10 May, 2021

Bharat Cadre

The IAS isn’t a preserve of the elite any longer. Candidates from the hinterland, often with disadvantaged backgrounds, are laying claim to its hallowed ranks.

Man From The Roots
Sheikh Ansar Ahmad, IAS, interacting with villagers in Dinhata, West Bengal
Bharat Cadre

Upamanyu Chatterjee, a 1983-batch IAS officer of Maharashtra cadre, is perhaps the quintessential civil servant of the 1980s and 90s—the kind that flourished well into the 21st century. He went to ‘The College’, as Delhi University’s St Stephen’s college is referred to by its alumni, several of whom found their way into the civil services, giving it a tint of elitism.

Chatterjee captured the zeitgeist in his novel English, August through the protagonist Agastya Sen, who after clearing the IAS finds himself posted in Madna, a small town described as “a dot in the hinterland” —a place he can’t relate to and finds hard to decipher.

An increasing number of civil servants, including IAS off­icers, are now emerging from these “dots in the hinterland”. One such ‘dot’ is Shedgaon village in Jalna district of Maharashtra’s Marathwada region. In 2015, a 21-year-old from Shedgaon, Sheikh Ansar Ahmad, became the youngest to crack the civil services examination conducted by the Union...

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