About Workload and Responsibility

Hello Everyone,
In this article we will talk about workload of IES officers in Indian Railways and responsibilities on their shoulders. I am quite young to this organization but still I will try my best to project an honest picture of inside working.

Govt jobs in India are one of most secure jobs in the world. This makes it a scarce resource here, especially for middle class of this country. There are all sorts of government jobs from group D to group A, from psu to state govt. to central govt. Getting Group A job in central government is the dream of youth of this country. Moreover, after seventh pay commission, the scramble for central government jobs will reach its peak. Today, engineers are ever more in numbers which is actually good for this country, if they really are engineers. But the tragedy is very few of us get become engineers in real life. Have you seen ‘Prison Break’, he is the real engineer, we are just engineering graduates. A railway is the place where you get group A job as well as do some engineering.

How is the image of government jobs in our society? On one hand we want it for security and on other hand we despise it for its stagnancy. Actually, both of them are true. Nobody can remove you from service and you get promotion automatically over the time. This brings in a lot of complacency in government workers including some officers.  It is said that government job is not a place for research and innovation but I beg to differ, you can say that there is no incentive but there are lot of opportunities. Government may not give you anything special for doing things brilliantly but you will enjoy just for the sheer pleasure of doing it. In government service, everyone is looking for his entitlements by the virtue of post he holds. If you want to learn in Railways, be ready to visit difficult places, be ready to stay awake at night, be ready to accept rebuke of seniors. You have to be ready to face chaos and dirt of platforms and stations. You will have to deal with corrupt and lazy staff. In fact, Infrastructure at Jamalpur is still the same built by British. You will find yourself in the midst of people learning modern technology in a heritage infrastructure. Being an engineer in Railways is not the bed of roses, it is like a crown of thrones.

As I have said in my previous articles that Railways will provide you diversity of work which no other job India will offer but workload is equally high. In state govt department people procrastinate their work endlessly but in railways you can’t do so beyond a certain point. Off all govt engineering jobs, work culture in railways is relatively better. Again it doesn’t mean that there is no politics, or corruption or leg-pulling, but in lesser proportions. Moreover if you get good zone, then these problems will even be lessened. Part of the problem is that govt servants work under negative perception in the eyes of  public, of being corrupt and inefficient. It is not easy to totally change this image but the initiative will have to be taken form top.

For officers, work- hours have not been defined in IR. It means that you are on duty 24*7, being on duty doesn’t mean always doing work, it means being responsible all the time. If anything happens, DRM directly scolds junior scale officers which you will be after joining. Hence all the facilities, all the staff and all the resources are to be used for execution of you duty. Apart from train running, you will be establishment head of your office which means you will be managing their leaves, passes, transfers, etc. Workload is greater when there is some derailment or accident. You will be present at site without food or water for hours. I don’t want scare you but upshot of all this is that workload is directly proportional to responsibility and in IR you will have lot of responsibility. As a junior and senior scale officers , your working will be more engineering oriented which will include lot of inspections but as you move up the ladder you will be doing less and less inspection and more management work. At the level of DRM and GM , you can’t even imagine their diversity and nature of work. Work load is greater in open line organization; in research, deputation and construction organization work load is cyclic and variable. Research wing of IR is RDSO; it also provides standardization and specification for IR. If you are research oriented then you will be able to contribute maximum here.

As an officer you can learn lot and create some new assets for IR but nobody will ask you to do so. You will have to take your own initiative, but first there is lot to learn before you can actually do something different. As I said there will no incentive for you to work harder, but your own engineering instinct will propel you, if it is there. There are only few who retain their shine even in government jobs, it is because they don’t expect much and work for their own satisfaction.

All those aspirants who want to join IR, you should, but don’t try to be sophisticated. Learn to be a leader. It is really important at your level. You will be head of lot of staff whose experience might be greater that your age. They have seen the railways more than you may have seen the world. So how will you deal with them? Showing arrogance is not the way, being too polite is also not recommended. Ability to handle people will take to far , just knowing technical stuff is not enough. Infact , your communication skills will be tested when you join Railways and travel without ticket, and TTE gives you seat as well as respect.

Till then ,Goodbye.

My journey to ESE 2014

First of all, let me introduce myself,

My name is Himanshu Aggarwal, a 2013 batch pass out from BITS Pilani-Pilani campus.

