The term civil service applies to all non-military branches of state administration. A territory as vast and populous as India requires a complex and centralized system of governance to facilitate the smooth functioning of the various organs of civic infrastructure and ensure that constitutional guarantees and entitlements are brought within the reach of every citizen.
The Indian Civil Services fulfils this need. A legacy of the British, who ruled their failing empire on the pattern of the Romans, this intricate order of hierarchical accountability and controls was established here after the suppression of the 1857 uprising, when the reins of power were transferred from the East India Company to the Crown.
Its purpose at the time was limited to the preservation of law and order, dispensation of justice and the collection of taxes. It later became the prestigious ICS, to which Indians were admitted only after 1920.
Entrance to the civil services is stilt coveted by many though their role has changed significantly since Independence. Operating within the framework of a democratic welfare state, their focus has now shifted further towards development. Unlike many other occupations therefore, the civil services are more of a vocation than a job. For those who wish to ameliorate the lives of millions of Indians, the services could provide the ideal opportunity for a challenging and rewarding career.
The Indian Constitution not only guarantees equal employment opportunity for all but also makes special provisions for women in support of their joining the work force but the number of female officers in the civil services is still comparatively low. In 1981, women constituted less than four
percent of all Central Government employees.
A subtle attitudinal bias on the part of male officers seems to be the reason for sidelining women into what are considered not very challenging posts, as also for very few making it to the top grades. This situation can only change if more women join the services and work actively towards it.
As regards career mobility, it takes time and experience to get to the top ranks of the civil services. However, in many of the services the early years of an officer's career are spent in postings to places they would never ordinarily get to see, and living a lifestyle that in most other careers would be impossible at a junior level.