Answer by Anonymous:
Disclosure: I have to answer this anonymously as I am an IIT alumnus currently serving as a District Magistrate. My personal experience has not been very good and I plan to change my career path soon.
Let me be very frank. I will not mince my words as I want to make sure that my IIT brethren are very clear about this career path. I feel that a lot of hype is created in the minds of young middle class Indians about Civil Services, by their parents and society in general.
I would say that in its current state, Civil Services (IAS, IPS, IFS, etc.) is not a good option for an IIT Graduate.
Most of my friends who are in the corporate world ( irrespective of the field they are in) have a better lifestyle, better standard of living, better access to medical & educational facilities, better career growth opportunities, much more money (I feel taking /demanding bribe is an insult to my humanity).
Although I am an IAS officer, I can tell you that other services (IPS, IFS, Allied services) also have their own set of problems.
(i) Constant harassment from illiterate politicians, which is highly demeaning. Imagine a gutkha (betel nut) chewing, dim witted (cannot do double digit additions to save his life), potbellied, racist, misogynist, guy who uses filthy language even when talking to his own family members and is your boss only because he hails from a particular community and was a road chaap Goonda. Would you like to spend your time with such people? After having spent your youth amongst some of the best minds of the country, I doubt you would. Now imagine this guy to be your boss. He decides what you can and cannot do. This guy who you would not hire even as a servant, is your master. Take that.
Many ( or should I say most ) of the IAS officers start working hand-in-glove with these mongrels, colluding with them, in their corrupt practices. But even then, there life is not so much better. The officer runs the highest risk of getting caught and being jailed / suspended. In case of an enquiry (which is becoming more common nowadays with RTI and all), the IAS officers are the first to be thrown under the bus. The MPs/MLAs have connections, money, and power. The signature on the document would be yours so obviously you will be made the scapegoat, even if you signed the document due to pressure/harassment. Anybody remember the case of . He spent 15 months in jail and later died. Don't you think a number of politicians would also be involved with him in the scam ? But when the scam was unfolded he was the first to be booked. I have no sympathies for him but I just mentioned him here to let you know that even the corrupt officers don't have it easy, leave alone the honest ones.
(ii) Quality of life: Most of the officers are posted in backward districts as most of India is under developed. Which means you would be living in an ultra conservative society. People are very judgmental. You cannot go to a bar (if there is one in your area 😛 ). Entertainment options are limited and cultural activities (theatre, exhibitions) are almost non-existent. Post marriage, the job opportunities for your wife will not be there and no decent schools for your children, means your family will have to live separately. What is the point of having a large house if your family is not going to stay with you? Forget having a girlfriend ( most girls get married in their teenage years and wear ghunghats, hiding their faces). Forget malls, even the e-retailers like Flipkart, etc. don't deliver in my area. You cannot get decent clothes, food options are severely limited (the house cook makes ok food but only desi cuisines). Getting high speed internet connection is a problem (worst part for us IIT graduates). God forbid, if a riot happens in your area, your life is at risk.
(iii) Environment and work culture: At the end of the day it is a sarkari job. Systems are archaic and progress is painfully slow. There is so much red tape that it would give you headaches every day. Government employees are lazy and kaamchor and in their sangat (company), you would also start becoming one of them. After working here for a few years you would start losing your intellectual curiosity. You would acquire a new vernacular vocabulary but you would start losing your grip on English. If I appear for a job interview today I will surely struggle to have a conversation in English.
(iv) Peers: Some of them are brilliant. But most of them are not as bright as my college peers. You start losing your analytical skills and whatever other skills you possessed, as your grey cells are not being used. I am firm believer in the concept that you enjoy life and develop the right kind of qualities and skills by being surrounded by the right kind of people. Sadly, you will be missing that here. I would suggest all IITians to look for a career which offers you the maximum exposure in terms of spending time in different countries, cultures, learning a wide spectrum skills and meeting a wide variety of gifted and intelligent personalities.
(v) Freedom: You have no freedom to live your life the way you want to. You cannot roam freely outside your house, as your security is at risk. Believe me, having bodyguards is nice initially but becomes a pain soon.
(vi) Money: The in-hand salary is paltry. There are a lot of perks for sure. But there are a lot of things which only money can buy. Most of my peers are making a lot of black money but even then they cannot spend it on themselves. Just imagine even if an IAS officer has Crores of rupees can he drive a Rolls Royce? Obviously not, the tax authorities will catch hold of his neck the next day. What is the point of making so much money sucking the blood of the common man when you cannot even enjoy it yourself. Most of the officers’ pass on this dirty money to their next generation when they pass away. I am a believer in “Karma” so even if you think that you have fooled the system but colluding with the administration, police and judiciary, Karma (God) will get you in end.
(vii) Promotions: Promotions are not dependent on performance but on which caste you belong to and how much ass-licking you can do. It is very depressing.
(viii) Posting Location: There is a lot of internal fighting in between officers to get a posting in a good area. After spending sometime in the services, the sleepy district of Kharagpur would also seem like a dream posting location ( The Mermaid Theory effect! ).
(ix) IIT Disadvantage: Sometime your seniors will try to hurt you just so that they can get the sadistic pleasure of showing you that even if you are from IIT now they are your boss.
(x) Perks and facilities: You are provided with cars which are in dire need of maintenance while at the same time your friends will be driving high end cars. The bungalow is a big one with the land size enough to house a village. But, even here the maintenance is bad and the design very old. Same is the case with the furniture.
As someone already mentioned if you living in a place as backward as mine you can hire a lot of servants and rent a very nice place for a paltry sum. So comparing the size of my sarkari house in a backward region with my friend's apartment in Mumbai is not very fair.When I visited one of my friends in Mumbai who lives in a 2 BHK in Andheri, I was so jealous. Apart from the pristine condition of the building and the modern furniture, his building has swimming pool, gym and a lot of hot girls who are of my age!
You also have to remember that these cars and other things are not your own and after retirement they will be taken back. So, with the salary of an IAS officer you have to teach your children and save enough money to live decently after retirement.
(xi) Prestige & Power: See any educated person is respected in villages where most are illiterate. After a while it doesn't matter who salutes you. In your heart, you know your own worth. Even after clearing IIT-JEE it felt good for some days when people used to congratulate us and applaud us for being inside IIT. But, after awhile you get used to it and stop noticing it. Same is the case here. The fact that you are just a puppet in the hands of politicians makes you feel quite powerless.
You would also see that most of the people are fake. They have their own agenda. They are treating you with so much attention and respect because they feel that someday they might need you or they already need you to do some favour for them. So, it is not genuine admiration.
NOTE: I know that one can do a lot of good work as an IAS officer. from IIT Kharagpur is one of those people. But then you have to be ready to suffer like him. Anyway, the question is not about that and therefore I have not touched upon that topic here.