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All about ASO in MEA

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Assistant Section officer (ASO) in MEA (Ministry of External Affairs)

Level: 7

Basic Pay: Rs. 44,900/-

Salary in Foreign Posting: Depends on posted country. MEA has its own formula considering the cost of living, pricing index, currency evaluation of every country (salary varies from 1 lac to 2.xx lacs)

Assistant in MEA is the most sought after job with least chances of earnings except from your salary.

Quick Preview:

  1. You need to score really well in CGL Exam(read rank in Single/early double digits) to get it
  2. For foreign posting, you need to pass the respective(country wise) language proficiency test
  3. A few vacancies and charm of foreign postings makes MEA the most fancy post in CGL Exam
  4. Unlike CSS, posting can be anywhere; from MEA, South Block, Delhi to Passport offices to Special Missions in Bangladesh to the Embassies in USA(as well as Uganda)
  5. Typical 5 days a week, 9 AM to 5.30 PM job
  6. Assistant get official passport (white color), but not the diplomat’s passport (red color). Still, the official passport is different from normal citizen’s passport(blue color)pas
  7. Requires very good communication and interpersonal skills to flourish and grow in MEA
  8. There are 162 Indian missions abroad where an Assistant can be asked to serve.

This is one of the most sought after Assistant posts In CGL exam, for the chance of getting international postings and serve in Indian missions abroad. However, the information available and being circulated is laden with errors. Through this post, we have tried to dispel some of the major myths and half-baked truths being circulated on various groups and forums:

What is Ministry of External Affairs?

MEA is a Govt. agency responsible for conduct of India’s relations with foreign nations. MEA is responsible for India’s representation in United Nations and MEA also advises other Ministries and State Govt. when the latter deals with foreign govt. or institutions (signing of MoUs etc)

After Joining

  • Joining formalities are almost same as that of any other Assistant in Ministry except for the fact that Assistant in MEA also has to undergo IB (Intelligence Bureau) verification along with police verification. After IB and Police clearance, joining letter is issued and you are asked to report at Jawahar Lal Nehru Bhawan, New Delhi (opp. National Museum).
  • Unlike CSS, there is no immediate training on joining. However, before you get a foreign posting you have to compulsorily undergo 30 days training (spread over small modules) as well as foreign language test.
  • Foreign language proficiency test is mandatory to get the foreign posting
  • Training is hectic with a lot to learn in the brief period of time for effective working

Training takes place at Foreign Service Institute (FSI), JNU, Delhi: the same place where IFS officers, UDC, LDC and Steno of MEA department are trained.mea  

Training Course for IFS (B) – Non RG Grade 30 days
01 Passport  & PRIDE 2 days
02 Consular 2 days
03 Visa 2 days
04 IVFRT 2 days
05 MEA Administration 2 days
06 MEA Establishment & Welfare Measures 2 days
07 Protocol & CNV 2 days
08 Personality Development &  Know India 2 days
09 Office Procedure 2 days
10 Financial Procedure 2 days
11 Trade Promotion 2 days
12 Accounts 2 days
13 Computer 2 days
14 IMAS – Theory/Practical 4 days

Job of Assistant in MEA

  • The main job of an assistant is to assist the IFS officers in their day to day work
  • Assistants do the file work and noting, drafting and communication with the head office in India
  • Planning and examination of documents to be signed between the nations
  • Filing and other works related to various MoUs to be signed by ambassadors and ministers
  • Coordinating between various offices of consulates as well from HQ at Home Nation
  • Promoting friendly relations with the receiving state as also its people, including NRI/PIO

 Promotions

First Promotion from Assistant to Section Officer(SO) takes 4-5 yrs after clearing departmental exams, otherwise it may take 10-14 yrs on seniority basis. SO to Under Secretary (US) usually takes long time of 9-12 yrs based on vacancies. After US, the promotions are time based as with the IFS cadre. Most Assistants in MEA gets 3 career promotions and retires from Deputy Director level or at max Director Level.

mea1

Current strength of entire IFS cadre is 600 posts, so the chances of SO to US takes a lot of time as only a fraction of IFS cadre posts are filled by promotions as compared to direct recruitment via UPSC(8-12 IFS posts through UPSC each year).

Assistant starts from Grade-IV, progresses to Grade III and Grade II before being promoted to Grade I

mea2

Transfers and Postings

Assistant in MEA is not strictly a Delhi only job. On need basis, you can be posted to Regional Passport Offices, but usually there is shortage of staff in Delhi, so it happens only on requirement basis. You need to have really strong political approach to shift to Regional Passport Office on your own convenience (for home state posting etc.). For foreign posting, you have to choose 5-10 destinations from the list of 60 destinations provided to you by the ministry. However, it would be the ministry who would decide which place to allot to you. You can deny the allotted foreign destination but then such denials don’t go well with your seniors as it causes hassles in the effective functioning. Besides, what’s the point in joining MEA and then denying a foreign posting to live in India the entire life.

