GLEANINGS FROM LBSNAA -By Lunminthang Haokip, Manipur

The Promotion:  March 1, 2012. A much-awaited faxed letter from Department of Personnel and Training, Government of India, New Delhi, was received in the Secretariat of Manipur State. Members of 14 families of senior MCS (Manipur Civil Service) erupted in joy and reassurance because a member each of their respective families were inducted into the coveted IAS - Indian Administrative Service - by promotion. I happened to be one of them. Having been given the spiritual IAS (I am saved) way back in 1994 by the grace of God, I did not expect much future from my obscure 21 year old tenure in MCS in the backblocks. But, if the goodness of my Creator lifted me up to a higher level, who was I to question?

 The call to LBSNAA: After two batches of 6 officers in each from the 14 officers who were promoted to IAS on 1st March, 2012 were given Induction Training at LBSNAA, Mussoorie, my turn to undergo the same came through Order No. 11/7. 2000-IAS/DP(Vol.III) dated the 18th February, 2013 of the Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms, Government of Manipur. The Order deputed the 2 remaining IAS Officers from the 2012 list and another 4 from the next batch to participate in the 113th Induction Training Programme for IAS Officers at Lal Bhadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie from 25.02.2013 to 19.04.2013. With great expectations, the six of us deputed IAS Officers of Manipur-Tripura cadre, headed for LBSNAA and formed the largest group in the 113th ITP course that housed 35 similarly inducted IAS Officers from 13 States of India for 8 weeks.

World-class Facilities:We were allotted Indira Bhawan, one of the three sprawling campuses of LBSNAA; the other two are Charleville and Glenmire. Interactive sessions of the course were conducted in the well-equipped, air-conditioned halls of the heritage building called Indira Bhawan excepting ICT-1 to ICT-10 and ICT-Evaluation sessions which were conducted in the Main campus. It was magnanimous of the premier Civil Service Institute authorities to have allotted single occupancy to each of us in Valley View Hostel that has a back-side balcony that offered  a panoramic view of a facade of Moossoorie and the snow-starved Himalaya mountains. The ceiling-to-floor curtains, the Wi-fi connectivity, the grizzle-fitted bathrooms and the peanut-priced laundry at our beck and call which were thoughtfully provided to participants did wonders in boosting our morale and kindled the zeal to upgrade our competence in public-service delivery. Besides, the basement-located mess religiously fed us day in and day out with top-class Indian stuff, so much so that the weight we lost in the gym was regained in the relish of the irresistible food items.

                       The Administration and Faculty: The inaugural function was graced by the key functionaries of the 1959-established higher Civil Service Training Institution that has been committed to capacity building of AIS officers since its inception. The Director, Sir Padamvir Singh, a St. Stephens, Delhi alumnus and a former Fellow at MIT, Boston, took charge at the helm of LBSNAA affairs in 2009. The two Joint Directors in the administrative set-up are Shri Sanjeev Chopra, an MBA degree-holder who got into IAS in 1990 (Orissa cadre) and Shri Dushyant Nariala, a former Metropolitan Magistrate in Govt. of NCT, Delhi who entered IAS in 1993 West Bengal Cadre). Down the hierarchy, 9 Deputy Directors, seven of who are Senior Deputy Directors,  2 Professors, 1 Reader in Law and 2 Assistant Directors give support to LBSNAA. Together they continuously conduct Training Programmes for directly-recruited and inducted All India Services Officers, Officers of SAARC countries and also hold Conferences and Seminars. The top-notch officials of LBSNAA themselves are also in the faculty. They are assisted by many other faculty members and Guest Speakers who are engaged from time to time when their expertise is required. 

113th ITP Course: Under the competent guidance of our Course Coordinator, Shri Jayant Singh, IRTS (1994), Deputy Director (Sr) who had a successful stint in Railways in Gujarat and Rajasthan earlier, and Dr. Prem Singh, IAS (2000 batch-MT Cadre), Deputy Director, LBSNAA, 113th ITP got started with the bang of the cymbal in the presentation of LBSNAA Anthem on 25 February, 2013. Shri Padamvir Singh, Director, LBSNAA inaugurated the course with a highly intelligent and motivating speech in the presence of the Joint Director, Shri Sanjeev Chopra, the Deputy Directors, Shri Jayant Singh and Dr. Prem Singh and the Reader in Law, Shri Abhishek Swami who also shared their inspiring experiences in the inaugural function. A group photograph session of the participants with the key LBSNAA functionaries was followed by Introduction and Ice-Breaking exercise that helped shed initial inhibitions of the erstwhile state-level officers.

