Natarajan Bala Baskar, i.a.s. (Retd.)
By K. Manjula
“The foremost principle I followed as an IAS Officer, is to look at ways of solving problems whenever someone brought it to me, instead of just sticking to the rule book,” says N. Bala Baskar, a resident of Sastri Nagar.
A post graduate in Chemistry from Loyola College, he spent his childhood days with his grandparents in Tirunelveli. His maternal grandfather and his father were IAS officers. Though hailing from a family of IAS officers, he was not keen on becoming one. He worked as a lecturer in Loyola and as a probationary officer in State Bank of India before taking the IAS examination, due to sheer compulsion of his mother. “My first independent posting was in Nuh, Haryana in 1977 as a Sub-Divisional Magistrate; my mom was not very happy about it. She wanted me to be posted in Chennai.”
Much to his mother’s disappointment, in his career span of 34 years, he worked for only about nine years in Tamil Nadu. The rest were in Haryana and New Delhi. When asked about the challenges he faced in his career, he said that while posted in Nuh, there was a severe flood and many villages were marooned. His first challenge was to provide food and relief materials to the stranded villagers. “I feel that my team did a good job. Some old people in Nuh still remember me as that Madrasi who helped them during the floods”.
During his training period as Municipal Commissioner in Hisar, Haryana, he had to cut the drinking water supply of a resident, who had tampered with the main drinking-water pipeline to take a direct connection to his house. He was allegedly a close friend of a cabinet minister at that time. “After this incident, I was summoned by the minister and was asked to give my account of the episode. When I said that puncturing the rising main water pipeline was against the municipal by-laws, the minister laughed and said that even a clerk could quote a by-law, but as an IAS officer I should tell him how to solve the issue. I took this piece of advice as a guiding light throughout my career”.
In his illustrious career, he has served under popular ministers like Rao Birendar Singh, Buta Singh and AK Antony to name a few. He opined that it is a myth that an IAS officer’s decision can be coerced by the politicians. “If you disobey a politician, the worst thing that can happen to you is a transfer. I have had far more troubles with my bureaucratic superiors than with politicians”. He served as the Secretary of Auroville Foundation, near Pondicherry till August 2014. He continues his association with Auroville as a Senior Consultant with Auroville Consulting, a consultancy arm of Auroville Foundation. He is also an Independent Director of Kauvery Hospitals.
In the past he has been associated with the IAS selection process too. He feels that the knowledge level of IAS aspirants these days is much higher than the times of his own selection. It is more competitive and more difficult now, than in the past to get into the Indian Administrative Services. “I never went to a coaching institute before the Civil Services Examination. But now with more than a million people appearing for the exams every year, all kinds of preparations have become necessary. Still getting through is a matter of chance just like winning a lottery.”
Baskar with more than three decades of rich experience in Public Finance, Planning and Financial Management, Project Management and Programme Implementation, suggests that all future IAS officers should constantly seek ways to help and serve the people better.
He can be reached at email@example.com.
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