What is Civil Service(s)???
The literal or broad meaning of the term is, any service under the government of a country, state/provincial government or other undertaking, separate from the defence services of the country. If we follow this meaning, then every officer, every clerk and every other staff working under, either the Government of India (GoI), Government of a State/Union Territory, Municipal Corporation, Municipality, Municipal Board, Zilla Parishad or Local Panchayat, should be categorised as a Civil Servant.
However, the word is not used in such a broad sense in India, today. In India, by the term Civil Service we mean, the covetted All India Services mentioned in the Constitution of India, namely Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS) and Indian Forest Service (IFoS), or the diplomatic service representing the President of India, namely Indian Foreign Service (IFS), along with the other Schedule ‘A’ services like Indian Revenue Service – Income Tax (IRS-IT), Indian Revenue Service – Customs and Excise (IRS-CE), etc. Additionally, one may also include the, posts of Sub-Divisional Officers (SDOs), Deputy Superintendent of Police (DySP), Block Development Officer, etc. for which, the examination is conducted by the State Public Service Commissions.
Often, these covetted services are also known by the Public Service, because, truly, for all practical purposes, these officers are duty bound to serve the sovereign (you may say ‘owner’) of the country, that is common public iof India. And for this reason pyramid like hierarchical system of reporting is created, on top of which a popularly/democratically elected minister is placed, to ensure the supervision by a representative of the common people.
Sardar Ballavbhai Patel, called the Civil Servants (especially the IAS) as the steel frame of Indian Democracy. Truly, it is these Civil Servants, who, upon understanding the intricacies and technicalities of the situations, make decisions, based on which the country runs. Starting from Policy making to their implementation, at every level, it is ultimately a Civil Servant, who remains responsible for the smooth functioning of the government machinery.
To understand the appeal of Civil Services for an aspirant, it should be enough to say, this is practically the ticket for a vast majority to enter the circle of who’s-who in a society. The first posting of an IAS officer is that of an SDM/SDO, where the young officer, by virtue of his posting becomes respnsible for the well being of a Subdivision of a district, often consisting more than a million population. Subsequently, they rise the ladder to the rank of a District Magistrate/Collector, where he/she is entrusted with the responsibility of a complete district. Here, the officer becomes ‘all-in-all’ for the administration of the district. Gradually, the officer rises up the ladder to become the head of a department and then of a ministry as a Secretary in charge of the respective ministry. It is finally here, at this level, the officer attain the stature of a policy maker. It is ultimately this officer, who shapes and formulates the policy of the government affecting the lives of crores of people.
We, also need to take into account, that in a developing country like India, where there always is a scarcity of resources, the civil servants, as the representatives of the government, holding the discretionary authority in terms of distribution of resources, would be looked at as the modern day scions, by a common person.
Given the above discussion, it becomes easily understandable, why, even today, in India, we see, the best of the talents to go for these covetted services.