A letter from Alok Ranjan to all IAS aspirants
Alok Ranjan, the former Chief Secretary of the Government of Uttar Pradesh, has had the career that most people dream of. So, he has put together the information that every aspiring officer should know. While sharing his own experiences, he has provided a deep understanding of the IAS as an institution, valuable tips and insight for cracking the daunting UPSC exam, and how to build a successful career in the services.
It was a difficult decision after having done my MBA from IIM Ahmadabad to resign from my job and write the IAS examination. I was fortunate to succeed in the exam in my first attempt and secured 4th position in India in the IAS and was allotted to the Uttar Pradesh cadre. I retired in 2016 after 38 years of a very fulfilling and satisfying career. I can say with complete confidence that no other service or job can provide the diversity and richness of experience that a career in the IAS provides.
I often meet young boys and girls embarking upon a career and find that most of them have dreams of joining the IAS or the civil services. Despite the numerous alternative career opportunities that are available, civil service is still the preferred choice of many. Students prepare for years to get through the hallowed portals of the civil service. For those who succeed it is a realization of their cherished aspirations while others keep making honest efforts year after year hoping that one day they shall succeed.
This book is for those young boys and girls who nurture the desire to join the IAS. I want to communicate through this book that it is possible to get selected in the IAS provided you have the right kind of motivation and are prepared to put in the requisite amount of dedicated hard work. This book is also about the challenges and opportunities that an IAS officer faces during his service period. it is not an autobiography but I have used interesting anecdotes from my career to illustrate the situations that an IAS officer faces and the leadership principles which are essential for him to ensure quality public service delivery and good governance. It is for this reason that this book would be of interest to the serving IAS officers as well as all those who are concerned in any way with issues related to public policy. A student must think of joining the IAS if she wants to bring about a positive change in society and contribute to the development of the country. Issues of power, position, and status cannot be ignored but they should not be the prime motivation for joining the IAS. This service gives you the opportunity of touching numerous human lives. You can bring about a transformation in the quality of life of the citizens. This book is all about making a difference to society which should be the main goal of an IAS officer.
A person interested in joining the IAS should prepare herself mentally for at least three to five year before the IAS exam. He should take a keen interest in current affairs and also read widely on all possible subjects. This is an extremely tough exam where you have to compete against thousands for a hundred seats and therefore your preparation has to be that much more solid and deeper. It is best to devote at least one year of single-minded focus and effort to this exam. You need to develop your personality as well as your communication skills as well as a logical and analytical way of thinking. This book will give those preparing for IAS some very useful tips for both the written exam and the personality test. I have talked about the experiences of an IAS officer as a District Magistrate which is, perhaps, the most rewarding and exciting posting in the service. A young IAS officer gets the opportunity of leading the entire team at the district and he is the voice of the government at the District level. Any scheme gets implemented if the District Magistrate takes it up. There is tremendous authority attached to this post but along with this comes a great sense of responsibility and accountability. It is, indeed, a thrilling assignment and most IAS officers never tire of talking about what they achieved in the Districts.
State Government provides a tremendous opportunity to make policies that could influence the life of the ordinary citizen. You could be looking after education and make a mark by improving the quality of education or you could be looking after the health and can make a difference by reducing infant and maternal mortality. Every post in the IAS has the potential of giving you an opportunity to bring about a positive change in the lives of people. A great experience at the State level is the post of the Chief Secretary who leads all the government officers and employees in fulfilling the ideal of good governance. IAS gives an opportunity of working with the Government of India where you get National and International experience and the policies you make impact the entire nation.
I have also discussed some of the common myths and beliefs about the IAS like the need for domain specialization, promotion on the basis of seniority, political interference, corruption, professional integrity, and lack of promptness in decision making. I have tried to show how some of these could be individual attributes but the system also plays a great role in molding the personality and administrative style of an IAS officer.
It is my fervent belief that a career in the IAS can be hugely satisfying but the relevance of the IAS for the future requires the service to introspect and reinvent itself and for this, it has to look within and make itself responsive to the changing needs of the 21 st century. The IAS is not merely a job but is a service to society and the Nation. The greatest reward that an IAS officer can get is when the common man on the street feels that a positive difference has been made in his life.
All the best!