A Cheerfully Mixed Group: As much as their heights and sizes differed, the attitude, backgrounds, tastes, tolerating capacity, year of allotment, work experiences and length of service of the participants from 13 Indian States varied. Some of them were poets, some writers, some critics and yet, some were totally indifferent to anything weightier than administration. The self-introduction on the first day brought out in the surface glimpses of latent talent, varying individual hobbies, shades of  complexity in human nature as diverse as the climates of Indian States. As the course progressed, the climate of camaraderie changed for the better like that of Mussorie.

All India Perspective: In the course of interactions, one could not help drawing the conclusion that the only common culture we have in our great country is agriculture. Nevertheless, the modules of the training was crafted in such a way that, at the end of the day, parochial “frog-in-the-well” mentality of the former senior state bureaucrats would get busted to give way to formation of a fresh All-India perspective in service of the people. In the same way kilograms of weight were lost visibly in the morning gym-exercises, towards the close of the training, there was reason to believe that most of the erstwhile State-centric officer trainees managed to unburden themselves from the clumsy paraphernalia of regional characteristics.

The Lessons Taught: The contents of the modules were wide-ranging. Desire in course-design did not seem to create short-term sensational performers but to produce far-sighted, committed and consistent “Lambe-race ki ghore” in good governance. Right from the Course Coordinator’s brilliant humour-punctuated first session on “Evolution of Indian State” to the Director, LBSNAA’s articulate delivery on “Modern State” which were followed by the Course Team’s “Briefing Sessions on Policy Making”, Dr. Prem Singh and Nidhi Sharma’s joint “Financial/Economic Analysis”, Sanjeev Chopra, Joint Director’s “Yamuna Expressway Case Study”, Ranjana Chopra’s “Challenges in Indian Agriculture”, Om Prakash Choudhary’s “Educational Innovations in Dantewada”, Roli Singh’s “Gender Sensitization”, K.M. Pathi’s “Communication Skills” and many more. We the participants had the rare privilege of reaping inputs put in by the excellent faculty members who took pains to learn more through higher courses and studies when they could have rested comfortably on the cushion of a secured All India Civil Service. For a so far mostly cocooned state civil servant like me, exposure to the well-researched lectures gave the excitement of a hypochondriac at a medical convention and made me as hungry as a bear with the capacity to take in as much.

The North East Syndrome: The 113th ITP had 4 representatives from Mizoram and 6 from Manipur. Our features differed from that of our friends from mainland states. So were our perception and outlook. The modules and Big Boss-like togetherness gradually evolved a harmonizing effect in rapport-sharing though. Geographical isolation coupled with slow-pace in developmental progress deprived us North Easterners the privilege of experiencing hands-on knowledge in implementation of projects like PPP, discussions on which were dominant. Officers from AP and UP were most interactive in this regard. Gentlemen from Rajasthan, Punjab, and Tamil Nadu too had a good grasp of such matters. Participants from Bihar were very friendly and cordial. So were officers from MP, Chatisgarh, Andaman & Nicobar Island, J & K and Kerala.

Conflicts in Perception: Issues like the Sports scenario in Manipur or my ventures in tackling Disability at Kangpokpi and Law and Order problems in the cutting-edge border district posting at Moreh, Manipur and daily interactions with Myanmarese authorities across the international border came nowhere in LBSNAA’s scheme of things, much though I wished they figured. The same, I bet, was felt by my colleagues from Manipur and our seasoned counterparts from Mizoram which does well in peace, music and forest land management. At times, we felt lost in debate over topics strange to us and in the tussle to be heard by the faculty as inherent back-bencher -mentality held back the impulse to ask questions repeatedly for the sake of asking. But when we came to know that our counterparts from bigger states, who were inducted into IAS much before we were, shared the same ITP with us, we thanked God silently for the favoured blessing that we were not born in larger states.

