MEA acronym of Ministry of External Affairs is a government agency responsible for the conduct of relations between India and foreign countries. MEA is responsible for representing India in the United Nations and also for advising other ministries and the State Govt. when the latter is dealing with foreign governments or institutions (signing of MoUs etc).
The Staff Selection Commission offers young candidates a great opportunity to work with the central government’s top organizations. One of the top positions under SSC CGL is assistant section officer (ASO) in MEA.
- Joining formalities are almost the same as those of any other ministry assistant, except that the MEA assistant must also be verified by the IB (Intelligence Bureau) along with police verification.
- Joint letter is issued after IB and Police clearance and you are requested to report at Jawahar Lal Nehru Bhawan, New Delhi (opp. National Museum).
- There is no immediate training on joining as compared to CSS. However, you have to undergo 30 days of training (spread over small modules) as well as a foreign language test before you receive a foreign post.
- In order to get the foreign posting, the foreign language proficiency test is required. Training is hectic, with a lot to learn in the short time for efficient work.
- Training takes place at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), JNU, Delhi, the same place where the MEA department’s IFS officers, UDC, LDC and Steno are trained.
- An assistant’s primary job is to assist IFS officers in their daily work. Assistants do the file work which includes noting and drafting any communication with the India headquarters.
- An ASO performs four other roles. First, he plans and reviews the documents to be signed between countries. Second, the person is also responsible to file and perform other important work in relation to MoUs that are to be signed by ambassadors and ministers. Third, co-ordinate between different consulate offices as well as HQ at Home Nation. Finally, promote friendly relations with the host state as well as its individuals, including NRI/PIOO.
Perks and Privileges
- In India, all the advantages are the same as those of any other government servant at 7th pay commission grade pay. MEA flats in Chanakyapuri and Dwarka can be used for government accommodation. Since most MEA staff go every 3 years for a foreign posting, the flats are not blocked/occupied for long. However, you need to shift your entire set up with you with every posting.
- You get the best facilities and amenities in foreign postings. Your kids go to the best American/British International Schools and get treated in the best hospital in that location (the school/medical fee is more than that of your entire monthly salary in foreign posting).
- Fully furnished accommodation is provided which is better than any group A service (IAS/IPS/IRS) official with Govt. accommodation. Formerly, Assistant’s economy class air tickets were upgraded free of charge to 1st class. But, due to the government austerity measures, now assistant in MEA, allow free travel to a foreign location by economy class. An assistant is also allocated a full cargo container for goods so they can easily take car and other requirements with them.
While posted in India, salary would be the same as any employee posted in Delhi.
Nevertheless, while posted abroad, you will get wages in dollars. Many parameters such as cost of living, price index, currency exchange rate etc. are calculated on the foreign salary.
Basic Pay is 44900 after 7 pay commission. In Hand is around 58–60k (Delhi based ) but it will be the same all over in India.
When you’re posted in foreign the salary varies from country to country estimated to be around $1800–$2100 or Rs. 1 lac to 2 lacs. Besides you are also eligible for $400–$600 other allowances.
After clearing departmental exams, First Promotion from Assistant to Section Officer(SO) takes 4-5 years, otherwise it may take 10-14 years on a seniority basis. Based on vacancies, SO to Under Secretary (US) generally takes a long period of 9-12 years. The promotions are time-based after the under secretary level as with the IFS cadre. Most MEA assistants get 3 career promotions and retire from the level of Deputy Secretary or at the maximum level of Director.
It is a hierarchy where one thing leads to another.
- ASO in MEA – Initially
- Section Officer(SO) – 6–8 years if you clear departmental exam
- Under Secretary
- Deputy Secretary
Transfers and Postings
MEA assistant is not strictly a job only in Delhi. You can be posted to regional passport offices on a need-based basis, but there is usually a shortage of staff in Delhi, so it only occurs on a requirement-based basis.
For transfer you must select 5-10 destinations from the list of 60 destinations provided to you by the Ministry for foreign postings. It would be the ministry, however, who would decide which location to assign to you.
The allocated foreign destination can be denied, but then such denials do not go well with your seniors as it causes problems in the efficient operation.
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