. I am giving this explanation lest Mr. Kejriwal makes me also a part of ‘B-team’ of BJP.

The even odd scheme which is being implemented in Delhi from today is the most foolish scheme ever envisaged by any legislature. De Lolme once said that “The British Parliament can do everything except make a woman a man and man a woman”.AAP wants to prove this statement right for Delhi legislature. A benevolent dictator can have good intentions but the means he or she uses are far from benevolent. That is the reason, things take time to change. Human beings cannot be programmed instantly to change their behaviour. There is a complex relationship among individual, society and other societal institutions. Mr. Kejriwal is not the first person who has wanted change in our country. There are people like Dr. Ambedkar, Vinoba Bhave who dreamt of a country free from some ills that plague us since time immemorial. They did not use any coercive measures. They were not perfectly successful either but that does not mean that we must stop attempting the creative ways they used. We need  more such people.

According to even odd scheme, vehicles with even registration numbers and odd registration numbers will ply on Delhi roads on alternate days. So I will curse myself for having a odd numbered vehicle on a particular day. I will do so even if I possess an even numbered vehicle on some other day. This scheme definitely restricts my movement and a PIL will soon find its way to the Supreme Court and there is a higher probability that the apex court will strike this law as unconstitutional. But you never know because even judges are human beings and they may be affected by scare mongering tactics of AAP. The Delhi Government has circulated pamphlets of a comparison of lungs of 55 year old with and  without significant air pollution. They may be right factually but is this even odd scheme the only way to solve this problem? Wild animals are harmful to human beings. So the best solution is: Kill them ! Such scare mongering advertisements may also be the reason why Delhiites are ‘wholeheartedly’ supporting such a scheme. There are not protests against the same till date.

Car pooling and public transport are very useful. In fact, convenient too but they must not be forced upon the citizens. There are occasions when you need to use your vehicle for an ’emergency’ and this emergency need not be life threatening in all cases. Emergency could be any occasion which requires your immediate presence and has a bearing on your life as well as somebody else’s. The scheme does not address such contingencies. In an emergency, if I flout the rule, then the traffic inspector will still stop me, ask me for proof of emergency and all this will be at the expense of something grave.

There is also an unintended consequence of this scheme. It affects only the poor or the ‘Nouveaux Riche’ . The rich will buy more cars both even and odd numbered and will use it on alternate days. Its only people with one car that too bought on EMI who will be most affected. Mr. Kejriwal does not want the middle class to enjoy the luxury of that single car. If we go back to the ‘cave age’, then air pollution will reduce drastically but the point is not that. We need to come up with solutions that will allow us to lead a good standard of living without affecting the environment.

Sadly, debates in our country do not involve pros, cons. how to fix the scheme, etc. They are only AAP vs BJP vs Congress. Think beyond party lines and find creative solutions that do not impact the daily lives of citizens.

As of now, I am lucky that I am not a resident of Delhi !


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The PK message and Misuse of Bail Provision

It was fun watching the movie PK albeit two times. Movies can have a lasting impact on the psyche of people. In that respect, the movie PK spreads a lot of good messages about religion. The movie talks about two types of religion – the one created by God, the creator of this universe and the other created by human beings who call themselves the messengers of God. The movie calls the latter ‘Managers’ of religion.

Wrong number is about the wrong perception about religion and the power of God that are taken for granted by many of us. I particularly liked the correlation of fear with obeisance to God. Larger the fear, larger the obeisance :). We follow many of the rituals blindly without having honest feelings about God. God is a concept that keeps the arrogance of human race under check. That one fear of God keeps us reminding that there is someone watching us and someone bigger than everything else in this Universe. I bet that this psychological effect is more than enough to accept religion and faith as rational.

The messages that the movie in specific directs are the following: Godmen making money by capitalizing on the fear of fellow humans, wastage of milk on ‘Abhisheka’ while millions suffer from hunger, different meanings of similar words or context in different religions, hypocrisy of Indian society particularly towards sex and related matters, some Islamic practices like lashing, offering of wine to Jesus, etc.