Vision-Broadening Visits: The Course Coordinator, Sir Jayant Singh took over the reins of guiding the team in our domestic visits. Away from home for more than a month, many of us were home-sick during the Wagah border at Amritsar and Delhi visits. Besides, the twin-sharing discomfort in our respective Bhawans in the national capital made us long for the liberty of single-occupancy in Valley View Hostel of LBSNAA. But it was the effusive personality and soothing sense of humour of our Course Coordinator that saw us through the Delhi stint. If the session at DIMMTS - Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System, Ltd, ISBT - on the 2nd April that apprised us of traffic planning to facilitate 4000 Low-floor buses to help people move in Delhi was an eye-opener, the briefings by the Shri P. R. Subramanyam, Hon’ble MoSPP & G at North Block in the afternoon gave an insight on administration and Civil Service from the national point of view.

Yamuna Expressway: Game Changer: In the entire tour of 113th ITP, no visit was as consummate as the study tour of Yamuna Expressway on the 3rd of March. Board-room lecture on the travel-time shortening, 165 Km long, 6-laned expressway from Greater Noida to Agra which was built by Jaypee Group under PPP agreement was one attention-grabbing thing. But seeing all that we learnt with our own eyes and getting the economics of the expressway explained to us from close quarters was a different ball game altogether. One can’t but marvel at the precautions the Jaypee Group had taken to avoid or tackle accidents on the real-estate lined 24 X 7 computer and CCTV-monitored expressway. Thoughtful as they were, the Concessionaire saw to it that user-friendly facilities like Entries, exits, over-bridges, road signs, under-ways and interchanges that joined cities were provided to the game changer route that was inaugurated on 9 August, 2009 by Akhilesh Yadav, the CM of UP. Interestingly, construction of the expressway cost Rs. 13,300 Crores and 2.5 Crore cement bags were used.

Call on with Hon’ble President of India: The high-water mark of our national capital study tour was rendezvous with the Hon’ble President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee himself. Following a self introduction by the visiting team members and a short address by our Course Coordinator, the President gave a speech - flawless both in content and delivery. Recalling the days of ICS – Indian Civil Service, the President waxed eloquent on the challenges for and ethics of Indian Administrative Service. A group photo session with the highest Constitutional Authority in the country was followed by high tea at Rastrapati Bhawan. The sharpness of the President’s memory and the level of his oratory skill was simply outstanding. The group came out totally mesmerized and enthused by his address.

Meeting at CSOI, Vinay Marg: The last day of the tour, 5th April, 2004 was spent at the newly built symbol of India Shining, as Mr. Jayant Singh observed, the Civil Service Officers’ Institute, Vinay Marg, New Delhi. Gems of wisdom could be gleaned from the sagacious message of the Cabinet Secretary, GOI. The top most bureaucrat of the country taught the attentive participants a lesson or two, citing his own experiences on how to perform efficiently, diligently and ensure public service delivery. The session ended with a vote of thanks given by our Course Coordinator.

A Consummate Experience: We heard about LBSNAA, Mussorie since a long time wondering how actually would be the global Capacity-building Academy that launched thousands of AIS Officers. Vague references of Foundation Course, IAS Professional Course Phase-I and Phase-II, Induction Training, Mid-Career Training Programmes Phase III, IV and V etc. came up often in official conversations but an outsider could not gauge the depth and high standards of capacity building a Trainee is given at LBSNAA. To put my tryst with the course succinctly, I would like to say that there is nothing to be sorry about being sent to Mussoorie (read LBSNAA) for ITP. The pristine Institute is for Administrators as FTII, Pune is for Actors. The things we knew already but did not know how to give a clear term and name to are being given here. All said and done, having been trained in a place where there was no mismatch of role to player, I appeal to all my dear participating colleagues, now that hard areas of earlier ignorance had been melted, like the candle, let us burn ourselves and our weaknesses to give light to those we govern.

Conclusion: Notionally considering myself a spiritual IAS (I am saved) of 1994 batch (I was converted in the year), I could not resist the impulse to take a sabbatical to witness and share the Word of God in the past few years due to the worldly pressures of life. I thank my State Government for having deputed me to 113th ITP at LBSNAA and the Administrators and Faculty of LBSNAA for having given me an opportunity to be trained in this super duper sagaciously designed and equipped Academy. Although my poor grounding failed me to contribute meaningful inputs in the interactive sessions, the well-structured modules, and lectures which were a revelation to me, put me on a self-searching mode. Ironically, LBSNAA had rekindled the fire and renewed the zeal in me to get back to what I could do best – preach and write while serving my subject in the fear of God in a secular set up.