In Tell-All Post, IAS Officer Says Being Bureaucrat Is A Tough Grind

03/08/2015 1:38 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
In this Dec. 10, 2012 photo, a government official enter authorized land records in a computer at the government registrar's office in Hoskote 30 Kilometers (19 miles) from Bangalore in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. For years, Karnataka's land records were a quagmire of disputed, forged documents maintained by thousands of tyrannical bureaucrats who demanded bribes to do their jobs. In 2002, there were hopes that this was about to change. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

Every time you think of an IAS officer's life, you would probably imagine a chauffeur-driven car, red beacons, footmen in attendance, a big bungalow and an office spacious enough to live in. Now, who wouldn't want to be in that position?

A writer, who claims to be a serving IAS officer, anonymously took to social media site Quora to bust these myths and presented a rather sordid picture of the tribulations of being a bureaucrat. HuffPost India couldn't independently verify if the writer was indeed an IAS officer.

Do they get enough leaves?

The job barely allows officers to take leaves and leave that extends to more than a week is granted just once and that too, for the exclusive purpose of getting married. Leaves are allowed only once a year for family trips on Leave Travel concession (LTC), permissible for the Central government employees, which, the officer claims is frequently unavailed of.

"Could not avail two LTCs due to work, so was determined to go this time. This time also, called on penultimate day to join back for some urgent issue," the officer said in his post.

For most of them even Sundays are working. "Out of 52 Sundays per year, zero work Sundays are around 5 to 10. Saturdays, despite being an official off, are usually working. Field officers usually do most of the work on holidays because on that day less number of visitors and phone calls disturb thinking process. All judgments, complicated files are usually cleared only on holidays or after 10pm," he writes.

Easy work hours?

The officer also says that the works hours are unusually long that begin at 9:30 am and stretch to 9 or 10pm. In situations such as disasters, elections and other major events, work begins at 8 am and stretches to midnight.

"I personally remember having worked up to 2 or 3am in the morning for at least 50 times. I also remember having worked for 36 hours at a stretch with only 1-2 hour break for 5-6 times," he writes.

The IAS officer also writes about the time when all the District Magistrates (DM) in his state stayed awake to clear 1,100 certificates of candidates who were interested in filing nominations for gram panchayat elections.

"We could have easily said that applications filed only 24 hours ago need not be disposed as officially we have 15 days to take decision. But I remember that then almost all DMs in my state didn’t sleep to ensure that these are disposed off," he writes in the Quora post.

During emergencies like earthquakes and floods, the officer has "clocked more than 100 hours a week," and has been outdone only by Chief Ministers and senior ministers.

Luxurious living?

"The only facility which stands out is a good house. But that is enjoyed by family and not by IAS officer who goes there only to sleep," the officer writes.

IAS officers need to pay Rs 1000-1500 per month to the government for family use of cars. And, even if they want to send their children to school in auto rickshaw, they are told that it will create “uncalled for news” as this is the only "official way out."

Phone calls aren't cheap for IAS officers either. "In one state, DMs are entitled for only Rs 2,000 per month for residential landline, residential internet and mobile. So around 20% DMs in such cases pay around Rs. 1000-2000 per month from their pocket and others tell their subordinates to bear these expenses unofficially." he writes.

While 30% DMs get their groceries and household items (vegetables, milk, etc) for free, most of them have to pay for it.

However, the officer also says that there are times when service providers refuse to take payment from them. "Cable wallas usually don’t take monthly rent if you are DM," the officer says. Restaurant and cinema hall owners also do not charge on most occasions. "But this is usually 2-3 times in a year."

A body guard is made available to them only when one is either a DM, Divisional Commissioner or Chief Secretary. That's around 5 to 6 years of an IAS officer's career. "Rest of the time, no such facility even if you are equally vulnerable," the officer writes.

Work-life balance?

The officer says that he doesn't even have time to even talk to his family. "My son, as a five-year old, learnt to send me a recorded voice message on WhatsApp. Usually it is a request to come home early which he sends when he feels sleepy as he knows I don’t speak much on phone."

Work stress?

The officer calls most ministers 'unreasonable.' "I would request corporate honchos or MBAs or technocrats on Quora to imagine reporting to Lalu or Mulayam or Mayawati and still work without breaking rules. These kinds of characters are usually in all districts from MLAs upward," the officer says.

Dealing with subordinates, who officers can't recruit, select, transfer or punish, is not an easy task.

Describing the most stressful aspects of work, the officer says he frequently deals with several morchas and "aggressive groups demanding anything and everything."

"A small incident such as suspending an employee can take a communal/caste colour in no time. I know names of more than 10 IAS (yes IAS) officers who were beaten up by such mobs. Then few others have false cases of molestation and atrocities lodged against them," he writes.


Salary of a Sub-Divisional Magistrate is up to Rs 40,000 and most DMs get Rs 50,000-65,000 per month. "That’s simply not enough in present times. We have our aspirations and do feel like going once in a while to say Dubai or Singapore or to some resort in Kerala. It is not possible for us for reasons of both time and money," he said.

When officers do manage to find time to travel, they usually stay at government rest houses without room service which still costs them Rs 500 -Rs 1,500 per day.

Comparing IAS officers' salary to that of other professionals, he says, almost all engineers, doctors, college teachers/professors get "far more for far less number of working hours and stress".

"Ask them to report to Madhu Koda and then show performance after following his instructions," he writes.

"I have savings of not more than Rs 10 lakh. No house or plot as yet," he writes and added that there are many like him who can't purchase plots and houses in state capitals at their current salaries.

Despite all these, the officer says that he won't ever leave the job because the "service is unparalleled."

"Happiness of connecting a village by road or providing water to some hamlet or conducting smooth elections or providing relief in disasters in unparalleled...I can’t explain the happiness when a poor villager brings a few vegetables from his farm just out of affection," he writes.

"At times, I can’t speak to my son for days together due to odd hours of my work," he writes.

The officer plans to try for foreign assignment in the UN to earn some more white money and spend more time with his family. But leaving this job? "No way," he writes.

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