Technocrats or Bureaucrat; The never ending debate of IITians joining IAS/IPS/IFS

The issue of engineers turning IAS officers has
always attracted censure. Yet the number of engineers applying for these exams
keeps rallying year after year. So what benefits can an engineer bring to the
system which the others cannot?

An engineer acing the IAS exam has been the trend
for a long time. Ira Singhal, this year’s IAS topper is a computer engineering graduate,
IAS Rank 2, Raj Purohit was from IIT Delhi, while the 2014 IAS topper Gaurav Agarwal
was from IIT Kanpur. Famous civil servants like Arvind Kejriwal, D. Subbarao,
Manohar Parrikar, Ashok Khemka, Kiran Bedi, etc. all come from engineering
backgrounds.

Yet, recently, several questions have been raised
about the resulting lack of accommodation for non-engineers, displaced
innovations, and shifts in the composition of the system.

Wasting
Resources:

In 1995, some UPSC candidates suggested that
students with engineering degrees should not be allowed to apply for
IAS/IPS/IFS (source). In the past 20 years, few education analysts have accused professionals
of wasting seats in prestigious universities like IITs and NITs which could
have been granted to other deserving aspirants. In every batch of IITians, around 30-40 % go abroad and another
20 % go for further studies. Hence, the money spent by the government on
providing a subsidised engineering education for them is futile.

Job Disillusion:

According
to Vishal Gori, a UPSC aspirant from Mumbai, “Most engineers apply for IAS
because of job security or preference of working in public sector.” Besides, in
a country that mass produces engineers, only 20% of them have the caliber to
work in an MNC, while those who take up engineering due to peer or parental pressure
are usually unsure about what career to pursue and hence end up applying for
UPSC.

Social
Impact

Aamil Syed Naeem, another UPSC aspirant from Mumbai
says, “I was working in a corporate earlier with a good post and profile, but the
social impact of the job was very low. I didn’t want to be just a cog in the
machine. There are very few areas where you get to make an impact like the
IAS/IPS. Working for the government, you are in a better position to make
welfare decisions and have fewer restrictions than in a corporate role. In a
private job, by the time you achieve a good post and power, you lose the spark
of youth.”

IAS officer Raju Narayanaswamy, on passing out from
IIT Chennai, was offered a scholarship in Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, USA. He turned down that offer because he believed that he had a
moral obligation to give something in return for the finances
the government spent on him as an IIT student. Currently posted in Kerala, he is of the view that
as an IIT + IAS, and with a decade long experience, it’s easier to channel your
professional understanding to contain national problems like corruption.

Reducing
bureaucracy

Most IAS officers today are in their 20s and have
less than 8-10 years of substantial government experience. Having a younger
crowd in the force may reduce the bureaucracy and red tapism present in the
system. Nowadays, the government undertakes several welfare projects in
collaboration with private conglomerates wherein the former provide finances
and the latter facilitate technology and expertise. There is a notion that
corporates don’t usually have people’s interest in mind, and are more concerned
with costing and royalty instead. But, if you are a bureaucrat, you can have
better control over such aspects too. For e.g. Narayanaswamy has on several occasions
acted against corrupt officials in the government.

Displaced
innovations

It is stated that engineers have logical
understanding needed to make a difference. If you are a civil or mechanical
engineer with considerable experience, you will have a greater insight in
public welfare projects. However, a UPSC aspirant, Swati Kalidindi from
Hyderabad, says, “Those engineers who are very innovative, don’t want to join
the IAS. Most of those who enter this field are service oriented and hence it
doesn’t matter what profession or qualification you come from. However, to some
extent, engineers can use their innovation to bring efficiency and speed to the
job.”

Unfair
Advantage:

Engineers have a better chance of scoring in UPSC exams
because they come with the skills and experience from a private company,
whereas some others who depend on these jobs for their livelihood are unable to
pass or excel in the field.  Besides,
IITians usually opt for science/maths
for their optional papers which gives them an unfair advantage. It’s easy for
them to score a 400 in maths which may seem near impossible for non-engineering
graduates. There is also a small section of students who take up engineering
with the aim to have an upper hand at cracking the civil services exams.

Nowadays,
the trend is more towards technocrats than bureaucrats. Hence, despite all the
criticism of engineers joining the IAS, their advancement to one of the top
posts in civil services is not a bane to the nation.

Read Next