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IAS Stands for Indian Administrative Service. IAS is the most prestigious Service in our Country. It has unmatched Career progression, job profile, flexibility in working and salary structure compared to other Services.

IAS is most important of three All India Services, others being IPS (Police Service) and IFoS (Forest service). Members of IAS start their career as district magistrate/deputy commissioner in their respective state cadre. Later they occupy top positions of Secretary at State and Union level. Law and order management, policy formulation, policy implementation, Civil Administration, Advising ministers, managing bureaucracy (center and state) are major responsibilities of IAS.

Imperial Civil Servicers (ICS) was founded in 1893 much before independence. Even during British time, it was a coveted service. Members of the services had to enter a contract with the British crown. Top positions in British bureaucracy in India were exclusively reserved for European members of the services.

During colonial time in India, ICS was known as steel frame of Indian Administration. ICS officers were entitled to unmatched opportunities to hold various top positions. Therefore during the time ICS was also known as heaven born services.

At the time of the partition of India and departure of the British in 1947, The Imperial Civil Services was divided between the new Dominions of India and Pakistan. The part adopted by India was named as Indian Administrative Services, while the part that went to Pakistan was named as the Civil Services of Pakistan.

IAS officers are recruited by Civil Services Examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). Generally, IAS is available to top rankers in Civil Services Examination. After getting selected, candidates undergo training at Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration popularly known as its acronym LBSNAA situated at Mussoorie.

Despite IAS being an all India Service, officers of the IAS are allotted to their respective State Cadres at the beginning of their services. Selection to a state cadre depends upon their ranks and their choices as filled in their Detailed Application Form (DAF). They continue to work in that cadre, and may also work at the center while being on deputation to work for the central Government of India. Most of the large states have their own cadre while there is a common cadre for the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Goa, Manipur, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Union Territories also known as AGMUT care. Some officers from State Civil Services are also promoted to IAS and remain equivalent to IAS officers in all regards upon promotion except that they can’t be transferred to other state cadres.

IAS officers directly recruited by UPSC are known as direct recruits. On the other hand those promoted from State Services are known as promotees. According to All India Services conduct rule ratio of directly recruited officers and promoted officers should remain in ratio of 2:1. At present there are about 4926 IAS officers in the country of which 3511 officers are directly recruited by the UPSC and 1415 officers are promoted from state civil services.

Almost all of the IAS officers start their careers in the State administration as a sub-divisional magistrate. After that they occupy the position of District Magistrate or Deputy Commissioner of the District. They are entrusted with the task of maintaining law and order in the district along with general administration and developmental work. After about 14 years of their Service, IAS officers are promoted as divisional commissioner, or secretary in some state government department. After 22-24 years of Service, An IAS officer gets promoted to the position of Principal Secretary in a state government department becomes administrative head of that state department. An IAS officer later becomes chief secretary of the state government. IAS officer in his/her career from time to time also serve at central government in positions ranging from deputy secretary to secretary. The senior most IAS officers are appointed as cabinet secretary, the highest post in Civil Services in India.

IAS officers are also appointed in various regulatory organizations such as SEBI (on deputation), RBI, UGC, IRDA, etc. They also occupy important positions in constitutional bodies like UPSC, Finance Commission, Election Commission, State PSCs and others. Similarly even at state level certain regulatory & constitutional posts are reserved for IAS officers. On some occasions IAS officers are also deputed to Management Board of Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) under Union and State governments. There are also many positions for IAS officers in international organizations like UNO WTO, IMF, World Bank, etc.

A Generalist Civil Servants may not possess a specialized knowledge of a particular discipline but are well equipped with knowledge of the administrative procedures, rules and regulations and also working of various other departments so they bring synergies in working of various departments of the government. An IAS officer is an example of a generalist Civil Servant par excellence.

A specialist Civil Servant, on the other hand, is one who possesses special knowledge or skill in a specific field or area of administration. He is an expert professional. Thus unlike a generalist, he is not an all-rounder. Example of specialist Civil Servants are officers of Indian Engineering Services, Indian Forest Services, Government Medical officers, etc.

The origin of the generalists and specialists dichotomy can be traced to the British Northcote-Travelyan committee report of 1854. This committee recommended a superior position for the members of the British Administrative class (generalists) and subordinate position for the members of the technical (specialists) Services. The Macaulay Committee Report of 1854 on the Indian Civil Service was influenced by the British Northcote-Trevelyan committee report and it recommended for the same position in India.

The Administrative machinery in India during the British colonial rule was structured and designed to give a dominant position to the members of the generalist services, especially the ICS. There has been no significant change in this pattern of administration even after more than a century and half. IAS in India still enjoys hegemonic position in the administration.