I personally know an IAS officer , a Joint Secretary in Ministry of Finance , who was also in PMO serving under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
I am sharing my thoughts, so that it can motivate all the aspirants, because he has been the source of inspiration ,which induced me to pursue civil services.
I got an opportunity to stay and spend some time discussing various things with him during my UPSC interview time.
First of all I should say , the few days I spent with him completely changed my outlook on bureaucracy and enhanced my maturity level.
I will share my overall experiences on what I felt and what I learnt from him including the answer for the question.
Experiences serving as a DM?
When I was a DM , the expectations from me were different. I was responsible for implementation of Govt. Policies. I was directly interacting with the people everyday. There used to be quite a lot of field visits every weekend.This is the time you should start identifying yourself with the people as a servant and not as a boss(a quality which you should cherish forever). You should politely listen to their problems and try to solve them as much as your prerogatives allow you to. Work will be hectic. But since you regularly visit different places like schools , colleges and get to meet different sets of people , your DM days will fly like a feather. What you do as DM will motivate officials working under you and help leave a permanent impact on their minds. It will also help the youth of your district develop a sense of optimism in the system. They are our future. So your job is not just to administer , but to produce positive vibes during your service.
About political interference?
Politics exists everywhere. Politics is inherent in humans. You will have ups and downs in your career. But you just have to maximize the ups and reduce the downs,due to which you will gradually start ignoring the downs. When your political bosses know that you are sincere and straightforward they will think twice before interfering during the course of your work. They will start co-operating ,because better outcomes in governance will benefit them and they will earn a good name as well. Once I was asked to take a decision by local politicians which I refused to. The matter was taken to the CM and he asked them to not meddle with my decision,because it will be correct. This is the support you will get from your political bosses. 98% people are good. So why take those 2% seriously. Won’t it affect your morale?
There are pessimists and haters everywhere. Just ignore them, and that is the best insult you can give them and teach a lesson that they are so insignificant.
Threat to life?
Haha!Nothing can kill you other that your own conscience. Be honest.
When did you join the service?
When I was 30 after giving 4 attempts.(This for aspirants who feel they cannot do anything worthy when you join the service late).
How is your career so successful?
I cannot call it successful yet.I still have more than a decade of service left.
I was not very smart or studious. Infact I was given low marks in the interview twice because of which I had to reappear again and again.
But once you clear the exam , everything else will look easier.
Learn and apply what you learnt. Think big and take appropriate risks(He has completed LLB,MA Economics and International Relations in US while working.)
Co-operate and do not confront with the system. Change the system gradually by being a part of it and not opposing it. Make your work get recognized. India is changing.
Do not have a criteria to rate your success based on the posts you hold. This is risky as you will expect something and if it does not happen you will get demotivated. If you have a vision and you work hard , your work will be recognized. Keep suggesting new ideas to your bosses and make sure you implement the ideas when you are in charge of it. Ideas without outcomes are fishes without fins.
For example, He was a mission director of RTE. Not a very powerful post,but it is because of the work he did there ,he was chosen for PMO.
Experiences in PMO?
Being appointed to the PMO was a pleasant shock. It is decided by the Cabinet committee on Appointments. I was in US then. I was told that I was chosen by the PM himself. It made me nervous. But working with the PM was a blessing. You get to take part in decision making influencing the future of the nation of 1.28 billion. I had no political influences. In fact I was working in a state where ruling party is not a part of NDA. So your work is getting recognized ,Isn’t it?
When I was in PMO , I should be there before the PM arrives at 7–7.30 AM. Average 16 hours of work everyday. One of the Busiest offices in the world. Everything that is done there has implications on our foreign policy, growth, National Security infact the politico-economy of the globe.
Working with PM was the best experiences ever I could ask for. Satisfied!
Experiences as a Joint-Secretary?
As I got promoted as a Joint-Sec,I had to be transferred to Finance Min. It is because of the area of my interest in Economics and Alma matter. In PMO , one macro-manages the policy decisions of all important ministries.Here it is more of micro management of economic affairs. It is a specialist post.
In finance-min , you take part in Budget Making , International Financial Co-operation and signing memorandums with nations like U.S , Germany , Japan etc on behalf of Govt of India. You need to have enough knowledge ,and this is where what you learnt will have a practical application. Frequent visits to RBI and interacting with top officials there is a part of his work schedule.
When finance secretaries,ministers of foreign nations visit India, briefing upon decisions and convincing them for co-operation and financial assistance for Industrial corridors , Infrastructure and Metros are main areas where he gets to work with discretion under legal norms.
During my stay , I found that he leaves to the North Block at 8.00 AM. He was also talking about an important presentation that he has to make to the Cabinet Secretary.
These are the First Hand Experiences I gained during the course of my interaction with him.
Now coming to the most insignificant part of the Answer,
Privileges and miscellaneous from what I observed :
*Housing : 5–10 Mins travel from Cabinet secretariat. A 3bhk , having a capacity to host 5 guests for staying at a time. 3 maids and a separate outhouse for them to stay with their family. It was an old British style house with classic furniture and full of books. You get a larger house while working as a DM.
No-traffic,and only security personnel and their vehicles are in rounds , as that colony is filled with top bureaucrats.
*Transport : Maruthi-SX4 chauffeur driven ,with “Bharat Sarkar” insignia that can be seen from a distance. No beacon. Had window curtains and white seat cover.
*Others : Computer, Internet and printer provided by Government.
You get to interact with your neighbors who are also bureaucrats serving as Joint and Additional Secretaries.
I have seen government officials/guests coming to meet him for work/courtesy during my stay.
The main reason for me to answer the demand of the question in the end, is to just give an idea of what makes the civil service important and attractive. What I covered in the end becomes insignificant when you go in the right direction. When you see it as a job,you lose then and there 🙂
BTW , I forgot to tell one more thing. His mother was a farmer and is a farmer and she is not even aware of what her son is doing in North Block. 🙂
All the best!
For a few ,who wants more to believe , a photo frame that was in the living room. (Blurred Intentionally.)