Sunday, 29 April 2012


IAS is most notoriously known as the Indian Administrative Service. Notorious because this is the cadre of public servants that has inherited the mantle of the erstwhile Indian Civil Service and like someone famously said there is nothing civil or service about them. Of course, these days we have more damning survey reports that not only prove this point but go further.

The report of a survey of 12 Asian economies done by the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy based in Hong Kong blames India’s ‘suffocating bureaucracy’ for us falling behind countries like Vietnam, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar in providing our people with minimal standards of healthcare, sanitation and education. Examine just the sad fact that 43 per cent of Indian children under the age of five are underweight compared with 20 per cent in Vietnam and 14 per cent in Bhutan and you understand what we are up against. It is not because of a shortage of funds that millions of Indians are forced to live in conditions of shameful poverty and degradation. The Government of India reporedly spent Rs 4 trillion on various poverty alleviation programmes in just one year. The report points out that if even half this money had been distributed among our estimated 60 million poor households, they would each get Rs 80 a day and so rise above the poverty line. Our own Planning Commission pointed this out more than a decade ago but because there has not been the smallest attempt to get our babu-log to work more efficiently, nothing has changed.

And writing for The Indian Express Tavleen Singh in 'India’s bureaucratic albatross'(Feb 21, 2010) has said 'Every time I deal with Indian officials I become so depressed that I almost need therapy.'

So it was natural to have puns circulating about IAS. One such pun is 'I am Always Safe'. This is because of the (manipulative) power-without-responsibility wielded by these babus. With the skills-writing a brief and answering questions in comprehension exercises- learnt in primary schools, as their only weapon, these clerks of the privileged variety, have, no doubt, wrecked havoc on the society. It has been reported that almost 80 percent of the cases pending in our courts involve the government. A layman's knowledge of how the government works would reveal that it is the omissions and commissions of these babus that have caused this huge pile of litigation.

There is an interesting anecdote on how these babus work in tandem with corrupt politicians. The file of a project needing the approval of a minister was taken to him by the concerend secretary with his notings. The minister could not make head or tail of it and the secretary just advised him to write 'Not sanctioned' with an extra space after Not. The minister did as advised. A few days later the secretary took the file back to the minister, placed a bundle of currency notes on his table and advised him 'now you may add an 'e' to the Not'. The minister wondered what was happening. The secretary smiled and left with the file with the project sanctioned by the minister as 'Note sanctioned'!

And that reminds me of another anecdote- of how the asshole established itself as the most important organ in the human body. It goes like this.

Once there was a hot argument between the various organs of the human body as to who was the most important. The heart said 'the moment I stop working life stops!'. The brain declared 'but I control all the activities, and if I let go my control even for a short while, the whole system will fail and may never recover thereafter'. So on and so forth all the organs made their claims. The asshole which was patiently listening to all these did not utter a single word. It just struck work. And soon constipation set in, the eyes started bulging out, the heart began to beat faster, the head began to swirl. It was mayhem! And then the asshole asked sternly: now tell me who amoungst us is the most important organ? All of them- the brain, heart, eyes, ears etc- cried out in one voice: we acknowledge, it is you!

Now compare the role of the IASwallahs (and wallis too!) and for one, I have realised that the better description of IAS would be Indian Assholes-on-(perpetual)strike- Service.

Interestingly, the urban dictionary defines asshole as 'anyone who doesn't do exactly what you think they ought to do, exactly when you think they ought to do it.' ( So one can probably simplify Indian Assholes-on-strike- Service to Indian Assholes Service too!