And yes, you get to live in a 5 star accommodation in case your stay arrangement by ministry gets delayed. All this at the expense of government.

Perks and Privileges

In India, all the perks are same as to that of any other Govt. servant in 4600 gp. The govt accommodation can be availed at MEA flats in Chanakyapuri and Dwarka. Since most MEA employees goes for a foreign posting every 3 years, the flats are not blocked/occupied for long. However, with every posting you need to shift your entire set up with you.

In foreign postings, you get the best facilities and amenities. You are entitled to get treated in the best hospital in that location, your children go to best American/British International Schools (having fee more that of your entire monthly salary in foreign posting). Fully furnished accommodation is provided which is better than the Govt accommodation provided to any Grp. A service (IAS/IPS/IRS) official in India. Previously, Assistant’s economy class air tickets used to be upgraded to 1st class free of cost. But, due to govt. austerity measures, now Assistant in MEA is allowed free travel by economy class to the foreign location. Also, an Assistant is allotted entire cargo container for goods, so you can take along your car and other requirements easily.

Money

While posted in India, it would be the same as that of any 4600 gp employee posted in Delhi.

However, while posted abroad, you will get salary in dollars. But, don’t get too excited too soon, the foreign package would be just enough to live an average life there. The foreign salary is calculated on many parameters like cost of living, price index, currency exchange rate etc. There are no chances of under table money. A few foolish greedy guys tried to make some and here is what happened to them

meatoi13

Cons

  • Promotions are slow after reaching SO. First, because only 8-15 Under Secretary are needed every year. Secondly, all the Stenographer cadre and Cypher cadre are merged with Assistant cadre for promotion(Reference 1)
  • You have to work out of different work environments and usually face a lot of communication problems
  • Many assistants (esp. their families) faces insecurities when posted in non-english speaking nation or when posted in hostile location. Look at the list of India’s Missions and see how many country names you know.(Reference 2) You would also be needed to know the foreign nation’s language in order to survive in daily life tasks.
  • The Indian food esp spices, vegetables etc are a difficult things to procure, so be ready to change your eating habits(esp. for vegetarians)
  • You social life reduces drastically; especially living far from friends and relatives. You miss marriages, birthdays etc of your near and dear ones
  • You miss all the festivals (you cannot celebrate Holi in minus 8 degrees in Pennsylvania)
  • You are under a lot of pressure from the seniors, since they are IFS officers from UPSC (the best brains in UPSC comes to IFS), they have a lot of pressure and tactics over you. Also, ministers can make you suffer if you don’t oblige to their orders.

meatoi12  

  • While you get all the facilities on foreign postings, the working condition way back in India are not appreciable. Here is an excerpt from a recent news articleddfd
  • An assistant cannot accept and keep even the cheapest gift received by him on international posting, even the Foreign Minister have to return all the gifts to “Toshkhana” on return to India. (Refer - Image)dsad
  • The latest measure adopted by MEA is concerning for people looking for typical “relaxed” govt. job. MEA plans to recruit from Private and Academics sector thereby bringing in the private performance oriented, result oriented and over-burdened culture. With corporate players competing with you, you will have to be on your toes all the time.fsdfs

Myth Busters

Myth 1: Assistant in MEA gets the best medical facilities his family and best education for his child. Reality: The medical facilities and education facilities largely depends on the country an Assistant is posted in. You cannot get the Singapore’s hospital facility while being posted in Nigeria. Similarly, your child cannot get a chance at Harvard if you are posted in Pakistan. No doubt, you would get the best hospital access in whichever country you are, but don’t expect first world facilities while serving in a third world country.

Myth 2: Assistant MEA is the best job to earn hefty legalized (white) money.

Reality: It is true that Assistant, MEA gets paid higher salaries but only when posted on international missions. But at the same time, let’s look at the other side of coin, the higher salary comes to help you meet higher expenses and higher standard of living. So, if you like living in the same lifestyle that any middle class Indian do, you won’t be saving anything.

However, if you plan to live like a chindichor (measly), you may save a few dollars. But that defeats your purpose of going abroad to travel the world and explore new cultures. Remember, government jobs can never get you rich as a business man. But a government job can certainly provide you with a lot of perks, respect, liberties and peace of mind.

