Sunday, 15 April 2018

My training days in IAHE

I joined MoRTH (Ministry of Road Transport and Highways) in 2016 around September after successfully clearing Engineering service 2015. I had done Masters in Transportation Engineering and was excited to work in same field in Government sector. I worked in Ministry for 1 year. However, I was having reservation regarding having a desk job and was inclined to work in field.
IAHE main building

After working in Ministry for 1 year, we were sent to train in IAHE, training ground for all Highway engineers recruited through UPSC. It was around October 2017.

    We left our rented rooms and were happy to get a rent free accommodation in Delhi. We were sent to our respective rooms. Rooms were allotted twin sharing basis. As I entered the room, I was overwhelmed by the size and style. The room was major up gradation compared to pathetic one in which I was living in rent.

IAHE entry gate
A few of the perks which we enjoyed in having shorter training periods was the accommodation and food was free and was borne by the Government. We had lots of savings during this time. The rooms were cleaned by the house keepers. There was a super luxury of a thing called bed coffee. The mess staff will come and ask for coffee at 06:00 am in morning in your room. I felt like Nawab. I maintained that for one month and then after asked them politely to stop disturbing my sleep.

We settled in the room and waited excitedly for others to come. There was lot of excitement as training was happening because of lot of follow ups with higher officials in Ministry. Batch of 2015 along with 3 of 2014 batch were first sent. Ours was the first batch to have a foreign training proposal as well as extension of earlier 3 months training to 6 months training. The Indian trips also had increased from 1 trip to 2 nos. Around November, our juniors of 2016 batch also came along. There were total 26 trainees to be trained. These 26 officers were called “special chabbis” after a popular bollywood movie.
my room "messy as it gets"
Our first class was Survey instruments which were extraordinarily taken by Ranbir Sir. When class was over, we used to play Badminton. The court was made on Tiled floor which were undulating and one needs to be extra cautious while performing any athletic moves. I must say, I have never played badminton in my life with a net in between. I learnt a great deal of Badminton while in the Academy. Also another sport which was never played was snooker. I was greatly addicted to this sport as one can easily play it solo. I used to play football solo mainly practicing my long shots. If not for the injury on my feet and hamstring, i would have bent it like beckham. My hamstring continued to haunt me throughout the training. On Diwali, when I had stayed back in hostel I was playing snooker all by myself. Playing piano (I know it’s just a keyboard) was also a thing which i semi religiously observed during morning hours when my roommate was in bathroom or away for breakfast.
enjoying cricket with seniors

In the training I also had started doing yoga and also bought some 10 kg dumb bells. Those seem to be like New Year resolution never to be revisited again. I had semi religiously maintained a dairy in which daily events were recorded. This was because of my need to read something or write something. However, towards the fag end of training, all these things gave way to lots of sleeping and gup-shup with friends.
my keyboard 

Apart from foundation training, IAHE is also host to numerous International trainings. There is mandate from MEA (Ministry of external affairs) to train some associate engineering officers from foreign countries in Highway sectors. I had interaction with only few people from South Africa.
69th Republic day in IAHE

Our first field visit came to Jaipur. We were all little bit disappointed in the choice of the place. More over we were little off put by the Authorities of IAHE who had asked us to shift our belongings to one room. We were stern in our stand not to bend. The impasse was broken when Director talked about the heavy rush of engineers from foreign countries. Three rooms instead of one were given for shifting. However, our concern turned to be unfound as the trip was a great success. This was because of the excellent arrangements made by RO Jaipur. The journey was made via bus. During the bus journey, it was a jolly party with singing and dancing.
site visits
site visits

The first visit was NH-8 Jaipur Kishngarh, which was a BOT project. The road according to me looked splendid. I couldn’t but wonder the traffic of Jaipur appeared very less. There were ample flyovers. There were multiple level structure of transportation with metro at first level and road directly on top of it. I wondered at the foresight of the engineers. The land is very precious and it is time to utilise it for different forms of transport. The time of excusive Right of way to Roads or the Railway or the Waterways is fast coming to an end. We did have a glimpse of extra dose bridge, RE walls, Tunnels, Concrete and Bituminous roads. We went to see Gardmahadev temple, Chawkidhani , Dharga in pushkar and of course forts like Amer. I was personally excited to see the IIT coaching Institutes. The young teenagers reminded me of my school days. The culinary delight was the dal bhati churma. We were fully stuffed with ghee.
group photo of MoRTH and BRO officers in IAHE

