2955 12-Jun-2017, Mon
Son of a munsif (court clerk) in Sasaram district in Bihar, he did his BA by correspondence. Though he lived one km from the district collectorate, he never got within conversing distance of a district collector, but like all bright students in Bihar, he was encouraged from childhood to join the IAS.
He got in on his seventh attempt.
"Bihar has not seen the winds of change that swept through the country from the ’90s, so we have an older mindset. For us power and prestige still means sarkari naukri, rather than the fat salaries of MNCs."
Walking into Outlook's Delhi office a few weeks after he was selected—with a distinct air, if not a swagger—Sanjay relives those heady moments when he was swiftly transformed from a small-town boy with uncertain prospects into a member of the mai-baap sarkar that personifies power in his home state. The euphoria of family and friends, the sudden warmth of neighbours who had written him off after he flunked, gushing calls from mere acquaintances and even strangers. The tears of his father, a clerk at the district court who had spent a lifetime in awe of three conjoined letters, I, A and S. And the attentions of bridegroom-seeking civil servants and local politicians belonging to his Rajput caste. They were the only ones disappointed. At 29, the new probationer was already married.
Sanjay is the new face of the civil services. Agastya Sen, the metro-born protagonist of Upamanyu Chatterjee's 1988 novel, English, August, with 'St Stephen's College' written all over him, who finds himself in a district town—a "dot in the hinterland"—after joining the IAS, is even more of a rarity than he already was in the '80s and the '90s.
The most recent data on the social profiles of the 400-odd who annually clear the civil services exam conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) to join the IAS, the Indian Foreign Service, the Indian Police Service and other services, shows that the numbers of those born and schooled in "dots in the hinterland" is rising steadily. The city-born and city-bred, apparently chasing IIMs, MNCs, foreign universities and a plethora of new-economy options, are painting themselves out of the picture. "The easy availability of good jobs not requiring such hard work and preparation to get into, have turned people from relatively affluent backgrounds away from the IAS," says ex-IAS officer and National Advisory Council member N.C. Saxena.