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ASO (Assistant Section Officer) in MEA is one of the best posts offered by CGL. There is a lack of genuine information about MEA and I am here to provide some first hand experience to you.
Many candidates enquired about the job profile, work-life balanace, foreign postings, etc. and this post covers them all. Consider it a motivational post for all the MEA aspirants :)
1. Joining - First things first, MEA is very notorious for offering late joining because it has some additional verifications like IB verification, BOS clearance, etc. But things have changed now. Recently DoPT came up with a circular which instructed all the ministries to give joining to all the selected candidates even if their police verification is not done. Now they will just make you sign a undertaking stating that your conduct has been flawless throughout your career. Result? Faster joining. You can expect to get your joining letters within three months of declaration of the result. Something to cheer about :)
2. Work Environment - THE BEST!!! without doubt. Most of the Assistants (not all) get to sit in Jawaharlal Nehru Bhawan (JNB), a newly constructed building at the heart of the city with all the latest amenities.
Greenery all around:-
3. Work desk:
My colleague, busy at work-
You join as Assistant Section Officer. After clearing departmental exam, you will get your first promotion as Section Officer (this will take 4-5 years), and you will get to sit on this-
Around 4-5 ASOs work under a Section Officer.
The second promotion will change your grade pay but the designation will remain the same. Your third promotion will make you Under Secretary(US) and you will get your own room. (this takes around 12-13 years). After US, the hierarchy is Deputy Secretary -> Director (Dir)-> Joint Secretary, JS (the farthest an ASO can go)
4. Type of work:
All the assistants appointed through CGL(whether CSS or MEA) do the same work. i.e. making a Note and an Order. The type of the Note, depends on the section in which you work. All the sections have different work - a Section to manage the travel of diplomats, another Section to process the medical bills, etc. of the employees, Section to communicate with the Embassies, etc.
Consider for e.g. you have to process a loan application of an employee (All central government employees have to take prior permission of the government before raising any loan from a bank). The employee will give you an application mentioning his basic salary, date of joining, date of retirement, purpose of loan, etc. and you have to make a note out of it. In the note, you will state that employee X wishes to raise a loan from ABC bank. Then you will calculate the repaying capacity of the employee with a predefined formula. The employee cannot get a loan beyond his repaying capacity.
All the notes follow different paths - like for a loan, the note moves from SO->US->Dir-> and finally JS. Once the JS signs it, the note returns to you. If the above people haven't raised any objection, you will go on making an Order. Your SO will sign it and move forward. Once an order is issued, the employee can raise the loan.
This is the gist of your work.
5. Work-Life Balance:
It depends on the section in which you work. Mostly you have to work from 9:00 a.m. to 05:30 p.m, with one hour for lunch-break and 1 hour for tea-breaks (30 minutes, twice), although you can extend them if you want.
6. Subsidised food:
JNB has appointed Bikano as its caterer. The food is cheap and tasty. Most of the people eat thali, which costs them Rs. 60/-. Each floor has a coffee/tea vending machine, but you would have to shell out Rs. 5 for coffee and Rs 6 for tea.
7. The MEA edge:
Now the things that you wont find in other SSC posts-
7(i) MEA Quota(Welfare) in top colleges of India-
The MEA officials, when posted abroad, can avail MEA quota to enrol their children in top government colleges of our country (top NITs, NSIT, DTU, etc.). Your children can apply through this quota and can get a seat in these coveted colleges circumventing the formidable JEE exam (they will have to appear for SAT though). The competition through this quota is almost non-existent.
7(ii) Best work place
Population density at JNB is quite low. The whole building looks empty and there is no rush to get a lift or to eat at cafeteria, etc. The work place of most of the other ministries is crowded and doesn't give you that feeling of 'uniqueness'.
7(iii) MEA Quarters
Among all the SSC posts, MEA is the first one to offer you a government accommodation. You will get a 2-BHK flat in Dwarka after around 1.5 years of your joining. In CSS, you won't get government quarter even after 10 years of service.
7(iv) Temporary Deputations (TDs)
All over the internet you would find that MEA assistants spend 3 years in India and 3 years abroad. But there is more to that. MEA Assistants also go on TDs for a period of 1 to 2 months, based on the requirement of the Embassies.
Moreover, ASOs are also part of important international summits like SAARC, BRICS, India-Africa Forum Summit, etc. This year's BRICS summit would be held in Goa. Ready to go?
7(v) Foreign Postings
ASOs generally get foreign postings for 3 years straight, but no one would force you to go. In some Sections you can avoid foreign postings altogether.
Most of the MEA officials are ready (and eager) for foreign postings, and the reason is simple - A hell of a lot of money! (besides the thrill of travelling)
Your allowances mostly depend on the country but they are always more than you need.
For poorer countries like Bhutan and Bangladesh
For a country like Bangladesh, you will get $2,200/month + Your basic salary in India (which after 7th pay commission would be around Rs. 45000). Total = Around 1,92,000/month. Now, you already get free government accommodation, so your biggest expense is already taken care of; you just have to spend on food and shopping. In a country like Bangladesh, even if you live a lavish lifestyle, your expenses wont cross 20,000/month
Savings = Rs. 1,92,000 - Rs. 20,000 = Rs. 1,72,000/month
For rich countries
Your savings are almost same in all the countries. If you are posted in USA/UK/Japan, you will get around $2,700/month plus your Basic salary in India.
Earnings = 2,25,000/month
Savings = Your expenses won't exceed Rs. 50,000/month (my friend posted in Tokyo has never spent more than Rs. 40,000 in a month).
Savings = Rs. 2,25,000 - Rs. 50,000 = Rs. 1,75,000/month
Even after adding some invisible costs over your extravagant lifestyle, minimum Rs. 1.5 lakhs/month are definitely going into your pocket.
You would be surprised to know that the places like Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan, Bangladesh,etc. are more desirable than UK, USA, Italy, etc. because these places are near your home, hence reducing your travel expenses drastically. (MEA only pays for one visit per year)
That's all :) I think I have covered all the doubts, but still if you have any queries about this job, feel free to drop a comment...
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