IAS officers are considered to be a part of steel frame of the nation. The current system is largely part of British legacy has played an important role in the unity and the integrity of India.
As permanent executive they are expected to be the part of the problem solving group irrespective of the challenges or situations. However to understand the system one need to understand the political system where political executives are part of legislation and execute the policies with the help of the officials.
Thus, permanent executives work within the umbrella of political system to execute the will of the political parties in power. They are part of the executing wings though they do have a strong role in policy formulation inform of policy inputs through their unbiased, non-political and anonymous role. The real onus to bring change is through administrative reforms which requires political executives will. Yes, theoretically Civil servants can give policy inputs and execute them in letter and spirit and cannot bring major systemic reforms to cater to the needs of the citizenry.
However, by virtue of being at the top of the hierarchy they can certainly influence and ensure justice for the needy. There have been examples of activist Civil servants who have made real change to benefit the citizenry at large. Many famous government schemes like Direct Benefit Transfer, Smart card based identification and delivery of services like Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna have been the brain child of Civil servants. In fact there is so much scope to bring change within the system through delivery of services to intended beneficiaries that one doesn’t need to go overboard.Try to help the needy and poor , be compassionate and grounded. If one aims to be service oriented, is innovative in approach with problem solving attitude then Sky is the limit.