SSCTube Gyaan

Though MEA, with its whims and fancies would attract every one of us in the first glance, there is a need for a reality check.

It looks very nice from outside the system to get foreign postings and visit various countries, discover new cultures and live in new places. But this only looks good for a few years, you won’t wish to relocate every three years of your life with the entire family. Alien locations, homesickness and foreign language trouble are bound to haunt most of us. In short, MEA post is not everyone’s cup of tea. Ask these two questions to yourself to find your answer:

  1. We all love going to Leh or Mussourie as a tourist. But can you imagine living at that place with their slow/limited life style for 3 continuous years with not much contact with family and friends. Is that your idea of living your life?
  2. We love visiting the scenic Kerala backwaters on a weekend tour. But think of learning the regional language and conversing n that on a daily basis for tasks for next 3 years. Can you do it?

If the answer to above two questions is Yes, then congratulations, MEA is your dream come true job. However, for lesser mortals like most of us, why try so hard when there is a shortcut available? The shortcut is to join CSS or any other ministry, thereby staying in Delhi and enjoying faster promotions (CSS vs MEA).  And for that once in life time urge to work as a diplomat, go to MEA on deputation for 3 years period. MEA comes up with deputation notices every now and then. Also, you get chance to visit various Nations after becoming Under Secretary (for MoUs, Trainings, as a team alongwith Minister etc). So, make your job post preference wisely, because this is what will define the direction to next 30+ years of your life. All the best!

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All about ASO (CSS)

Assistant Section Officer (ASO) in Central Secretariat Service

Level: 7

Basic Pay: Rs. 44,900/-

Assistant Section Officer or Assistant in CSS is the most discussed post among all assistant post offered through CGL.

Age Limit: 30 Years

Quick Preview

  1. You need to qualify CPT otherwise getting even 1st rank will not make you eligible for CSS
  2. Fast Joining Process after selection (within 2 months of final result)
  3. Life Time Delhi Posting
  4. 5 days/9AM to 6PM Job
  5. Fast Promotion
  6. Only for Honest
  7. Clerical/File Work

Let's understand what CSS is...

The Role of CSS (As per DOPT Website)

CSS का काम क्या है ??

The ultimate objective of all Government business is to meet the citizens’ needs and to further their welfare without undue delay. 

The permanent bureaucratic set up should provide

  • A delivery system for policy formulation
  • Continuity in policy administration
  • Monitoring & review of the implementation of policies/schemes

The CSS Officers as a part of permanent bureaucratic setup are expected to perform on all counts i.e.

  • Prompt action
  • Checks on delays
  • Linking of all relevant material including rules,
  • precedents etc. &
  • Put up alternative solutions along with possible consequences and conclusions.
  • Facilitate maintaining the vital link between Parliament and the Central Secretariat, especially when it comes to handling of Parliament Questions, Assurances & Government Bills.
  • Work relating to cadre management of various organized services
  • Work relating to financial management and preparation of the budget of various Departments of the Central Government.
  • Litigation work of the Central Government (preparing reply for court cases)

Thus, apart from better skills in noting, drafting and interpretation of rules and regulations by members of CSS, the CSS members ensures continuity in the policies of the Government of India. (देश यही से चलता है)

After Joining

DOPT is the department responsible for the after recruitment process of ASO in CSS. DOPT starts process as soon as they receive list of selected aspirants. ASO's will be the first to join government service among all other post offered through CGL. ASO's will receive their joining letter within 2 months of the final result. 

ASO's are directly put in to training from day 1 of their joining. some details of their training are worth to be mention.

* In past Training of ASO's took place in ISTM (istm.gov.in) only, but for CGL 2013 ASO's training is going on at Hyderabad, Shimla and Gurgaon also. Some details about training are worth to mention

  1. Training Name - Assistant Direct Recruits (Foundational) training
  2. Duration - 8 Weeks
  3. Hostel facility for Non - NCR residents
  4. Lunch and snacks free
  5. In 8 weeks of foundational training you will be taken for village tour and study tour. These tour are mostly excursion hardly any learning takes place.
  6. Training schedule is hectic but hardly one needs to be active and listening to the lectures
  7. In the last week of training, you have to take a exam and score of that exam will decide your seniority (75% weightage of CGL Merit, 25% of Exam Score)

 Job of Assistant Section Officer

The lowest functionary of the CSS i.e. Assistant (now Assistant Section Officer)

  • Routine noting, drafting, writing letter and submission of cases (फाइल वर्क)
  • Required to locate and collect other files or papers, information, data and material, if any, referred to in the receipt, or having a bearing on the issues raised therein.
  • Identify and examine the issues involved in the court case and record a note.
  • Assisting in the formulation and monitoring implementation of policies concerning subjects.