My CGPA is 8.19

From Aug 2014 to Mar 2015, I was working in BARC Mumbai as a trainee scientific officer

The campus life ended and from the well-known fact of low package of civil companies, I also got a low package from the college placements. Being ineligible to give the paper in 2013 and a Gate 2013 rank of 668, I was left with choice of taking the risk of spending a year preparing for the paper or take the job. It took a week to decide and finally I took the challenge and decided to stay at home for the next year. I also had coaching in IES Master during my college training for 6 months in CRRI Delhi. A 9 AM to 5 PM research at CRRI and 5:15 PM to 10 PM class at coaching were the worst days of my life though I liked the coaching part because I could just relax and repeat what I have done in my college(yes my college studies did help me).

Dropping was somewhat easy as I was shortlisted in some PSU’s such as SAIL, so I thought that I will probably sail in at least one opf the PSU and carry on my study for IES but unfortunately that didn’t happen. Regular rejection made me serious towards GATE 2014 in October end and I started preparing for GATE 2014 + IES 2014 from the starting of November with main focus on making short notes for both and remembering for GATE only for the initial 2 months.

GATE paper went well but the result was not up to the mark with a GATE rank of 302 and still PSU’s like RITES rejecting me on the basis of my age. No job in hand and less chances of getting  a job on this rank started haunting me and it was this time I became serious like anything for IES.

From the day of GATE 2014 result up till April end, I completed syllabus for IES 2014(I did it partially before GATE 2014) and in May I did 2 conventional papers every day from 9 AM to 12 noon and 2 PM to 5 PM and used the time in-between to check the papers (I had ample amount of papers with solutions that I got from IES Master during coaching) and 1 hour or less for GS portion(this was a big mistake to prepare for GS only in May and June and I paid for it by getting 27 marks out of 100 in GK portion).

For the last 10 days, I only revised (crammed) my short notes with last 2 days only for enjoyment and relaxing. Just 20 days before the paper I gave BARC interview which I scored really well with 748 marks (I got the white slip, yippee) that provided me with the boost that I had the ability to crack IES and I have a job

The day of exam: At least I cannot say that I was not nervous at the time of paper but on the surface you look calm and ready to drop bombs (lyrics credit: Eminem) (I thought of the same song just before the paper was about to start). The first day of the paper was the worst part for me because of no preparation. The portion I knew got completed in an hour, the other hour was to prevent making blind shots, so I started looking at the expressions of invigilator and nearby fellows. The next day with two objective papers went well and so did the conventional part. I was happy as I almost did 360 to 370 marks paper in the conventional.

The next 2 days went on discussing the objective part in which I was getting almost 300 marks. Now was the time when I thought that I have got a job and this is time to relax and July was complete fun for me. In Aug, I joined BARC with an intention of enjoying the hard-to-get hostel life again to the full. My time at BARC was full of fun. The days went on and I was at home and returning from a religious trip with family and got the news of the shortlist and found myself in that list for which I was pretty sure. I filled up the DAF and started consulting other BARC fellows and college seniors in IES about the strategy for the interview. My interview date was 19 Jan in Delhi and I thought of giving SSC mains paper on 18th Jan in Jaipur so that I could check whether I still remember the technical part or not.

The day arrived and I was there. My panel was Smt. ALKA SIROHI. The documents part was completed and I was the last in the morning session in that panel. While sitting there I got to know about the book of made easy in which questions of various interview panels are discussed. Shiver went through my spine for a while but after 10 minutes came the time when I thought: ab karke kya kar lunga, ye sab moh maya hai. For me, the clock was getting dead slow as I was eagerly waiting for all this to end. After some time, it was my turn and I was called to sit outside the room interview was going. At that time, I spent time looking at the birds wandering here and there in front of me. I entered the room and there were 3 experts along with the head. My interview was small in length but it was nice so now I was somewhat sure of selection.

Again my enjoyment started in BARC. I gave GATE 2015 paper with some of my BARC friends just for the sake that I don’t feel that I have wasted my money in filling the GATE 2015 form and also that we got free ride on Uber. GATE 2015 results were a complete dilemma as I got a rank of 101 when I did nothing to prepare for GATE and a rank of 302 when I prepared a lot which taught me that luck also plays some role. Again I was at home when the final results of IES 2014 came out. I received a phone call from my BARC friend (GSB) saying: bhai tumne paper phod diya hai chauthi rank aai hai tumhari and for a while I didn’t even knew how to react. Then there were more and more phone calls and celebrations started. May be I am able to write this just because I succeeded but at last I want to convey that if you have passion for anything, go for it. May be you come out unsuccessful but at least you won’t regret saying” yaar try to karna chahiye tha” and it will be worth a try (If you are serious).

Do IES officers serve the society?

