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The Indian Civil Services (ICS) have a long and tenuous history.  Also called the Imperial Civil Service or the Covenanted Service, it was created in 1858 to govern the vast territories that England had acquired on the Indian Sub-Continent. Thus, the ICS was the ‘steel frame’ that held the vast flung territory from Aden and Baluchistan in the west to Burma in the east under a single administrative framework.

The origins of the Service started in Haileybury in England.  where the first recruits were trained. The early recruits were generalists who were young and were sent out to as administrators to govern large tracts of territory that fell to the British. The recruits to the Civil Services were in all areas of governance – administrative, judicial, tax, home and diplomatic. For in the 19th century governance was limited to collection of revenue, policing and judicial functions. The annual Civil Service examinations were held in London in the month of August and the candidates had to be within the ages of 21 to 24 years. For the Civil Services were for young men with a liberal arts background who were trained to be able to act as officers of the Empire. A compulsory test was horse riding test, for it was said that if someone could control a horse, he would not have much difficulty in controlling a crowd of natives. At least till my day at the renamed Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, horse riding was a compulsory exercise. Thus, the Civil Services had an aura of prestige and power and in the days when there were not many choices of jobs, was counted as a coveted service.

Around the early part of the 20th century, it was known as the ‘heavenly born services’ and was thrown open for Indians to compete.  Examinations were held simultaneously in England and in India, with several Indians joining the Services. The Services were also opened by an upward promotion from the Provincial Services as also a certain lateral induction from the Bar. With the growth and development of law in the country, the posts in the Judiciary came to be separated from those of the Administrative cadre.   Those Civil Servants who opted for the Judiciary continued to hold positions as Judges and future recruits to the Judiciary were taken from among the developing fraternity of lawyers and barristers.

Subsequently in the growing area of governance, and the development of services in India   there was felt the need for different specialised services; thereby bringing into existence several specialised services such as the Indian Revenue Services, the Customs and Excise Service. Likewise, with the growth of the Railways, a group of Railway Services also came into existence. With the growth of Post and telecommunications, there was the Indian Postal Service and the Telecommunication Service.

With independence, the Indian Civil Service cadre was divided between India and Pakistan, with officers being given the choice of opting for either of the countries. Many of the British officers opted to go home although a few did continue. The Service was renamed the Indian Administrative Service which together with the Indian Police Service formed the core of the District Administration. Another service that came into existence was the Foreign Service, since with independence there was need for a core of trained personnel to man our diplomatic posts abroad.

Over the years there have been several distinguished Christians that have made it to the Civil Services, having served at the top echelons of their respective Services. During the days of the ICS, there was a Noronha in Madhya Pradesh, after whom the Administrative Training Institute is named after. Or in the IAS, there was Michael Pinto, Secretary Shipping, or Anthony D’sa, who recently retired as Chief Secretary Madhya Pradesh. The legend of the Police Service is undoubtedly Julio Ribeiro, the Officer who quelled the agitation in Punjab and went on to become our Ambassador in Romania. Or again Manuel Menezes was the Chairman of the Railway Board and O. V Kuruvilla was the Chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes.

The term Indian Civil Service is the generic name for all government services where the examination is conducted by the UPSC. The All India Services are the Indian Administrative Service, the Indian Police Service and the Indian Forest Service – since they are recruited centrally but are allotted a state cadre. Then there are the Central services such as the Foreign Service, the Indian Revenue Service, the Customs and Excise Service etc, since these are administered by the Central government. Finally there is the Class B Services where the candidate eventually makes it into the Class A services.

Over the decades there is a paradigm change in the Civil Services. The elites of India both caste and class are not the only stream that is entering the services. With a reservation policy in India, several of the scheduled and backward castes and classes, as also tribes are now joining the Civil Services. Today a young person irrespective of his caste creed or community can aim to become a part of the Services.

Today the Civil Services are an open competition for the brightest and the best of the country. The examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) is a true test of one’s knowledge, ability and skill. After a potential candidate is successful at the written examination, there is a viva-voce that is conducted with the Board of the UPSC. It is a proud moment in the life of every aspirant to join the Civil Services, to have the opportunity of serving the country in the various Services that it offers.

Wishing each of you the very best in your dreams.






Vajiram and Ravi








Naipunnya Academy





State Institute for Administrative Careers (SIAC)

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