Thursday, November 4, 2010

The changing character of IAS

The Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie, where IAS probationers receive their training, “has virtually become a marriage market”, said a recent newspaper report.  The price they quote is very high, but no price is too high for rich parents of ready-to-be brides.  The report also quoted the former HRD Minister, Murali Manohar Joshi, as having said that, in a recent case known to him, the dowry demanded by the officer’s family was Rs 50 lakhs.

“What a modest dowry!” exclaimed a young friend of mine some of whose friends are in the civil services.  “In our own state, Andhra Pradesh, the going rate for an IAS recruit ranges from 20 to 50 crores in two of the communities.  In others, 2 to 5 crores is very common.”  He added, “This low-mindedness is not only with regard to dowry; a good number of the new entrants to the civil services are too caste-conscious and have contempt for values such as pluralism and gender equality.”  The Academy may be situated at a height – in the Uttar Pradesh Himalayas – but the thinking of a good number of its trainees is far from Olympian.

This, in my opinion, is due to two factors.  One of them concerns the quality of the intake.  The typical IAS recruit is no longer a liberal arts educated young man from a family rooted in intellectual traditions with an inheritance that includes exposure to western liberal influences and contempt for regional and religious identities.  He comes from a rural or semi-urban background and is untouched by liberal influences either in his upbringing or in his education.  What he has received is not education in the real sense of the term, but coaching.  Consequently, he can perform well on a competitive test but is incapable of engagement at the level of ideas.  And his outlook is markedly provincial. 

The second factor is the kind of training given at the Academy.  An ideal foundation course is one that instils values such as pluralism and equality and provides for the development of managerial skills and problem-solving strategies that the officer will be called upon to employ in his day-to-day work.  But, regrettably, there is an overemphasis on the latter.

Even an emphasis on the former may not help much, given that a typical recruit is well past the impressionable stage.  The onus is, therefore, not on the training but on the recruitment scheme which must be so designed as to prevent the entry of coarse material.

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