Friday, August 31, 2012

Public Administration References

Public Administration Paper 1

Meaning, Scope – IGNOU MA Notes
Wilson – P&P, Mohanty Notes
PCA – Avasthi Maheshwari
LPG – IGNOU MA, Laxmikant, Mohanty Notes/ShubraSaxena
GG – Fadia 1, 2 (examples)
NPM – Avasthi Maheshwari

·         Examples should be from India as much as possible
·         Use abbreviations only after defining them
·         Stress on practical theories rather than abstract ones
·         Solution more than definition or elaboration
·         Try to put different sections of PubAd and link them in the answer

Administrative Thought:
Main refereces: P&P, RK Sapru
Scientific Management & Movement – Fadia & Laxmikant
Weber’s Bureaucratic Model – P&P
Post Weberian Development – Crack IAS
Follet – P&P
Human Relations Movement – P&P, Sapru
Barnard – Sapru
Simon – Sapru, Laxmikant
Participative Management – Sapru
Criticisms – Laxmikant, P&P
Classical Theories (Fayol, G&U) – Crack IAS, Vajiram Booklet

·         Read P&P’s Introduction too
·         Must read chapter thoroughly, at least 3-4 times

Concept of Development– IGNOU BA Notes
Changing profile of DA– IIPA, IGNOU
Anti Development Thesis– Crack
Bureaucracy and Development – Crack/IGNOU
Strong State vs Market – Fadia (mention Amartya Sen, NPM)
Impact of Liberalization on developing countries – Fadia
Women & development & SHGs– Crack, ShubraSaxena

Communication – Fadia
Morale – Sharma & Sadana/Fadia/Crack
Motivation – Crack
Leadership – Fadia
Organization – Crack/Fadia
Ministries, Boards & Commissions, Departmental forms – Avasthi
Corporations, Companies – Awasthi (Link it with Fadia Paper 2’s PSUs)
Adhoc & Advisory Bodies – IGNOU BA
HQ & Field relations – Awasthi
Regulatory Authorities – Crack
PPP – IIPA Journals/Crack, Newspapers, NIAS Notes
Accountability & Control – Laxmikant/Crack, IGNOU
Social Audit – Crack, Yojana
RTI – Read the bare act itself, Crack, ARC 2

Administrative Law – Crack/Sharma Sadana
Delegated Legislation – Awasthi
Admin. Tribunals – Fadia
CPA – IGNOU BA, + for current status: IIPA Journals/Sapru

Admin & Politics in different countries – Laxmikant (only if you feel the need)
Ecology & Admin. – Fadia
Riggs – P&P, Sapru, Mohanty Notes

Personnel Administration
Best in IGNOU but lengthy
Admin. Ethics- Fadia

Public Policy – IGNOU BA (crux in Crack) [beginning to end]

Techniques of Admin. Improvement
O&M – Avasthi
e-governance – Fadia
Management tools – Mohit Bhattacharya/Fadia

Financial Administration – Vajiram Notes                     

Public Administration Paper 2

Evolution of Indian Administration
·      One short question is usually asked
Arthashastra, Mughal Administration – Rajni Goyal [must read]
British – Rajni Goyal/Vajiram
Philosophical & Constitutional
Constitutionalism – Mohanty Notes
Salient Features – Rajni Goyal
Political Culture – Mohanty Notes
Bureaucracy & Democracy – IGNOU, Mohanty Notes

IGNOU, Fadia
Forms of PSUs – IGNOU BA
Public Sector in Modern India – India Year Book (Industry Chapter – ONGC, Air India etc data to be used), Newspapers
Problems of Acc & Ctrl – IGNOU
Impact of Privatization & Liberalization – Laxmikant
Union Govt
Executive, Parliament – Rajni Goyal + for recent trends: Fadia
Judiciary – Fadia
Intra govt relation – IGNOU (PMO-Cabinet-Party relations, Bureaucracy-Politics)
Cabinet Secretariat – Rajni Goyal + recent trends: IIPA Journals
Central Secretariat – Not needed usually/Laxmikant (if need be)
Ministries, Offices, depts – Not needed usually/Laxmikant (if need be)

Plans & Priorities – Rajni Goyal + for recent trends: Fadia
Disputes among states for allocation
NDC – Fadia +supplement with IIPA journals

CAG – Rajni Goyal

Administrative Reforms – Laxmikant, ARC 2, Last chapter of Rajni Goyal (Problems of implementation)
Rural Development – Crack
Panchayati Raj – ShubraSaxena, Journals
Urban local Govt – Crack
New Localism – IJPA articles, Mohanty notes

Law & Order – IIPA articles, ShubraSaxena, ARC 2, Crack
Role of Central Agencies – Newspapers, your understanding
Criminalization of Politics – Vajiram