What came to me as a surprise was that some right extremists still blame Aamir Khan for singling out Hindu religion alone. This is not at all true since Mr. Khan has covered almost all of the major religions (population wise, may be top 5) in his film. Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs are the ones that I can recollect. Such an extremist attitude clearly shows the threat that a section of the majority pose to the secular fabric of our country.

All said and done, one thing that I did not appreciate about Mr. Aamir Khan is the role played by Sanjay Dutt in this movie. Are there legal provisions in our judicial system that allow a convict serving sentence in jail to shoot for a movie and make a living? If there is a provision, then what is the procedure for the same? I would like other convicts also to come out of jail, work (legally) and go back to jail. I am assuming that there exist no such provisions. Only an RTI application under the right to information act 2002 will help us know the official response to these questions. Should I get some time, I will submit the application or if some of you get the time, then do ask these relevant questions to the relevant authorities. Read my other article ‘Bail as a mockery of justice’ which has a similar theme.

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India as a ‘Hindu’ nation

After many days of inactivity, I am back. Thanks to Facebook. A friend of mine recently shared an article that appeared in one of the Kannada newspapers on ‘Why India cannot be a Hindu nation when western countries can be Christian?’ Debating on this topic on FB comments was a bit tidious and hence here I am writing my own perspective on my own blog :). And to those critics of Facebook, this is just one example of how it can be put to good use also!

In my school days, I never appreciated ‘History’ as a subject which used to be taught under the topic of ‘Social Sciences’. The subject is as good or as bad as the teacher is. That could probably be one of the reason for my disinterestedness. The other reason could be the curriculum and the content in the text books. History was more of …….. In 18xx, King X conquered Y, married Z, killed his brother to usurp the throne, etc. It was more of factual details which had to be critically analyzed by the teacher along with the students. This analysis was probably missing in my ‘history’ education.

Coming back to our discussion on ‘Why India cannot be a Hindu nation?’, the article smacks of the ignorance of the author about the importance of history in shaping the future. European history and Indian history were never the same and equating them would be foolish. The reason why India chose to be a secular nation is well articulated and debated by the members of the constituent assembly which framed our constitution. (BTW, majority of the members of constituent assembly were ‘Hindus’). The variant of Indian secularism is a unique one. It does not mean a total separation of the ‘State’ from ‘Religion’. In fact, there are many constitutional provisions which enable and empower religions to establish their own institutions, to be tax-free (that is how our politicians now keep most of their money here) and so on.

In India, secularism means that the State will not identify itself with any particular religion. This is the reason that the State which provides for Haj pilgrimage also provides for Amarnath Yatra. Such a definition of ‘Secularism’ implicit in our constitution also forms a part of the ‘Basic structure of Indian Constitution’ . So, this is one major reason why India cannot be a Hindu nation.

What is Hinduism ? I am fed up of hearing these lofty claims that Hinduism is a way of life. Hinduism is this. Hinduism is that. What the hell ? How does one become Hindu? By being born to Hindu parents. How does one become Christian? By being born to Christian parents. Religion also has a gory side to it known as caste which is a hierarchical structure that is mostly exploitative.

Can a Christian be Hindu and Can a Hindu be Christian? The answer is YES if you consider these as ‘ways of life’. This would mean that I accept whatever is ‘good’ in Christianity without losing my ‘Hindu’ tag. Reciprocally, it would also mean Christians accepting whatever they feel is ‘good’ in Hindu religion. Such a vision is Utopian thinking for it requires broad mindedness in the people of this country and the people of this world. Politicization of religion has made the realization of such wishful thinking a distant dream if not an impossible task.

So, the proponents of ‘India as a Hindu nation’ should first refine the definition of ‘Hindu’. There is a dearth of men and women like Swami Vivekananda who can reflect on the virtues of Hinduism as well as criticize the religious bigotry that afflicts our society. Religion and Hinduism should move out of the ‘kitchen’ before it can be considered an universal way of life and before India can associate itself with that particular way of life.

