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Take Charge Civil & Armed Services visited Vasai Diocese

When my generation was starting out in life, the number of professions open to us was relatively limited. As a young lad I was assured that if I was not a doctor or an engineer the chances that I would land a good job were almost nil. But today I am absolutely amazed at the number of opportunities available to young people looking to do their own thing in life. Do you want to be a scuba diver, an anthropologist researching the musical traditions of remote tribes, a graphic designer, a wild life enthusiast interested in the mating habits of the merecat? You can do all these and more. So faced with such a bewildering choice of career why on earth would you want to settle for a job which requires you to get through an impossibly difficult examination, posts you in remote corners of the country and offers you a salary that, even though adequate, is still not the best paying job in the country?

If you haven’t yet guessed what this job is, I’m talking about the chance to be part of the civil services of the country, a chance to make a difference in the lives of the scores of people with whom you will work. And because we wanted to find out how many young people were keen to look at this as a career choice we journeyed to Vasai one day, at the invitation of the Archbishop of Vasai to talk to young students about to choose their careers. Roger led the initiative, Dinelle looked after the logistics and Arvind Pinto, Colonel Sunith Cardoza and I made up the rest of the party.

To begin with we were quite surprised to see the size of the gathering. On a lazy Sunday morning, when many young people would like to hang with friends, listen to music and just generally chill out we found the hall filled with more than 100 young people, all eager to hear what we had to say. Arvind spoke eloquently and knowledgably about how to deliver an efficient and honest tax system. Sunith was a hit in his smart uniform and the stirring talk he gave on the attractions of being part of the country’s armed forces while I spoke about the joys and challenges of being part of the administrative services.

When we had finished speaking questions flew at us from the audience. They ranged from concerns about the difficulty of cracking the examination to hardship postings, the ticklish problems of dealing with political interference and how to remain honest and committed in an atmosphere in which these are not always highly prized virtues. We came away with the conviction that some at least of our audience were genuinely interested in what they heard and were keen to take it forward.

A few weeks later I journeyed again to Vasai to speak to heads of Catholic educational institutions about the importance of the civil services. Again the response was amazing and the audience participation was intense. The question was not whether but how to prepare students to succeed in the entrance examination for these services.

So why are we trying to interest young people in the civil services or defence forces? As I’ve already said, this isn’t the best paying job, it isn’t one where you’ll have convenient postings in places of your choice. Instead of the comforts of Mumbai life to which you are accustomed you may have to serve in remote parts of the country among people whose language and customs are strange to you and it’s quite likely that you will have to face a good deal of political pressure when you try to do the right thing. And yet this is one job in which the opportunity to make a difference is stupendous. You can bring about development in places that have never known it, you can open up new avenues for people who have never had any chances in their lives, and, as the Mahatma put it so beautifully, you will have the opportunity to wipe every tear from every eye. When you end your working life, these things will make you far happier than the huge sums you might earn in other jobs and the cushy life you lead in large cities. At the end of the day you will have to live with yourself.


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