The Indian civil service was an attraction for the British citizens during the colonial period because of the power and lifestyle attached with it. The charm continued in Independent India too and the best brains of the country were battling it out to be part of the coveted service. Even after the growth of private sector and Information Technology boom, the number of people who take up civil service examination is huge. Those who fail to make it often turn bitter within and feel rejected even though they end up with good jobs. Because of the prestige and stiff competition associated with it, anybody who resigns from the civil service becomes an object of utmost curiosity.
Hue and cry
Recently, two young officers of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) resigned and it created a furore in social media. People were questioning the mental state of these two and others were blaming the Union Public Service Commission for selecting such untrustworthy candidates. The resignation of the 2010 all-India topper Shah Faesal was subjected to much more criticism as there were clear political reasons behind his decision. So, what makes an officer leave such a position which he/she has obtained after years of hard work?
It will be difficult to generalise the reasons for resignation from civil service. Practical inconveniences can often be a concern. People who do not want to remain in extremist affected areas sometimes choose an early exit. Unlike the lower level of bureaucracy where one can ask for a posting near home, an all-India service officer may not get a cadre of his/her choice always. The number of vacancies and one’s rank determine the allocation. The deputation to Central Government or the break for higher studies can be used as escape mechanisms, but it will take a few years before one is eligible for them. A person whom I know chose to remain in her home state with a deputy collector posting when she was allotted an IAS post in north east. She was ready to wait a few years to get herself promoted to IAS than work in a faraway place.
Mismatch from expectation and reality can always be a catalyst which makes people leave the service. Many people who join civil service need not be familiar with the tiresome process of bureaucracy which does not allow things to move at a fast pace. In governance, one may need to slowly build a team to get things done. A person who wants to bring in so many changes may find this tiring. Also, one has to take into consideration the interests of multiple stakeholders while coming up with new ideas. This is also a time-consuming process. These kinds of delays and sometimes denial of one’s favourite plans from the higher-ups can create a lot of frustration. Some live with it, while a few others choose to call it a day.
People in central service in general, do not get as much media attention and fame when compared to administrative or police service. A person in the Indian Defence Account Service was so disheartened and wanted to leave it for a post of education officer in his home state. But his wife was determined to make him stick to the Central Government service with all its privileges and eventually he gave in.
There are people who want to gain the experience of working with government for a few years before entering to other careers. They believe that this will be helpful if they start a Non-government organisation or enter politics. Also, the reason for entering politics could be the conflicts one had with their political bosses. And of course, people can resign on ideological grounds as stated by these youngsters recently.
Changing a career is a natural thing particularly in a globalised society. It's a norm in the corporate world where one rarely retires from the company one started his/her career. As one ages, priorities in life changes and one can make a decision accordingly. Raising a hue and cry over the resignation of civil servants is unnecessary. At the end of the day, it's just another shift from one job to another based on personal choice.
(The author is a former IPS officer and a trainer for civil service aspirants)