Around the same time, CES (Roads) association was strengthened with a steady subscription fees. Task groups in which one of my colleague was also elected executive committee member was formed. We gave our request regarding calling on Hon’ble President of India. While for other ESE organisations, it was routine part of training, we had to pursue a lot with Administration. A Whatsapp group of CES (Roads) was formed around this time. It was mainly to address the welfare of association members collectively that needed to be addressed. The trainees undergoing foundation course were of course one of the firsts to give subscription fees.
Jaipur forts

The training quality was marginally improved with better faculty and inclusion of software like MX Roads, STAAD and IIT Pave. The time period was increase from 3 months to 6 months. However, the main highlight was the foreign proposal which was one of its kinds.
Planting tree in IAHE by 2014,2015 and 2016 batch

Our second trip was to Kerala. The selection of site was somewhat disappointing personally for me as I wanted to go some place which was not earlier visited. I was thinking of North eastern states. The choice in front of us was Andhra Pradesh or Kerala and all favoured Kerala. We were given flight tickets to Kerala. It was quite some time since visit of Kerala. We were first sent to Trivandrum in a hotel. Our first site visit was Kanaya kumari. The main attraction of trip was the bus which was a fully fledged DJ floor with lights and laser and music box which will bend any speakers to their knees.
GOD'S own country Kerala

Our second visit was in Trivandrum in Muscat hotel. Director IAHE had arranged for us to meet with Dr. E Sreedharan, more famously known as the Metro Man. He gave an inspiring speech on the Management, time efficiency, integrity and most important about maintaining a good health. I was most attracted by his charisma and charm. He was old but was full of vigour. The team visited Trivandrum bypass, kollam bypass and Alapuzha bypass. Along with these visits, many tourist locations like kovalam beach, Alapuzha back waters and other shopping areas were covered. The trip was good and fun. For many of juniors, it was first opportunity for flight.
Dr. E. Sreedharan

Our next leg of work was Ministry attachment for 1 month. The attachment was a good opportunity to savour all food in different Bhawans. It was also good opportunity to meet senior officers and know about the working of different section.
Meeting Honorable Minister RT&H

Our final conclusion was the President meet which happened on 2nd April 2018. This was the second opportunity in MoRTH. The call on of Hon’ble President of India by MoRTH officer trainees was one of the most cherished moments in trainee’s life. We were accompanied by Secretary (RT&H), DG and Special Secretary (RD), Director of IAHE(ADG). We took lots of photographs. Unlike earlier meets, we were given opportunity to have a guided tour in Rashtrapati Bhawan. The best part was that we were shown place where in the evening, Padma Shree awards were to be distributed. Hon’ble President of India emphasised the need of Infrastructure to be accessible to differently abled and the importance to maintain integrity in profession. And when in doubt remember technocrats like M. Visveshvaraya and Dr. E Sreedharan.
MoRTH officers call on Honorable President of India

We were now waiting for our posting order to come. Our sweet time had come to an end. I felt like my college days.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Engineering Services- The glass is half full.....

There is lot of materials now available in internet about different Engineering Services allotted through UPSC. This is made possible by Seniors and colleagues who took pain in writing about their opinion about the services without fear of backlash or adverse effects. I personally thank them for giving their frank opinions which definitely gave a big picture to all aspirants and future IES officers.
            In every service there is lot of positives and negatives. My good friend once told me a story of his professor. The professor took a note book and draws a tiny dot in earlier white, unblemished page. He tears the paper and asks what is it? It a dot, came the reply. Professor explains when you are focussing on dot, you are forgetting the paper on which it exists.
            I don’t wish to explain advantages and disadvantages of various services. It’s out there already. I just want to reduce the anxiety experienced by many aspirants who are sometimes are only seeing the dot and missing the white paper. During my time, very few wrote about the different Engineering services. These officers made it a point to cite pros and cons of department. I am thankful to them. They made filling DAF easier. However of late, there is increasing bad lighting of all Engineering services by young officers. I wish to address this issue.
            There is two worry issues of Engineering services that aspirants find-
1. The comparisons of departments in the Engineering service (like IRSE, CES, CES (Roads) etc)
2. The comparison of IES with IAS.

