Thursday, November 29, 2007

Goodbye LBSNAA

All good things come to an end. So does the 81st Foundation Course. It started of on an exciting note but the hectic schedule, especially the early morning PTs and weekend treks, began to take their toll. Adding to that was the excruciating climb to the mess and somnolent speeches by the guest speakers. All along the way, we cried, cribbed and cursed. But as the course nears its completion, the beauty of FC begins to dawn upon me. The biggest lure of the FC is its academic insouciance, something that will be sorely missed during our professional training.

When I look back, I realize that in these three and half months I have done scores of things that I would have never imagined I would be doing. A random list….

Waking up to a false alarm at 4 AM and again sleeping off ……only to be late for the PT

Relishing Upma at the breakfast……. a dish which I passionately hated at home

Late night movies in common room with friends….. with orange glow of the room heater and murrukkus

Meetings…. Syndicate Group Meeting, Counselor Group Meeting, Trek Group Meeting, Village Visit Group Meeting….

Watching Yamini Krishnamurthy perform at the age of 67 ..... truly inspiring

Sleeping in the class……..sometimes complete with dreams and snores

Weekend treks, early morning jogs …… and visits to the dispensary feigning injury

Pulling of an entertaining one act play complete with costumes, lighting and sound but without a written script

Trekking to a height of 1000 metres over six kilometers with a sprained ankle to visit a Gurudwara for the first time. (A wonderful photo essay of trekking in this stretch is available here)

Seeing a glacier .... and touching it.

Drinking tea at the last tea stall of India...

Trek in the company of icy Himalayan winds, barren rocks and zero vegetation…

Enjoying the bonhomie of ITBP jawans at Gastoli …… their warm barracks, their lovely songs and dances that went late into night

Playing cricket on a helipad at an altitude of 14,500 feet…..

Not taking bath for three days

Managing the traditional telugu dhoti for five hours before someone pointed out an impending wardrobe malfunction

DPs unfailing company to the breakfast……everyday

Surprise cancellation of PT

Waking up at 9 am and having bath at 12 am on sundays

Basking in the warm sun

Gorging over food at Andhra Bhavan in Delhi after being starved of south Indian food for over two months

Visiting Bihar

Conducting a gram sabha and addressing the villagers in broken Hindi

Verifying the muster rolls of NREGA

Spending sleepless nights with VM to bring out the batchbook …… and then getting mobbed by OTs for a copy when it is finally released

Listening to Ilaiyaraja’s songs for a whole day…..snuggled in a blanket

Last minute preparation for exams….and sometimes going without any preparation

Unscheduled vodkas at the drop of the hat……..and the funny drunken banters

Searching a lecture hall for 20 minutes…..and when unsuccessful, simply going back to the room and sleeping

And finally….

Friend’s list in Orkut swelling by more than 100 in 100 days.

I will miss you, LBSNAA.

* Trek is one of the highpoints of FC. One of the more challenging parts was the Mana – Gastoli stretch. Mana (10,500 ft) is a village three Kilometers from Badrinath. Gastoli (14,500ft) is 14 kms from Mana towards the Indo-China border. The International Border is around 30 kms from Gastoli. All that is present in Gastoli is a lone ITBP camp, which is operational for only six months in a year. The camp has no electricity or telephone. Lights are solar powered and for cooking, kerosene is ferried from Mana by truck for around 10 Kms and from there brought to the camp by mules.

* Batchbook contains the profile of all OTs with their photographs, likes, dislikes etc.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Decline of Civil Servants? Not Really.

It is widely perceived that there has been a gradual decline in the moral and ethical standards in public life since independence, which is also reflected in the character and conduct of public servants. Corruption has affected all sections of society and is prevalent from the highest to the lowest levels of bureaucracy. It was believed that, with rare exceptions, IAS officers were person of integrity and moral courage who administered law and rules with a degree of fairness and impartiality. This perception has changed to an extent that it is now believed that a majority of The IAS officers are deviants; and do not abide by the normative standards of behaviour and conduct expected of them.

Those are lines from the first paragraph of Chapter III – Values, Attitudes and Moral Imperatives from “Report of the Study Group on the Training of IAS Officers: Impact Assessment and Strategy for the Future”. The report was the result of the study group set up by the Department of Personnel and Training Vide its sanction order No. 15012.2/1/95-(Trg) dated 14th march, 1996. The team had closely interacted with various training institutes and had a special focus on LBSNAA.

Prima facie, these lines might not surprise a lot of people as it is a general perception that there is a decline in the quality of public servants, especially in the moral quotient. That perception has also been often extended to even the entrants into the service. Paragraph 3.8 from the same chapter in the report is a pointer in that direction.

Fresh entrants into the civil services today, who operate in this unwholesome environment, are disillusioned and confused right from the start. As they observe their seniors, many of whom are either apathetic or unhelpful, the younger members choose the relatively pleasant course of expediency, and swim with the tide, while paying lip service to ethical standards and norms of conduct.

However, after reading this memoir of a former IPS officer who attended the Foundation Course forty four summers ago, I wonder if there has actually been a 'decline' in the quality of entrants.

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."

Nothing, even remotely as serious as the instances above, has occurred during the present Foundation Course. So the logical conclusion should be that the quality of entrants is actually improving. Encouraging, isn’t it?