Promotion

css pr

Promotion in CSS is pretty fast. Reason being there is no direct recruitment at upper functionary i.e. Under Secretary, Deputy Secretary.

Current Sanctioned strength of CSS Cadre

Assistant Section officer – 6677

Section Officer – 3200+

Under Secretary – 1800+

Deputy Secretary/Director- 750+

So, the promotion of Assistant section officer to section officer (4800) takes 5 years and there is a departmental exam for that conducted by UPSC.

Section officer (4800) get promoted to Section officer (5400) after 4 years of further service.

Section Officer (5400) to Under Secretary Promotions are also fast due to large strength of Under Secretary Cadre and no direct recruitment in this cadre. So it takes minimum 4 years and maximum 6 years for SO (5400) to become US (6600)

Most, Important point here which you must note that in CSS the promotion from Section Officer (5400) to Under Secretary (6600) increases your grade pay and hence subsequent benefits associated with it. While in Inspector posts i.e. Examiner, ITI, and AEO the 3rd promotion scenario is explained in below example:

                        ITO (GP 5400)                               to                          ACIT (GP 5400)

Pay Band 2 (9300-34800) & Grade Pay 5400 --> Pay Band 3 (15600-39100) & Grade Pay 5400

So, in terms of white money Under-secretary will be earning more than ACIT (5400) with added feature of fast promotion. This is theoretical scenario, in practical you need to be in good books of your senior to get ACR in your favor for timely promotion. There is a rumor going on that CSS promotion will get slow for upcoming batches. SSCtube analysis for this rumor is mention below:

  • The average age of under secretary is 45 in CSS.
  • 600 vacant position at Section Officer level.
  • A significant attrition rate.
  • Each promotion has an average period of 5 years hence large no retirement at each level is going to happen.
  • So, the promotion rate will remain same until the average age of under secretary comes down below 40.

Transfers

मुझे दिल्ली से दूसरे स्टेट में तो ट्रांसफर नही किया जाएगा ??

Transfers are there in CSS but ministry to ministry, City remains same i.e. DELHI only ministry changes. However, some ministries have offices outside Delhi but very less strength allocated for those offices.

CSS Officers also go for deputation in various locations of India

Ministries where ASO's eligible for transfers.

mini   Characterstics of some Ministries MHA - Powerful Defence - Time bound (closed at 5.30 PM, Jt. Secretary permission required to do overtime) Commerce - Lot to Learn Tribal - Best to try other avenues like UPSC

Money

ऊपर का कुछ है क्या?

CSS is not a revenue generation department like CBDT, CBEC, ED, etc. So, scope of money is almost zero. But, you have heard recent case of espionage in government offices. So, a money monger can always find some way to make money in any kind of situation.

बाकी कुछ लोगो के बारे मे सुना है की चिल्लड़ के लिए थोड़ा बहुत हेर फेर करते है

जैसे इन्फ्लेटेड बिल्स, फाइल पास करने के लिए चाय पानी 

Respect/Power

As Assistant Section Officer is working in ministry hence Social respect is attached with this post. However due to kind of work he is doing and large cadre strength there is no value of assistant in the offices. Even the upper functionary doesn’t enjoy any kind of respect in the office. Basic reason for this is large cadre strength at each level and powerful IAS officers lobby in the CSS offices. (बाबू वाली जॉब है)

Government Quarters

क्या मुझे सरकारी घर मिलेगा??

Central government employees eligible for government quarters. So, you are also eligible for the TYPE -III Quarters, but in current scenario the government quarter allotment has huge waiting list and a waiting period of 10 years will be minimum for newly recruited ASO's to move in to Government Quarters. However, an unconfirmed trick SSCtube want to share is  newly recruited ASO's can apply for Type -II quarters. You can get Type - II easily on the basis of your hierarchy (Type - II is for Grade pay 1900, 2000, 2400, 2800 )

Further some important points to be mention before winding up the description of CSS post Q - UPSC Aspirant - क्या मुझे UPSC की प्रिपरेशन का टाइम मिलेगा?? A - Depends on ministry to ministry, for e.g. you will get enough time if posted in tribal ministry but if posted in MHA then you need to do overtime Q - क्या लड़किया होती है CSS में ?? A- Most of the girls appearing in CGL aspire for ASO Post. Hence, CSS has fair sex ratio among all other departments Q- Is qualifying CPT is necessary to become ASO ?? A- Yes, as mentioned in starting, securing 1st rank but getting disqualified in CPT can not make you ASO

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