Dynamic nature of Engineering Services- Engineering is one of the most dynamic services. It easy to quantify the achievements of Engineering services unlike Scientific services or Social services or Economic services.
This dynamic nature of service adds variability to the equation. For example, in civil engineering, there was great demand for surveyors and engineers who could manage them. This was the era of Great trigonometric survey (GTS). Those people did a great job with very high accuracy which is achieved with modern instruments today. Now it is a saturated department in State as well as Central. Similar was water resource department. There were great engineers who built irrigation canals, sanitary pipelines, dams etc. For now, its importance has reduced relatively. CPWD was great traditional department which is now facing completion from other construction PSUs. They were great engineers who built and designed majestic Buildings. Apart from the Public Works it was required to carry out the construction works of Archaeological, Posts and Telegraphs and Indian National Airways and other such Organisations as ‘Depot Works’. You will still find buildings with name of executive engineer on these buildings. However, many of the earlier functions have been bifurcated.
Now a day focus is on infrastructure of India. The department of railways and roads are on rise with mega projects. Like all other departments, this may also face the nature’s slump.

This dynamic nature of engineering department is true for private and government departments. When a young engineer gets appointment to Engineering service, this important thing should be in mind. In services, he serves for 30-35 years. This is a very long time and you will never know what is in store for you. Some department relevant now may become redundant and some redundant one may become most relevant. Unfortunately, there is little that can be done in this matter. A brief history of MoRTH (Ministry of Road transport and highways) from wiki will shed light on this-

Changes made over years (Source: Wikipedia)
 ·        1942 : The Department of War Transport was formed in July, by the bifurcation of the then Department Of Communications into two Departments:
 (i) Department of Posts
(ii) Department of War Transport.
·   1957: Department of War Transport was renamed as Ministry of Transport & Communications and Department of transport was placed under it.
·    1966: Department of Transport, Shipping & Tourism was placed under Ministry of Transport and Aviation.
·         1967: the Ministry of Transport and Aviation was bifurcated into Ministry of Shipping and Transport and the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation.
·         1985: Ministry of Transport and Shipping became the Department of Surface Transport under the Ministry of Transport.
·         1986: the Department of Surface Transport under Ministry of Transport was renamed as Ministry of Surface Transport .
·       1999: Ministry of Surface Transport was subsequently re-organized into departments, namely Department of Shipping and Department of Road Transport and Highways.
·      2000: the Ministry of Surface Transport was bifurcated into two Ministries namely Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and Ministry of Shipping.
·         2004: Ministry of Shipping and Ministry of Road Transport has again been merged and renamed as Ministry of Shipping and Road Transport and Highways

As you can see, all services under Engineering services are evolving. The choice of engineering service is important during filling of DAF and must be cautiously done. After allocation and then being sad over the decision is not good. Thinking too much about future in initial years will take focus away from work that is required to be done. Like all government services, Engineering services is a way to serve public. We should be grateful that an opportunity to serve is given and make most of it.
So what is the solution if you don’t get your desired department and expected facilities?    The fact that all the material in internet about engineering services is written by young officers like me who may not have fully explored the department should be a relief. Each department however worse it may be comes with certain unique positive attributes. For example, IRSE have lot of authority, CPWD have diverse work, CES (Roads) have easier life style and lot of relevance now, IDSE/MES/BRO/ IOFS for those who love military life, SIS/IIS for those who like being different, CWES for those who have yearn for nations water resources. Focussing on positive attributes and keeping in mind that whatever you do, it will affect the country directly or indirectly will keep away any self doubts.

The other solution to the above problem is to have low or no expectations about facilities. Don’t have any expectation that department will give any benefit at all. No car, no bungalow, no servants. Think that even tea you drink have to paid by you. Imagining this and coming to service, you will focus more on your duty and enjoy bonus benefits specific to different services.
There are tons of deputation prospects available to officers which may not be foreseen in near future. A redundant department will allow more of such deputations. In government service, there is interesting work, there is frustrating work but no work done is unimportant. Even drafting a letter or collecting data over phone for the policy makers to make decision is important even though this may not be ideal work you might be seeking. Comparing other departments work and brooding over is nothing but proverbial grass is green on other side.

