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Mihir Sharma

India’s Tiny Declaration of Independence

Opening up the civil service would transform government. 

Modi celebrates Civil Services Day. 

Modi celebrates Civil Services Day. 

Photographer: Virendra Singh Gosain/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

It was the most carefully examined little square of newsprint in recent Indian history. Last week, a small job ad appeared on the inside pages of some newspapers looking for candidates for the post of "joint secretary" in the Indian government. Within a few hours, the ad had gone viral: Opposition politicians had weighed in, Twitter was agog and hundreds of thousands of 40ish Indians wondered if they had one last, unexpected opportunity to make their parents proud.

Anyone unfamiliar with the Indian state would have been mystified by the uproar. After all, just 10 positions were being advertised, and successful applicants would get a three-year contract -- at government salaries. What was the big deal?