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Civil Services Mains Result – 2011

Slog, slog, slog until you become an IAS !!!! This part is fine. But I do not want to be asking later “Was it worth it ?”Click here for the result

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Direct Cash Transfers

Roti, Kapda, Makaan – once used to be the favorite tagline of most political parties in India.  Indeed, they had to be. It is an irony that in spite of our progress towards a civilized life, we still have human beings losing their lives due to hunger, lack of shelter and inadequate clothing. When I see beggars lying in an unconscious state with worms all over their body in Connaught place, in front of the Yojana Bhavan, my heart weeps for such humans experiencing inhuman living conditions and I feel frustrated and angry over the kind of people who are supposed to be taking care of the depressed.

Is it so difficult to identify the poorest of the poor? Do we need statistics and BPL figures to find out if poverty exists in our country? Well, people would call me utopian or idealist but i do not mind. Can’t we have a mission like “There will be no beggary in this country”, “None will die due to lack of food, shelter and clothing in this country”. Don’t you think, the so called king of the district, the district commissioner has enough power to route resources to eliminate poverty within a district.

We should not forget that irrespective of the kind of political ideology, capitalism, socialism or any other -ism-, Darwin’s theory of the survival of fittest still holds true. But, considering the progress in our civilization, let us not interpret this survival as physical survival. Every human being should get the opportunity to compete and this is possible only if he lives. So, let us start with food, shelter and clothing, then add health and education, and may be further add mobile and television to the basic necessities. Once, a person has his basic necessities, it is the dynamics of the society, the polity, the economy and a mix of unknown, unstudied factors that will decide if one becomes a peon or an IAS officer.

So, coming to the basic necessities (this list can be extended), how do we ensure that people have the basic necessities. Proponents of direct cash transfers believe that the existing mechanisms for providing these basic necessities are flawed due to corruption, diversion, dual markets, etc. So, providing cash directly to people will empower people to have a choice in what they buy. Very true. I appreciate the analysis. But, the problems identified and the solution proposed are not in sync. It is like this – There is a problem with plan A or scheme A, so let us abandon A and go for plan/scheme B.

The problem is not cash versus subsidy. The problem is about targeting and conditions. Who should get the subsidies and who should not? Once, we have identified the conditions, how do we make sure that only those who qualify against these objective conditions get the subsidies. I have personally seen the rich who get homes allocated under ‘Ashraya Yojana’ and rent those houses. I have personally seen some BPL households who buy food grains from PDS centre and sell them to the rich. So, how do we find solutions to these practical problems? should be our question.

The kind of solution that I envisage for these problems is for the government and the public sector to become an empowered institution to meet the social security needs of the population. The solution lies in every district having at least a single community shelter spread over 2 to 3 acres of land, where food, shelter and clothing are provided to anyone and everyone who approaches the shelter. Even, developed countries have such shelters. Speaking about the higher needs like education and health, the solution again lies in empowering our government schools and hospitals and in laws like that of RTE-2009 which mandate the private sector to offer their services to the poor at subsidized rates.

Providing a choice to the poor sounds more idealistic. First, let us at least provide a single point solution and then we can develop it by adding alternatives to provide “choice”.

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2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 7,100 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 12 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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The Unreserved Compartment

This post is about my observations and experiences of traveling in an unreserved compartment on an Indian Railways train. This compartment is popularly known as ‘General compartment’. This is the compartment shared by some sections of the lower middle class, lower class and some ‘waitlisted’ upper class passengers. Conditions in this coach are pathetic and reinforces the inequalities existing in our shining India.

Quality of Service – This is the parameter that is conspicuous by its absence in most of our public sectors today. Subsidizing something for the benefit of the downtrodden or the public at large does not mean that you are doing a favour to these sections of the society. They are entitled to the same quality of service that a passenger paying an appropriate market driven fare enjoys. This is when the goals of subsidy are met. Otherwise, it is no longer a subsidy. It is a pathetic service for a pathetic fare.