            The Comparison of IES with IAS- This is heart ache that most IES officers face in. They see young officer becoming a boss over them. This is true for even other civil services like IRS and IPS. Let me quote the material of 7th CPC report which one of my colleague showed to me and is reproduced below-

Average year of promotional prospects for even for Civil services other IAS/IFS is far higher than the engineering service. For those who don’t know what is SAG and HAG, it is Joint secretary/Chief engineer level and HAG is Additional secretary/Additional director general level. The above table will tell that most of civil service have better promotional prospects than engineering service. Defence service and engineering service are a bit slow moving in promotional prospects.

What is definitely not told that there is something called cadre review which reviews these promotion prospects and improves them. The above table won’t even be recognizable in 20 years or so. Some service will fare better and some will get worse. There is nothing that can be done about it in initial years. A person genuinely interested in engineering should let his interest prevail rather than these figures above. This is because you will not know what is in store for you and you may fare better than you think now.

            The purpose of writing this post is because of general observation that new officers who are genuinely interested in engineering services, being bothered by these departmental shortcomings and slow moving promotional prospects. They make half hearted efforts in switching over to other services whose working field they are not even interested. This is a great tragedy and loss to country. Even before coming to Engineering services, they are bogged down by despair. They true performance is affected as they are pulled back by these shackles. I hope this post will give the confidence to future aspirants.
They are told about shortcomings of department but not about the reforms and changes that will improve the situation. They are not told about the dynamic nature of engineering departments. They are not told that glass is half full. This service like other services has its own charm and place in government mechanism. Don’t let others say otherwise.

P.S. thank you Ganesh for the title of this post. As always, this is my personal view and will not be used for any legal or other matter. I shall not be liable for any damages arising out of use of the material.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

ESE Medicals and Myopia >4D (non pathological) - II

My ESE interview was around November and results and medicals came around January. I went to medical exam at southern railway hospital Chennai. This was my second medical test in same hospital. At 2014 ESE, all the written qualified candidates had to attend medical test and it was hell for the hospitals. Also before 2014 ESE, you had to give preference of your hospital.
Anxious face!

