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India: The Civil Service
Country Study > Chapter 8 > Government and Politics > The Structure of Government > The Civil Service


During the colonial period, the British built up the elite Indian Civil Service, often referred to as the "steel frame" of the British Raj. Nehru and other leaders of the independence movement initially viewed the colonial civil service as an instrument of foreign domination, but by 1947 they had come to appreciate the advantages of having a highly qualified institutionalized administration in place, especially at a time when social tensions threatened national unity and public order.

The constitution established the Indian Administrative Service to replace the colonial Indian Civil Service and ensure uniform and impartial standards of administration in selected fields, promote effective coordination in social and economic development, and encourage a national point of view. In the early 1990s, this small elite accounted for fewer than 5,000 of the total 17 million central government employees. Recruits appointed by the Union Public Service Commission are university graduates selected through a rigorous system of written and oral examinations. In 1988 only about 150 out of a candidate pool of approximately 85,000 recruits received appointments in the Indian Administrative Service. Indian Administrative Service officers are primarily from the more affluent and educated classes. However, efforts to recruit women and individuals from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes have enhanced the diversity of the civil service.

Recruits are trained as administrative generalists at an academy at Mussoorie (in Uttar Pradesh). After a period of apprenticeship and probation in the central and state governments, an Indian Administrative Service officer is assigned to increasingly more responsible positions, such as a district collector after six or seven years. Approximately 70 percent of all officers serve in state administrations; the rest serve in the central government.

A larger organization, the Central Public Services, staffs a broad variety of administrative bureaus ranging from the Indian Foreign Service to the Audits and Accounts Service and the Postal Service. The states (but not Delhi or the union territories) have independent services within their own jurisdictions that are regulated by local laws and public service commissions. The governor usually appoints members of the state public services upon the recommendation of the state public service commission. To a large extent, states depend upon nationwide bodies, such as the Indian Administrative Service and Indian Police Service, to staff top administrative posts.

Although the elite public services continue to command great prestige, their social status declined in the decades after independence. In the 1990s, India's most capable youths increasingly are attracted to private-sector employment where salaries are substantially higher. Public opinion of civil servants has also been lowered by popular perceptions that bureaucrats are unresponsive to public needs and are corrupt. Although the ranks of the civil service are filled with many dedicated individuals, corruption has been a growing problem as civil servants have become subject to intense political pressures.

Last Updated: September 1995

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for India was first published in 1995. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

India Main Page Country Studies Main Page

Section 277 of 374


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