In the non AC reserved coaches, 3 passengers sit on each of the seats face to face and 2 passengers on the side seats making a total of 8 passengers. In the same amount of area, 10 passengers are supposed to be accommodated in the unreserved compartment. The reserved coaches also have sleeper berths where as the unreserved coaches do not. So, the only assumptions that Indian Railways seems to be making that I can think about is that people traveling in these compartments are slim, malnourished or ‘petite’ and that they are ‘nocturnal’ (do not need sleep). The cushion thickness of the seats for these compartments is 50% less compared to the reserved coaches. Even, this luxury was provided only during the tenure of Lalu Prasad Yadav as railway minister. (Aur 50% cushion thickness dhoge, tho tumhare baap ka kya jaayega).

Well, this was about the physical conditions of the compartment. Now, coming to the enforcement part of it, I think there is no such thing as enforcement of rules because the ticket collector rarely enters this coach. He never entered during my entire journey of 600 kms and I heard from one of the ‘UR frequent traveler’ that TCs never take the risk of entering UR coach. Another interesting fact is that Indian Railways sells more tickets on these compartments than the capacity of the coaches. Thus, even the 10 versus 8 passenger difference that I spoke about is apparent.  You can just sit anywhere you like. In the compartment that I traveled, people even occupied the floor of the train, not to mention the luggage racks. One of the funniest incident that makes me laugh again and again is a request made by a man in his 50s or 60s as I was sitting comfortably on a side seat. He asked me: ‘Can I travel with just one of my _ss on your seat?’ 🙂 🙂 Well, if you are wondering what my answer was. I humbly told him that I have to travel for 9 hours and it would be difficult for me to share my seat. Well, I like the simplicity of his language though ‘civilized’ people may label it as blunt. As John Nash would have said in ‘A Beautiful Mind‘, “I like to expedite the information flow by being direct”.

Of course, there are moments of fun in these compartments. There is also a lot you can learn. How can the ministers, members of the railway board, secretaries of railway ministry be untouched by all this? This is something I do not understand as of today.  I only pray to God to give me the strength and power to change these things around me.

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The Uneasy World

Recently, I read an interview of a famous actor who is supposed to be ‘unconventional’. He has a live-in relationship (heterosexual). He says that he would have loved to have kids with the lady but does not like the world that he lives in. For sometime, even I shared the same thought :). Competitive examinations, coaching, the materialistic world, consumerism, the rat race, the immoral trends, sexuality that would take us back to promiscuity, climate change etc, etc. Why would someone reproduce to push their offspring into this ‘hell’???

Was this world always like this or is it that things are becoming more complicated that the definitions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are becoming more diverse and contradictory through out the world. My experiences from the life in metro cities of India very clearly point out that there is something wrong. Window shopping in a mall is also a disease (mind it). It raises your expectations and creates false needs which is the life-breath of consumerism. Flaunting of sexuality has also become more common and some claim it as their right. Some see it as a cause of increasing rapes. The media, particularly the advertisements fuel this sexuality. Advertisement managers who would probably be MBAs from ‘prestigious’ universities seem to have a lot of faith in the sexual harmones and its associated psychology.

There are also all kind of justifications which create confusion in the ‘young mind'( Mine is one). There is confusion between ‘quality of living’ and ‘consumerism’, confusion between ‘lust’ and ‘love’ and in general a confusion between what is right and wrong. The most ironical aspect is that all these things are never discussed. You hardly find institutes (academic or otherwise) organizing workshops, seminars or discussions on sex.  Even wordpress does not show sex as one of the recommended links!! I would just label such an attitude as hypocrisy.

The good aspect of all these evils is the fun and pleasure that we gain though it is temporary. There are also maxims like ‘live to the fullest’, ‘enjoy life as long as you live’ which say that even temporary pleasure is worth experiencing. Well, I do not have solutions to any of the questions that I have posed. I do feel that pleasure and fun are fine but I do not see an end to it. Vicious circles are the problem.

The world is not simple for those who care to understand it and for those who do not intend to understand it, it is just a random process. The truth is that things are going to be ‘complicated’ and the thoughts of the actor about which I mentioned at the beginning of this article may become a general trend rather than an exception………

Any mortal soul there to bless this confused mind? Please care to comment and discuss and not just LIKE this post. Speak out your mind. I would like my ‘academic connections’ particularly to discuss such issues and find solutions for themselves.

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