James Medison says “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” However, when men govern men, we need administration. In order to fulfill the mandate of that administration, we need civil servants. That body of civil servants is known as bureaucracy, having its root in the French word “Bureau” meaning desk or office.
In India, the concept of administration can be traced from Chanakya’s Arthashastra to Ain-i-Akbari by Abul Fazal and later on strengthened and expanded by the British. Lord Cornwallis is known as the Father of Indian Civil Services.
The British required civil servants to fulfill the goals of the East India Company. The concept of “Career Bureaucrat” later on attracted many Indians post-Independence primarily due to perks and power attached to the posts as well as providing an opportunity to serve the nation.
With this goal of serving the nation and corollary the recognition it brings to a person, has attracted now millions of aspirants. It has also created a distinct educational industry aimed at providing coaching and guidance to these aspirants. However, the journey of being a civil services aspirant to being a civil servant is full of learning, failure, rejection and emotional turbulence which hardly others can see and experience.
The first hurdle most students face is the syllabus. There is a famous phrase that “everything under the sun” is the syllabus for this examination. How to start and where to start is the next hurdle.
Understanding the syllabus may take months. Aspirants are further bombarded by ideas of seniors/successful aspirants with their respective strategies, a multitude of books and the never-ending current affairs and humongous newspapers.
The next thing that haunts the aspirants is the success ratio of the exam, which many sources mention to be around 0.2%. The burden to finance studies is also huge. On average, it takes around 1.5 to 2 lakh rupees for coaching. Those who go to New Delhi feel the heat of living expenses along with the food, the quality of which they compromise. The cumulative effect of all these is homesickness and realisation of the importance of home and food made by mothers. The first lesson they learn is to bear hardships that “may” bear fruits in the future.
In a common man’s life, death keeps no calendar. However, in an aspirant‟s life, failure keeps no calendar. Thus an aspirant is always worried about failure. If an aspirant fails, it haunts him/her badly and overcoming this may take time. Rather than failure, the most dreadful experience is to inform your parents about this failure. In a flash, the dreams of your parents start crumbling down like a house of cards. This is where the biggest responsibility and duty of parents come i.e. extending moral support to their children. Some aspirants are lucky to get that support and others who don’t, succumb to other events like suicide or give up or may land in mental depression.
Those who give three to four years and are still not able to clear the exam face the most humiliating experience of failure and self-doubt about their own capabilities. They may also become a laughingstock of relatives or a neighbour who used his father’s clout to secure his own job and in extreme cases, of friends. They lose self-confidence and are hesitant to face society. Here a responsibility lies on above mentioned stakeholders i.e. to treat them with respect and encourage them. There can be no doubt of their hard work, but demand is always more than supply.
The other issue with this exam is that it is very hard to explain to others the mechanism of this exam. One year, an aspirant may reach to interview stage and drop by a marginal fraction, next year he/she may not even qualify preliminary stage. This is due to the unpredictability of questions and the complexity associated with the exam. A common man will not understand the intricacies associated with this exam and it becomes often hard to explain back home or to your parents the reason for failure.
The sacrifice associated with this exam is high and assurance of results is dismally low. The sacrifices start from losing social relations, and gatherings and may even extend to losing hair, “desired ones” and even may develop some bodily related issues. However, the post and its associated perks, which aspirants aspire to, justify all these sacrifices. These sacrifices will act as lessons to make them officers with integrity and compassion. This makes the Indian bureaucracy a steel frame.
We always make decisions without knowing the exact repercussions. Some decisions in life are extremely important like marrying a person, choosing a college and deciding a career option. Those who choose to pursue to become civil servants will always remain in doubt about the credibility of that decision during their preparation. They always question that decision whenever they see a friend of theirs enjoying other career options, having a decent salary, or maybe flaunting their new car or in extreme cases, having got married. To see the other side of the tunnel, an aspirant always needs only two things i.e. hard work and luck.
Failure will always act as a learning lesson provided an aspirant has that genuine desire to go long. Giving up on failure will not turn mistakes into lessons and keep you aloof from success. An aspirant has to always decide whether to give up or fight till the end so that no regret is left behind.
In this digital era, there is an information explosion but a dearth of good mentoring and guidance. This gap can be filled by teachers, coaches or successful candidates with the sole aim of “honest guidance”. There is chaos and aspirants are made to run from pillar to post. It is a moral obligation on us all to guide students towards the career paths of their choice and not just because any particular exam has become a fashion.
The civil services examination is no doubt a coveted career option but students must choose it wisely as there are many dark sides of this exam which if made known in advance would save them a lot of time and may help them explore other opportunities. Whether one passes this exam or not, the conundrum of being an aspirant will surely teach a lot of lessons, make one capable of thinking critically and enlighten that person for life-long. The learning from this exam will surely make them good humans and can serve society for the good of all.
The writer teaches Economics at Unacademy. He can be reached at [email protected]