Choose Your Time and Place

"I don’t mean that you should become Brahmcharis (celibates), but choose your time and place.’’ thus culminated the valedictory address of the Director, National Academy Of Administration, Mussoorie delivered to the probationers of the Foundational Course of 1963 batch.

Although this Academy is a training Academy for I.A.S. officers, but it also organizes a common Foundational Course for officers of all services selected through the civil services competitive examination. As I was selected in the I.P.S. in 1963, I had also attended this course and was listening to the Director's valedictory sermon with rapt attention.

The course syllabus was eminently designed to familiarize us with the Indian social, economic, administrative and political scene as well as to make us sensitive to the aspirations, needs and sufferings of the masses; but, since the academy was administered exclusively by I.A.S. officers, the ambience of the academy was Indian Administrator Sahib (boss) - like. Therefore we, the probationers, had been learning more of the Sahibi-way of living than the problems of the masses. The Director's parting remark had tickled our young hearts in no small measure, while it had summarized the unwritten but real objective of the course in one sentence.         

On 11th July 1963 it was a cloudy evening when I had arrived at the gate of the imposing Charleville, which housed the National Academy of Administration. As I hailed from a village, my rustic conscience was quite surprised as well as amused to see that the only shop at the gate of I.A.S. training academy was a liquor shop. Later I learnt that this 'Madhushala' (bar) had been established there to help I.A.S. probationers learn the all-important art of drinking without the inconvenience of going to Kulri market.

The administrators of the academy (all I.A.S. officers) made no bones about their love for Bacchus and whenever the occasion arose they did not fail to encourage the probationers to learn this Sahibi-habit. One day a Bihari probationer was buying a bottle of Black Knight when a deputy director happened to enter the shop. As the Bihari probationer started concealing his bottle from the gaze of the deputy director, the deputy director reassuringly told him, "Oh! Come on. I am also going to have one."

To the credit of these trainers I must admit that they never differed in their words and deeds and always showed large-heartedness so far as their teaching of choosing appropriate time and place – instead of becoming Brahmcharis – was concerned.

One evening four I.A.S. officers got a bindas (uninhibited) lady probationer of Indian Railway Accounts Service drunk in a room of Kutesar Castle and then made her condition so pathetic that for about a month she could sit only on a pillow in the classroom. The matter had become the talk of the academy but the administrators, in their concern for the career of the young I.A.S. officers, initiated no action against those probationers, and considered it sufficient to advise them, "Choose bearable number."

One year earlier, an I.A.S. probationer had criminally assaulted a minor daughter of a poor man living on the hill-slope behind Charleville Hotel. The then Director, with stated intent of saving the girl's honor, had hushed up the matter after advising the probationer, "Choose proper age."

The academy's untiring efforts to inculcate ' right ' attitude among future rulers (i.e., I. A. S. officers) towards other services are no less 'praiseworthy'. I was allotted room no.8 in Stapleton Hostel and one Bagchi, an officer of Indian Audit and Accounts Service, was my roommate. Since the building of Stapleton hostel was old and its maintenance was poor, rooms of this hostel were allotted only to officers of services other than the I.A.S.

After two months of our joining, Bagchi got 'elevated' to the I.A.S., because some candidate selected in I.A.S had not joined. Bagchi was immediately allotted a room in the Happy Valley, which was the best among the various hostels. Later one day, when he had come to meet me, he confided, "Mahesh! You know what they ( the I.A.S. administrators) tell the I.A.S. probationers privately? You are there to rule while all others are to serve."

This difference between the ruler and the servant became clearer to me when I joined the Central Police Training College, Mt. Abu after completing the Foundational Course. Here the body-breaking training schedule commenced at 6 A.M. and continued till 6 P.M. and even at dinner our conduct remained under watch. Moreover, not only consumption of liquor in the police mess was prohibited but also any light talk about girls was a taboo.

However, full realization of the ruler-status of the I.A.S. dawned on me only during my police career later. Here I found that every department and corporation of the Government is under the thumb of some I.A.S. officer either directly, or through secretariat, or both. The Indian Administrative Service is a permanent and all pervasive ruler and all other services are subservient to it. Moreover, the I.A.S. officers are accountable to none excepting themselves – as they say that the king can do no wrong.

However, I do not want to miss the opportunity of expressing my gratitude towards the National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie by withholding the fact that my days in the academy were the sweetest I ever had in my life.  

Explanatory Notes:
1. This is a memoir with satirical tinge.
2. In India for manning the class one (top) positions of all non-technical departments of the government, a common competition is held yearly in which majority of the best brains of the country participate. The toppers among them ordinarily join Indian Administrative Service (I. A. S.), Indian Foreign Service (I. F. S.), Indian Police Service (I. P. S.), Indian Revenue Service (I. R. S.), Customs And Excise Service, Indian Railway Traffic Service, etc. in that order. Then for five months selected candidates of all services are put through a common Foundational Course of training at National Academy Of Administration, Mussoorie, which is the training academy of I. A. S. officers. In the year 1963 I had the privilege of attending this course as a probationer of Indian Police Service.
3. This memoir is about some of my experiences during this course. The I. A. S. is the privileged, powerful, and virtually permanent ruler of the country. Its officers are called generalists and they control all government departments including the technical ones in the field as well as in the secretariat. The satire is on the I. A. S.} 


More by :  Mahesh Chandra Dewedy

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Comment Sometime in the early 70's, I appeared for the Admininstrative Services Exam; more out of respect for my father's wishes than my own desire. I chose British & European history and I think International relations in the lower group.

I had been an above average student and was confident of securing a place.

The result was a disappointment. The scoring in compulsory subjects viz 110/150- Essay ( Economic co-operation between SE Asian nations), 135/150 - GK, and 98/150 - English were in line with my expectations, but what took me by surprise was the scoring in British & European History ! 68/200 British History and probably 70/200 in European History against my realistic expectation of 125 and above in both these subjects !

Disgusted and demoralized, I rebelled and did not appear again. In the meantime a friend of mine who cleared two or three years earlier and was allotted the W Bengal cadre, resigned and migrated to the US, saying the state of affairs did not permit him to act against his conscience.

Years later I narrated this incidence to my father in law who did not appear to be the least surprised. He was Director, Defence production then and narrated his own experience.

Being in the allied services, he appeared for the IAS. Late in the evening before the day the final list of successful candidates was to be announced, his sister in law, who worked in the UPSC, called him up to congratulate him; his name was in the list. Late night celebrations followed. However when the list was announced the next morning, three names had been replaced - one of which was his !

Ravinder Malhotra
16-Jun-2012 13:13 PM

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