Once you have decided that it is the Indian Civil Services that is your calling and you want to give it a shot in the near future, it is time to start some training.
You might be wondering what kind of training am I talking about! Before you even start your preparation in earnest, you can start to train yourself to think like an IAS officer. If you are successful, you will have got an edge even before you start preparing.
What is an Officer supposed to be like?
An IAS officer has to think constitutionally, taking immense care to not let personal opinion or biases cloud his / her opinion and judgement regarding any issue.
They have to be neutral, fair and abide by the constitution. You, as an aspirant, should also aim to develop these qualities. To be able to think, reason, and gather knowledge too. Unless you know, you cannot think, understand differing views, and reason.
And if you do not reason objectively, you stand to lose out. You could be as knowledgeable as you can be, write and present your answers as best as you can, but you will lose out on critical scores if your opinions reek of personal bias or non-objective and non-constitutional reasoning on issues.
Let me explain with an example
Let us talk about ‘Awarding Death Penalty in Rape Cases based on sentiments’ in India. Do you think it is constitutional to award death penalty for every rape committed?
How should you be thinking about this issue?
As per the Indian Constitution, it is not. Every Indian citizen has the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21, as per the honorable Supreme Court of India. We, as a nation, are law bound to provide every criminal with a fair trial.
Also, the Indian Legal System is not for revenge, it is for redemption. All punishments have protocols. Capital Punishment can only be granted in the ‘Rarest of Rare Cases’.
This kind of clarity and objective thinking will set you apart from every other candidate, and developing this form of thinking should be the first thing you should focus on.
So how do you develop these skills?
1. Varied literature, judgments, news and differing viewpoints. Then combine them all together and form your opinion and judgement.
2. When you read about issues, try and analyze them from a social, political and constitutional point of view. Keep up with the developments and analyze (and form your opinion) what is happening vis-à-vis the Indian Constitution and justice for all. Then form your opinion and judgement on the issue.
3. Discuss your opinions with your teachers and peers. Reading and talking to knowledgeable people and even the common man broadens your horizons and mind. Try and understand varied viewpoints. But remember not to get carried away by emotion.
4. Try and pen down your thoughts. When you see your thoughts on paper, you will be able to analyze the efficacy of your point of view better.
I must tell you that UPSC questions are multi-dimensional and have many connected issues combined in each question. Unless you have the knowledge and the ability to think and connect the dots, you shall not be able to clear the exam.
Make these habits your own now and forever.
If you focus thus, you can definitely train yourself to think like an officer. Your knowledge and training will not only help you with the preparation, but it will also help you frame better answers in the Mains and the Interview.