Civil Services Day : Is IPS lower than IAS

Subhash Mathur

 Here's my IPS story 

I wrote the civil services exam in 1970. Those days one had to make a choice for IAS by selecting three optional. For IPS the number of optional papers was Two. For central services, the optional again went back to three.

 In real terms, it meant that a candidate who opted only for IPS would write two optional papers. But if that aspirant added any central services like IFS or IRS or Railways or any other organised service then one more optional paper had to be added.

And for IAS it was always three optional. But they all could be common but had to be identified separately for IPS.

Thus in the early 70s, IPS enjoyed a standalone status in the hierarchy of services as per the UPSC Exam.

I knew a few aspirants who had opted just for IPS. They simply had to prepare just two optional, qualify and get into civil services.  

But somewhere down the line, the pattern of exam changed. Don’t really know when that happened. Once in service: who’s bothered!

Thus I too listed my best two optional papers for IPS. I scored well and qualified for selection but failed to make it to IAS as I did not do well in the third optional that is European history. I completely messed up my map question.

We were asked to draw the boundaries of Poland in the year 1863. I drew the map as in 1865. The recurring problem with Poland was that its territorial size changed frequently due to loss or victory at wars.

Remember Hitler captured Poland first to begin WW II.

Naturally, I couldn’t recall the exact boundary line.  That meant I had goofed up twenty marks just like that. Naturally the other two optional could not pull me up to make me cross over the IAS cutoff.

Now the obvious question anyone reading this would be: if I was selected for IPS why I did not join IPS?

And the answer unknown to many in my family was:   color blindness.

But before we go into that let me state that at that point in time I considered myself fit and ready to be an IPS officer. I loved the image of an IPS officer in a starched uniform with brass tacks and all, riding around in fancy Jeeps with flashing red light. Don’t forget the big bungalows and salutes and the perks.

[Later on in my career I lost my charm for uniform as well as enforcement agencies.]

 I was keen to join IPS.

The medical exam after the interview raised some doubts in the mind of the doctor about the status of my eyesight. I cleared everything else but on duty, the doc was not happy with my eyes.

He advised that I should meet an ophthalmologist to get clearance for IPS and Railway Traffic. I was keen on Railway Traffic as well.

For the interview in Delhi, I was staying with my cousin Rajender in Model Town. My Cousin though only an Assistant with Delhi Police he was one hell of a powerful guy.

When I narrated the tale of my medical test in the evening,  my Cousin immediately rang up the SHO,  Parliament Street, and ordered him to pick me on his bike the next morning and take me to Safdarjung and get the test over and done swiftly.

But my Cousin was gung ho! He was sure that I would clear the eye test by a specialist.

The next morning I rode pillion for  16 km pillion to Safdarjung on a Police Royal Enfield bike with SHO Parliament Street Shree Gumnam Singh as my driver. I almost felt like I was part of a motorcade.

Even my cousin's children Raju and Bela were wide-eyed at the spectacle.

Anyway, the lady specialist examined me first for colour blindness.  She confirmed the initial assessment. I was colour blind.

Out went IPS and Railway Traffic.

 I was numbed.

But one important test was awaited. That would decide my entry into civil services itself.

It all depended on whether my high myopia was stable or degenerative. Those days I was wearing -5 in both eyes for distance as well as close reading.

All seemed lost.

The lady doc took her own time for conducting this examination. She just wanted to be sure.

In her final assessment, she declared that my myopia was stable and not degenerative.

Hurray !!!

Over the years her assessment has proved to be accurate. By the time I went in for my cataract operations after nearly 48 years my eyesight had deteriorated by only -5 degrees. I was wearing -10 and -11 when the cataract operations happened in December 18 and then in March 19. Now I can again see the world perfectly.

Thus in 48 years my eyesight held up pretty well. Only my glasses were thick and most people I met tried to guess the degree of the lens.

But only my optician Nath brothers from day one knew the real story of my eyes. Sometimes even I was lulled into some falsehoods. But everything is perfect with my eyes.


Did the presence of Parliament Street SHO help? Yes, but not in the eye test per se.

 I felt confident. My cousin felt supremely confident. And the doctor took me up without delay.  

Let me a place on record that in Delhi Police the most powerful police officer after the Police Chief is SHO Parliament Street. No namby-pamby can become SHO PS. It’s the most coveted and an honour for any Police Inspector.

Best wishes for Civil Services Day

Post Script: Eventually I landed up in a service where the uniform was prescribed up to Assistant Commissioner level. In my 36 years of service, I wore the uniform only once, when I hurriedly stepped forward to welcome my Collector at Ajmer Circuit House.  I forgot to put on my cap in the scramble to hurry down the stairs to reach the car.

But it didn’t bother Collector Kanwal in any way. He just nodded at me and rushed up the stairs to reach his room. Poor chap! He had spent several hours on the road as his car got stalled on the highway. Finally, we rescued him in our jeep. But Mrs. Kanwal always remembered for the rescue act.

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