Friday, Oct 07, 2022
Outlook.com
Column: Civil Services

Too Old To Be In School

The high age limit for IAS makes recruits set in their ways and less mouldable

Too Old To Be In School
Too Old To Be In School
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

The specialist vs generalist debate is eternal, surfacing every now and then. I have seen a chief of the electricity board, an excellent engineer who managed his power plants and transmission systems extremely well but who was totally clueless in matters relating to power policy. I have seen a first-rate irrigation chief engineer taking over as the secretary of the irrigation department and floundering from day one on administrative issues. On the other hand, I have seen scientists, having long abdicated their scientific work, turn into fine administrators and policymakers. I have also seen IAS secretaries with excellent reputations unable to find their feet in alien departments. There is no hard and fast rule in such matters; the suitability and background of each officer for a post is more relevant than any label he wears.

Management of public affairs, as practised in India, is a highly specialised field. Practitioners have to learn this profession by working in the field, no university or training institute prepares a person to deal with politicians, crooks, public grievances, riots, floods, policymaking in a hundred fields, dealing with the police and the judiciary. Nor does any engineering school or MBA course equip you for the same. Robust common sense, coupled with a sense of dedication, pride, professionalism, experience from years of working in the field and as a junior officer in the secretariat, along with compassion are what you need to make a fine administrator. A person’s label or training at school or university neither prepares him in this regard nor hinders his abilities as an administrator.

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