But now they have taken it away. I think now they allot the hospital which is more nearer to address you had given. It was convenient for most people, but I was working in Bengal and now had to travel to Chennai. Traveling was not the problem, but taking leave on peak work time by giving some other reason and seeing your superior’s face all twisted was a crisis for me. But I had to do it. Somehow, it was all an imagination and I got leave pretty easily, which is indeed a difficult thing for those working in construction industry.
                I went to Chennai southern railway hospital. As I had already given medical test in same hospital, I was familiar with the place nearest and decided to go for a bit sightseeing. On the day of medicals, I went to hospital at 9 o clock. There I found a few guys sitting and chatting .I knew they were for the medicals. I went and asked about the time to report. I already knew that the staffs came late at around 10 o clock. So we decided to pass time. I asked those two guys what their ranks were. 1st rank said the first one and 2nd rank said the next one. And they had similar GATE ranks. And the fun fact was that they were working. One of them was working for four years.
I admired their will power. For me, working really drains your energy and you really need a strong motivation for keep going. Although, I did give ESE during grueling M tech project time, the case was different. I had library facility in kharagpur and I used to regularly go there at 8 o clock. I would be the first one to enter the library and last one to go out at around 12 o clock. I had the chance of pacing my M tech work as I wished. I got two months of serious preparation after completing all M tech formalities. This was enough considering that I had already given ESE 2014 and GATE 2013. However, when I started working, it’s the responsibility that drains your energy and not the actual work itself. Around September, I had already started preparation for the third time if luck didn’t favour me during second time. However, it was frustrating because the projects were to be finished really fast and lots of work was pilling on. Being a junior, you have to work under lots of people and their remarks sometimes disturb mental peace. Seven casual leaves per year did not help either. I personally am a sensitive guy and these disturbances were creating problems in my studies. However, when I went to medicals, I found most of them working people. Some were in PSU’s and they managed their leaves and free times perfectly. Some of them were writing IAS and this exam was their backup. I just found out that I was just being a cry baby.
So, after two years of leave from blog writing, I am back. The main reason to write this piece of article is because I myself had read many articles written by others. I was a big reader of “my days at made easy”, ESE experience of many candidates. Also I read many excellent articles in Quora. Now writing them is easy, tying them is bit hard, proof reading and making presentable is tough.
I have a specific theme for this article. This article is for those guys who have specs. I have Myopia with power >4D. For those who don’t know what myopia is, its problem to see far distance things properly as normal human can. For me the power is 4D in one eye and 5.5D in other. And I am not physically handicapped. So most of the PSU’s don’t engage people >4D. After Btech, I was distraught for not getting into L&T or IOCL because of Myopia. I decided to go to Mtech in IIT and fortunately I got good college and very good faculty. However, I was pained to see L&T coming again for seniors. I was praying to God to give me something. And I am not making this up to make the article dramatic. One day I was in library searching for some research articles and I fumbled upon the ESE brochure at olden times (i don’t remember the year). I glanced upon it and found medical fitness. It said that eye power was up to 8D for some services. This happened in Mtech first year. That was turning point for me. Because of the myopia problem, I never considered ESE as an option even when I was preparing for GATE. I never regret it as I wanted to complete Masters and that too i completed it under a renowned Guide. I started searching more and eventually found out the ESE medical file. Now it had declared Myopia>4D (non pathological) as fit for all services other than IRSE in case of civil engineering.
That was the turning point and from that time onwards, I started my preparation vehemently. I never went to any trip organized, never went out for any festival. Just started my day by running a 2.2Km every day and after that it was library all time. My first attempt took me till interview and second attempt pulled it off.
During my first medical exam at Chennai, I along with other written qualified students was called. There were two girls. They started the test around 10 o clock. They started with chest Xray, urine test. Then they measured the height and weight. After that came the dreaded eye test. I along with two other spectacled candidates was referred to special medical board of three ophthalmologists. They put something in our eyes to dilate and it hurts like anything. They did a computer eye testing and handed receipt to us. Some guys didn’t bring their eye prescription and they heard earful from the doctors. The receipt was attached to a document. Then they put power glasses and made us to tell where slit of ring was. Then they flashed torches in our eyes and looked into our souls. We were asked to exercise our eyes. Look up and down now left and right. After that they watched eye from a gizmo. We were asked to read the ishara plates for color blindness. They were skipping it fast and with that entire torch light flashed before, the letter were bit dizzy. However I managed to read most of them. After that it was a lunch break. We had a good vegetarian lunch from nearby restaurant. I was bit more relaxed right now as the main over deal was over.
After that came the unexpected general body test. The people said that here is the place where you had to be naked and get your balls grabbed. I was feeling uneasy now. The people, who went in, came out and cracked some wise jokes. I went in. Doctor asked me to remove my shirt and all. He checked m chest wrist and heart beat. Then he asked me to remove everything. He pressed it and asked to cough facing sideways. I coughed my lungs out. Then he asked about piles and all. Then after putting pants he asked me to walk and sit. I did as he said. He left the room and asked to get dressed and move out. I did Google out what the ball grabbing test was and it turns out that he was not grabbing my balls but checking a specific vein in there. If there was some problem in those veins, it could be life threatening.

The last part was meeting MD. He basically asked about general things, what you are presently doing and all. He finally checked everything and filled all forms. And while he was filling form I got a look into medical board report. Fit for all services except IRSE due to Myopia >4D. This was during first medical test. However, i couldn’t get a rank in ESE 2014. All was similar in second medical test of ESE 2015 except i didn’t get to meet MD or my Special medical board report. Weeks later, i got a speed post that Medical board had declared you fit for some services only due to Myopia > 4D and if you have any objection file for second medical board. The letter did not specify which services. I was naturally tensed as why this has happened. I posted a reply approving the medical board decision and asking specifically for which services i am declared unfit. After a month or so, a letter arrived saying that I would not be considered for second medical board as I had no objection to first medical board findings. It also gave reply for my question” Fit for all services except IRSE due to myopia>4D (non pathological)”.

Second Letter from the medical board intimating fit for all service except IRSE

Main list of candidates medical status

 Finally I breathed in relief. I had endlessly searched for an article that would support me during the preparation as well as after medical. I got good help from the blog articles written with respect to interview. I hope this article helps those who are in same dilemma as I was.