It was the spring of 1958 when the then Union home minister G B Pant informed the second Lok Sabha about the government’s intention to set up a national academy for training civil servants. “We propose to set up a National Academy of Training so that the services, wherever they may function, whether as Administrative officers or as Accountants or as Revenue officers, might imbibe the true spirit and discharge their duties in a manner that will raise their efficiency and establish concord between them and the public completely,” Pant had said then.
The words were put into action. The Ministry of Home Affairs decided to merge the IAS Training School, Delhi, and the IAS Staff College in Shimla to form a National Academy of Administration to be set up in Mussoorie’s Charleville Estate. Initially, officers were trained in the historic building of Metcalfe House in Delhi, where the DRDO stands today.
Beginning of a tradition
On the first day of September 1959, the National Academy of Administration came into being in the erstwhile premises of the British-era Hotel Charleville and the Happy Valley Club in Mussoorie. It was not a very comfortable venue initially but niggling glitches and gaps were wrinkled out soon. In the same year of its foundation, the academic curriculum at the training institute also witnessed a paramount change. On July 13, 1959, a combined course was organised for all the services at the I.A.S Training School, Metcalfe House with 115 officers. That tradition is being followed in the Mussoorie academy now for the past 62 years and is popularly known as the foundation course.
Within a decade of this change, the academy curriculum again saw another important shift. A sandwich pattern of training was introduced in 1969, which included Phase-I, district training in the respective state cadres allotted to officers followed by Phase-II training. This training pattern remains the same.
Since the officers from across the country join the academy and are allotted state cadres according to their ranks, the provision to impart training in the regional languages was also introduced in the curriculum.
Saudamini, who teaches Odiya and Bengali languages at LBSNAA, said all the officers in the foundation course are trained in the respective regional language as per their state cadres. “The idea is to make the officers familiar with the local language of the area they will be serving at. Around 25-30 classes are arranged for them to get acquainted with the language. By the end of the course, officers are well-versed enough to speak and understand the language,” she said.
The course reading material provided to the trainees is both in Hindi and English languages.
Changes here and there
As the academy evolved with the changing environment, its infrastructure and stature also saw principal developments. Since its inception, the academy functioned under the Ministry of Home Affairs till 1970, again from 1977 to 1985. However, for a brief period of 1970-77, it came under the Cabinet Secretariat. From 1985 onwards the academy was handled by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.
In 1972, the name of the academy was changed from the National Academy of Training to the Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy of Administration. And a year later, the word “national” was added and it became the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, as it is now known.
The staff and officers talk about the unforgettable memories they made here, which they say are mostly good but some accidents also scarred the academy. Within a span of 10 years, the academy witnessed two natural disasters which destroyed its vivacious heritage structures. In May 1984, a portion of the campus, which housed the officers’ mess, the library, VIP guest house, director’s residence etc, was destroyed in a fire. In 1991, the Uttarkashi earthquake severely damaged the two iconic sites of the academy—the ladies’ block and the G B Pant block.
The academy now has huge, well-equipped, and modern buildings—Karmashila, Dhruvshila and Gyanshila in place of the old G B Pant Block and A N Jha block (named after the first director of the Mussoorie academy), and the Kalindi guest house on the land where the ladies’ block stood.
Hostels, horse riding and officers’ mess
Residential areas have also been added and renovated time and again to provide comfort to those who spend their time at LBSNAA. From 1975 to 1978, Ganga, Kaveri, and Narmada hostels were constructed on the Charleville campus. These hostels are exclusively for the participants of the foundation course, IAS professional course Phase-I and Phase-II. Later, Mahanadi executive hostel was added to the Charleville campus in 2012. This executive hostel was built for the participants of mid-career training, silver jubilee, and reunion programmes.
In 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stones of the new hostel at Monastery Estate, horse stables, and residences for the horse-riding establishment as well as a 400-metre synthetic track at the polo ground.
The horse riding facility at the academy dates back to 1959. However, there was no facility for horse riding at the start but 20 horses were bought and the thud of hooves resounded in Charleville Estate within two months of its establishment. The racecourse and the polo ground, which was carved out of a hillside in 1904, were leased by the Uttar Pradesh government to the academy.
One other highly talked about place in the academy is its officer’s mess. “Officers’ Mess of this academy is not a casual place. It is an institution. When you are here, you must be proper in your attire, polite in demeanour, and must always uphold this institution’s decorum and dignity,” are the lines used at the introductory session at LBSNAA, Mussoorie.
An officer needs to visit the mess only in formal attire and on any breach of conduct a fine is imposed on the officer. “The civil servants’ training at the academy is no less than the army in terms of conduct and behaviour. On numerous occasions, disciplinary actions have been taken against the officers who do not follow the conduct. The academy also holds the right to terminate a candidate in case of repeated misconduct,” an academy official said.
Nooks and corners of memories
Retired Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officer Anil Swarup said that the training days at LBSNAA were the best days not just during his time in service but also personally.
“More than the training part, the foundation course provided an opportunity to be in close proximity with officer trainees who have arrived from across the country. This association proved handy right through my career. After the foundation course, those belonging to services other than the IAS departed. We missed these friends during Phase-I of the training when the atmosphere turned a trifle sombre,” the 1981 batch IAS officer said.
Sharing his experience on the 60th anniversary of LBSNAA, IAS officer Partha Sarthi Sen Sharma said that the academy has moved with the times and is now more technically equipped and modernised than in his days in the early 90s.
“And yet, there are still nooks and corners that remind one of the cultural and historic legacies of the place, a place whose memories would remain forever etched in the minds and hearts of all of the officers who had the good fortune to spend part of their youth in the academy,” said Sharma.
While for many officers the academy and its infrastructure remain a cherishable memory, for IAS officer Anil Swarup skits and mimicking staff members were the highlights of his stay at LBSNAA. “All the batchmates looked forward to those skits that were short, crisp, and hilarious. The staff had a tremendous sense of humour and never took it amiss,” he wrote in his book Not Just a Civil Servant.