Suppose you are sitting in front of UPSC board for interview and the first question which is asked is “Why do you want to join IES?” and you reply “Sir, I want to serve the society.” This answer is vague as well as unimpressive; it will show your lack of imagination and information. You don’t know how you will get to serve society being IES. So, in this article we will discuss this question in depth so that you are well aware of scope and limitations of social service in IES. We will also compare IES with respect to civil services.

First, let us look at the term IES, does this term mean anything? Aspirants and coaching institute refer the term ‘IES’ as Indian Engineering Services but UPSC does not. It uses ESE i.e Engineering Services Exam which sounds so dull and boring; at least IES sounds and looks fancy enough to motivate us during preparation. IES is not a service like IAS/IPS; it is a combined entrance exam for recruiting engineers for different departments of government. According to your rank and preference, the service is allotted which you can finally call as ‘service’. So if someone ask you “What is your service?” don’t reply that “I am an IES officer”, it will not convey any meaning, it just means that you got some rank in an entrance exam. Recently released Bibek Debroy committee report uses the term IES for Indian Engineering Services, so we will use the same term for the similar context. Moreover I would like to appeal to UPSC to official use IES for our beloved engineers.

Now lets us look at social service thing which is so called basis of your preparation. You can serve the society in myriad number of ways depending on your ability and opportunity given to you. First ask yourself how do you want to serve this society? Basically there can be two ways of doing it- Directly or Indirectly. According to me, of all the government jobs, IAS and IPS are the only two services which deal directly with people, rest all the services work indirectly. In fact, IAS has the maximum opportunity as District magistrate to work directly for the people. But this is not the end of story, there is crucial difference in working directly for the society and bringing about change in the lives of people. You can be a writer and yet impact the lives of ordinary citizens. All of us can’t become IAS, because our abilities and potentialities differ at the end of day. Don’t you think that it better to be good engineer than bad administrator? Will you be happier bringing a real change in lives of people working for them indirectly or making innovative technologies for improvement in  course of their lives directly? This is for you to decide. All I want to say is if you really want to serve the society first decide how you can put your ability to the best use for the service of citizens of this country. There are multiple challenges facing our nation, the question is which challenge do you want to take?

In IES, you are an engineer first, officer later. After you get posted in your respective departments you will have to look for challenges facing the nation which you can solve through your work. I work in railways, so let me give you an example of how you can impact lives of people working in railways. Railways tagline is ‘Lifeline of the nation’ which means a lot of people of this nation earn their livelihood directly or indirectly because of railways. Just have look at those areas where railway lines are missing and you will notice the disparity between developments of the area vis-a vis where railway lines have been existing.

Suppose you are a good electronics engineer then do some research to avoid collision of trains while improving line capacity?  If you are a good mechanical engineer, then design coaches and locos for high speed trains. IF you are a good electrical engineer then do some research in OHE, TRD, TRS, etc. If you are good civil engineer then there is lot to give to railways. In terms of engineering, there is much to learn and improve, and this is what engineers do.

Let’s us take a case study to understand this topic more clearly. There is a remote district in North-East India which is mainly inhabited by tribal communities. There is only road connectivity to the capital of the state. Insurgents group run extortion gangs in the area. People have been cut-off from mainstream development process. They have not seen outside world or travel much due lack of rail transport. In rainy seasons, roads get damaged and all movement halts. Now imagine a situation when this district is connected via rail network to the rest of the country. It would really change lives of people. If by all means, it gets high speed network, then all is left to imagination. You had just worked as an engineer for railways which is now changing about lives of people. They can now find employment, tourist attractions will increase, sporting talent will grow, and insurgency may also lessen. In the same district, NHAI, BSNL, CPWD, will send their IES officers to improve existing infrastructure. I have just given you an example of how an IES can serve society.

Now the question is do you really want to serve society? Helping people is not an easy task, it means to suffer, even to put your life at risk. Only those who have inner appeal can do this. Being an IES, you may not get recognition that you deserve because in current framework of society, engineers are valued below politicians and bureaucrats. People may not even come to know about your efforts, just ask yourself how much do you know about Railways apart from booking tickets. You know well enough the state of research and development in India, inspite of being a crucible of talent we lack in producing world-class research. Japan developed bullet train in 60’s and we still don’t have a single network of high speed trains. Just look at the history of Railway Ministry and you will know why it is so. Ministry of Railways has always been used as a bargain for stitching political alliance but it has always proved to be bad deal for the people of this country.

Returning to the original question, I would say that being IES is one of the best ways of being an engineer in India, serving people is upto you. It matters a lot on how you look at your job. Just do your job honestly, somewhere it will definitely bring smiles on the faces of people and you would have served the society.

Amit Singh
IRSE 2013