Is the job of an IAS officer impactful? Can an officer bring about change for the better?
When we think of transformative change, we often envision a rapid and dramatic impact during an officer’s tenure. We all aspire to make a significant, positive difference in our domain, but it’s essential to recognise that immediate results are not the norm.
Think of the last time you wanted to change some aspect of yourself for the better. It might be exercising every day or eating healthy or cutting down on social media use. How difficult was it? We try to inculcate good habits, but we often relapse. And then we try again. It’s a long struggle against ourselves.
Now imagine how difficult it would be to change a set of populace for the better. It is possible, but it is often slow, painful, and difficult.
Throughout history, meaningful and lasting change has always taken time. We have not eliminated polio in one day or one year. It took the relentless effort of countless health workers across the country to reach that milestone. No one invented the iPhone from nothing. It was a yearly refinement of ideas that led to Steve Jobs unveiling the smartphone.
It’s the same in the government. Radical changes and cult personalities happen only in the movies. If you enter the service and think you can transform everything overnight, you are going to be disillusioned. To be an effective public servant is to understand the limits of one’s power.
Rather on a day-to-day basis, what you need to work on are the small wins. It can be about solving a chronic land acquisition problem that’s been pending for years. Or ensuring 100% safe, institutional deliveries in a Gram Panchayat. Or it’s about providing a digital classroom for a remote school that improves the learning outcomes of 50 children. That’s 50 lives transformed.
It’s about notching these small victories along the way. I have immense respect for the countless and invisible officers who are working their way towards these improvements. Like a river that cuts through a mountain, it’s the collective push over years that results in meaningful change.
You may not be able to overhaul the entire system, but you can transform the lives of people in your limited sphere of influence. The impact might not be felt by everyone, but for those lives you touch through your work, it’s deep.
Personally, I keep a running note of all my accomplishments that I am proud of, no matter how small or insignificant. Every now and then, I go through the list and it inspires me. It’s these little successes that make the job of an IAS officer impactful and fulfiling.