Living the dream: One year of being and APCS officer

[ Amina Nabam ]

On 6 June, 2020, my life along with that of 57 of my batchmates changed forever. We had finally made it to one of the toughest and most challenging services of the state: the Arunachal Pradesh Civil Services. Years of hard work, sweat and frustration all culminated into tears of joy as we made it to the final list of the APPSCCE, 2017.

While we had happy tears, some of our closest friends and relatives could not make it, despite their best efforts. They had toiled no less than us, but destiny had better plans for them. My journey towards civil services started in my office cubicle in Delhi in the winters of 2015, when the glittery city lights no more enticed me. I wanted to return home to a job that gave me a sense of purpose in life and my parents the joy of having me back with them. This article is about my experiences and the learnings after I reached the finish line as an APCS aspirant and made it to the services finally.

I am posted in the picturesque Ziro, the district headquarters of Lower Subansiri, and on 24 August I shall be completing one year of my service tenure. With no training of any sort and being thrown into the vast and complex sea of administration, I had no choice but to learn to swim my way across by learning on the job from my seniors, making mistakes and overcoming my doubts through experiences.

On the first day of my job, I was taught to sign an affidavit for an old-age pension. I signed the document with lots of questions for my senior and also a sense of pride – something which I never felt before in my high-paying corporate job – that my signature was now a valuable piece of document to someone. On the days that followed, I began taking notes from my senior officers, observed them during law and order duty, watched keenly their ways of interacting with the public, continuously coming to them whenever I had doubts of any kind. I have been fortunate enough to have had such supportive and caring seniors from my cadre. They have been one of the strongest driving forces in my career progression so far, and I am truly indebted to all my seniors for guiding me and accepting my viewpoints and at times negating them as well, which made me work even harder.

Every batch has had different set of challenges, but ours was truly a unique one; we are officers born in the world of Covid, with its own set of rules and SOPs. Many of my batchmates posted in remote circles face challenges of poor road connectivity (some of the circle outposts still have to be reached by foot march), lack of accommodation, no means of conveyance, some posted in the most hostile terrains of the state, and some having to deal with interstate border tensions frequently.

I being posted in a transition district to four other districts with a huge population base with its extremely diverse mix of population from different tribes, including non-APST, had its own sets of challenges. Ziro being a hub for education, business, healthcare and tourism gives rise to continuous influx of students, tourists and migrants from the neighbouring states, some of them without valid entry passes. Many students living alone without caretakers have been falling victims to the evils of drugs and alcohol. All these issues kept us administrators on our toes. Moreover, this year, there has been extra burden on the magistrates and the police, like night patrolling, tracing Covid positive patients and enforcing Covid-appropriate behaviour despite the fact that a major chunk of the population here are educated but still fail to instil in themselves the basic sense of common sense. The rampant violation of Covid SOPs leading to patients being on the run to different districts and sometimes to different states is another story.

In the last one year, all of my batchmates have witnessed panchayat elections, performed law and order duties, exposed ourselves to Covid, frequently risking our families at home, and worked without questioning any kind of job entrusted to us. Some of us have had disagreements with our seniors and other departments engaged on duty with us. There have been many moments of absolute despair, dejection and frustration, wanting to give up and quit and at times the light inside us almost dimming completely. But then again, there comes a moment when all of these thoughts of despair vanish into thin air, like a person removing his footwear before entering your office chamber with folded hands to get your signature on a tattered piece of document, or someone who has walked miles to get your attestation for his ration card. You are instantly reminded of your purpose and your duty towards bettering people at the lowest end of the social and economic strata; doing what no one else wants to do: making difficult decisions, rising above politics, communalism and above all, corruption. We are the channel through which our government reaches out to its citizens even in the remotest parts of our state, representing them at the grassroots.

As I complete one year of my life as an APCS officer, I have learnt that this graph of highs and lows in our career is a reality that each one of us will have to undergo constantly and work in silence despite criticism from various sections. While the external forces keep doing their work of motivating and demotivating us, the onus is on each one of us to keep the flickering light of hope alive till the very end. The journey so far, from the fast-paced metropolitan life to the land of bad roads, no network zones, slow internet connectivity and extremely simple people has been no less than an adventure; it is an adventure I wish to continue for the rest of my life with all the good, bad and ugly that comes along the journey of being an APCS officer. (The contributor is an Arunachal Pradesh Civil Service officer of the 2020 batch and is presently posted in Ziro, Lower Subansiri district, as a circle officer.)