Indian Administrative Service: IAS - what is it ? How to Become one
The Indian Administrative Service (IAS) is the administrative arm of the All India Services of Government of India. Considered the premier civil service of India, the IAS is one of the three arms of the All India Services along with the Indian Police Service and the Indian Forest Service. Members of these three services serve the Government of India as well as the individual states. IAS officers may also be deployed to various public sector undertakings and international organizations.
As with other countries following the parliamentary system of government, the IAS is a part of the permanent bureaucracy of the nation and is an inseparable part of the executive of the Government of India. As such, the bureaucracy remains politically neutral and guarantees administrative continuity to the ruling party or coalition.
Upon confirmation of service, an IAS officer serves a probationary period as a sub-divisional magistrate. Completion of this probation is followed by an executive administrative role in a district as a district magistrate and collector which lasts several years. After this tenure, an officer may be promoted to head a whole state administrative division, as a divisional commissioner.
On attaining the higher scales of the pay matrix, IAS officers may lead government departments or ministries. In these roles, IAS officers represent the country at the international level in bilateral and multilateral negotiations.
If serving on a deputation, they may be employed in intergovernmental organisations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Asian Development Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, or the United Nations, or its agencies. IAS officers are also involved in the conduct of elections in India as mandated by the Election Commission of India.
There are three modes of recruitment into the Indian Administrative Service. IAS officers may enter the IAS by passing the Civil Services Examination, which is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). Officers recruited this way are called direct recruits. Some IAS officers are also recruited from the state civil services, and, in rare cases, selected from non-state civil service.
The ratio between direct recruits and promotees is fixed at 2:1. All IAS officers, regardless of the mode of entry, are appointed by the President of India. Only about 180 candidates out of over 1 million applicants, who apply through CSE, are successful, a success rate of less than 0.01 per cent.
As a result, the members of the service are often referred to as "heaven-born". Unlike candidates appointed to other civil services, a successful IAS candidate is rendered ineligible to retake CSE.
From 1951 to 1979, an IAS candidate was required to submit two additional papers, as well as three optional papers (instead of two as with other civil services) to be eligible for the Indian Administrative Service or the Indian Foreign Service.
The two additional papers were postgraduate level submissions, compared to the graduate level of the optional papers, and it was this distinction that resulted in a higher status for the IAS and IFS.
The two postgraduate level submissions were later removed, but this has not changed the perceived higher status of the IAS and IFS. After the selection process, the successful candidates undergo training at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie, Uttarakhand.
What are the Responsibilities of an IAS officer
The typical functions performed by an IAS officer are:
To collect revenue and function as court officials in matters of revenue and crime (for the revenue courts and criminal courts of executive magistrates), to maintain law and order, to implement union and state government policies at the grass-roots level when posted to field positions i.e. as sub-divisional magistrates, additional district magistrates, district magistrates and divisional commissioners, and to act as an agent of the government in the field, i.e. to act as an intermediary between the public and the government.
To handle the administration and daily proceedings of the government, including the formulation and implementation of policy in consultation with the minister-in-charge of a specific ministry or department.
To contribute to policy formulation, and to make a final decision in certain matters, with the agreement of the minister concerned or the council of ministers (depending upon the weight of the matter), when posted at the higher level in the Government of India as a joint secretary, additional secretary, special secretary or secretary equivalent, secretary and Cabinet Secretary, and in state governments as secretary, principal secretary, additional chief secretary or special chief secretary and chief secretary.
Major concerns and reforms
Shortage of officers in Indian Administrative or Union Services
It was reported in 2017 that there is a shortage of about 1,700 IAS officers in the country. Despite this, the government has stated that annual recruitment of IAS officers will not increase, to avoid impacting the career progression of existing officers and the overall structure of the service.
Media personalities, some retired IAS officers and a few academics have argued in favour of lateral entry into the IAS to inject fresh blood into the service. They argue that it would help refresh the bureaucracy, offer competitiveness and bring in alternate perspectives. A counter-argument has been put forward that a lateral entry process could be manipulated due to corruption and cronyism. It is further argued that lateral entry would not lead to improvements in managerial performance or accountability, and while it may create synergy between the government and big businesses, it could also compromise the integrity of government. It has also been argued that it could weaken the bureaucracy instead. The union government has frequently ruled out lateral entry into the IAS.
Political influence of Union services like IAS IPS IFS...etc
The IAS is hamstrung by political interference, outdated personnel procedures, and a mixed record on policy implementation, and it is in need of urgent reform. The Indian government should reshape recruitment and promotion processes, improve performance-based assessment of individual officers, and adopt safeguards that promote accountability while protecting bureaucrats from political meddling.
— Vaishnav Milan and Saksham Khosla, The Indian Administrative Service Meets Big Data, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Several think tanks and media outlets have argued that the IAS is hamstrung by political influence within the service. It has been reported that many local political leaders have been seen to have interfered with IAS officers. Politicians have also exerted pressure on IAS officers by repeatedly transferring them, suspending them, beating them, and, in some extreme cases, killing them.
While hearing T. S. R. Subramanian v. Union of India, the Supreme Court of India ruled that IAS officers – and other civil servants – were not required to act on oral instructions given by politicians as they 'undermined credibility'.