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The following article is in indiatoday and is available at the link
IFS regaining lost edge with toppers
The Indian Foreign Service (IFS) hasn't been able to win back the popularity it used to enjoy with civil service recruits in the past, but the diplomatic corps is steadily turning into a preferred option of many UPSC top-rankers.
The Indian Administrative Service (IAS) continues to be the hot favourite of the bureaucrats-to-be but the IFS has definitely stolen a march over Indian Police Service (IPS) and the revenue services. In the past four years, the first candidate to opt for the IFS has always been ranked above the first to join the IPS or a revenue service.
Recruitment trends of Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), which conducts the civil services exam every year, show that in the past four years, an average 10 out of the top 100 rankers opted for a career in diplomacy, preferring it even over the IAS. By Ashish Sinha in New Delhi
Although annual vacancies in the IFS are only around 20, in 2008 there were 25 diplomatic jobs up for grabs by those who cracked the civil services exams and the first slot was taken by a woman. The year 2008 was a significant break also because as many as 13 IFS officers were from the top 100 bracket and as many as eight women opted for the service.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the IFS used to be the first choice of the UPSC toppers.It was extremely difficult to join the diplomatic service for a candidate who was not among the top 20. In the later years, especially after the practice of rejecting candidates only on the basis of personal interview was done away with, the IAS became more popular.
"There was a marked decline in the popularity of the IFS. Possibly it was a result of a change in the perception of the diplomatic service. But I was surprised to note that good rank holders preferred the revenue services over the IFS," said former foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh, who had joined the IFS in 1963.
There is also an increase in the number of women with good ranks opting for the foreign service. In the four years from 2005 to 2008, as many as 24 (or 29 per cent) of the total 84 recruits in IFS were women, a marked improvement over the past.
While it is a matter of personal choice of the candidates, the low popularity of IFS in the past decades also indicates the reasons why the youth wants to join the civil services at all.
"It is felt that IAS officers enjoy a lot of power in a purely societal sense. Diplomacy, on the other hand, is more about finesse. An IFS officer has to spend a lot of time outside the country and many people do not find that attractive enough," a senior IAS officer, who was ranked in the top five in his batch, said.
But Mansingh, who has also served as an expert on the UPSC's board, said "financial preferences" could also have made other services more popular than the IFS. "In our days, IFS was the service that people wanted to join. It was highly coveted also because most of the top rankers came from upper-class public school background. But even now the quality of recruits is very good," he said.
While there has been a definite democratisation of educational background of those joining the IFS, most of the recruits are still from the metros and state capitals. Only 27 of the 84 entrants during the past four years came from small towns or villages.
The shrinking of the world because of new technologies appears to be another reason for the rising popularity of the foreign service.Diplomacy is a highly specialised career now with immense focus on economic relations between nations.
This, experts said, draws a lot of well informed youths towards the IFS.