Significant Issues of Indian Administration
Values – Fadia
Problems – Newspapers, your understanding
Citizen Admin. – Fadia
Corruption in Admin. – Rajni Goyal (begin with Kautilya) + ShubraSaxena & your understanding
Disaster Management – ARC2, Fadia, ShubraSaxena, Crack

Decentralized Planning – Fadia, Newspapers, IIPA

State Govt & Admin
Union-State relations – Fadia, MMPunchi Report
FC – Fadia (important)
Gov – Rajni Goyal
CM, CS – Rajni Goyal
Difference between CS & Cabinet Sec, State Sec & Directorate – can be skipped

District Admin. – Mohanty notes, Rajni Goyal, IIPA (for recent trends)

Union-State-Local relations – Crack, MMPunchi Report
District Admin & democratic decentralization – IIPA, Mohanty notes
Law & Order Admin in district – IIPA, ARC 2

Civil Services – Fadia
Good governance initiatives – use Paper 1 knowledge
Political rights & staff association – IGNOU
Civil Service Neutrality – IGNOU
Civil Service Activism – Mohanty notes, Crack

Financial Management – Vajiram
Accounting techniques – IGNOU, Crack

 Thanks a lot Suraj! for everything. :)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Civil Services Preparation, as I know it.

As many other seniors, friends and colleagues have already written in detail on this topic, so I won't be writing a lot so that I do not take up a lot of your time or create any confusion about how to prepare. But if this is the first time you are reading about how to prepare for the Civil Services Examination, then unlike this one there are some other detailed blogs too.

Some of them which my friends have written for this purpose are:

Now I begin with what I have to say about it...

The hierarchy of needs for the UPSC Civil Services:

1. Need of luck, the more you have the better.
2. Need of hard work, and the more sincere and intelligent it is the better.
3. Need of memory, preferably better than average memory skills.
4. Need of intelligence, given the changing pattern of Mains, but still average intelligence is sufficient.
5. Need of writing abilities, this is valid for all optional subjects even though is a little to very different for every subject.

Note the order of these needs, their importance is in the order I've written them. Although it is better if all needs are fulfilled to the largest extent possible, but which of these and in what percentage does the trick is again different for every aspirant, but any one of the above if present in its extreme could suffice to get selected into the civil service one wants to be a part of.

About the interview:

Every interview is unique as every aspirant is unique. Going through interviews of other selected UPSC candidates can help you understand the essence of how an interview can be if you read a lot of such experiences but it cannot prepare you for what will be asked from YOU in a UPSC interview. Knowing yourself well, confidence, clarity of thought and maturity of opinion, and luck are important to score well in the interview. And you would notice for yourself when you read such experiences, it is not as difficult as people make it out to be. So prepare hard and well, starting as soon as you can after Mains. Nothing else is required in terms of the inputs. It is not a test of personality as much as a role play that anyone can score marks in if they play it well.

About the approach one should have towards this exam:

UPSC Civil Services Examination isn't the JEE or the PMT or the CAT exam that gets you into colleges! This exam is one that gets you a career and tests you at all levels -emotional, physical and cognitive- and needs you to be mature and learn every day during the preparation as well, not just after joining the service. Self study and developing a comprehensive understanding is far more important than coaching, but if coaching helps you cover these two aspects too then there's no harm in taking it. But note that it is possible to clear this exam purely through self study too.

The Prelims preparation is not different from Mains, and even though CSAT is almost exclusively a part of the Prelims syllabus its fairly easy to prepare using standard sources and methods. I hope I need not elaborate about CSAT further, and so I'll not deal with Prelims preparation separately.

Regarding General Studies:

Newspaper - Hindu, Indian Express, Business Standard, Economic Times etc (choose at least one of the first two and one other to supplement that for developing a perspective on issues and comprehensive news coverage). Should be read well from about a year or 10 months before one takes Prelims. Filter what you have to read through your knowledge of the Mains syllabus.

Basic books that cover the concepts and topics mentioned in the Mains syllabus. I need not mention their names, as friends in other blogs have already done that.

Answer writing practice, preferably in a simulated examination setting with UPSC like questions. This is essential to optimize the attempt, time management, and develop a writing ability on issues and other topics even if you do not know well about them.

A perspective on as many issues as one can have that are related to the service and the exam is helpful in preparing for General Studies and the Interview.

Regarding Psychology as an optional subject:

Psychology is not the best option to choose if you don't genuinely have a feeling that you will like it, and especially if you don't have that bent of mind that psychology needs. It will not teach you to read people as much as you think it will, it will though need you to read more than what you would imagine. Its awfully lengthy too even if I leave the difficulty aside. At the risk of sounding biased I would say that it is the most difficult of all Humanities Optionals in terms of the level of abstractness required to have a conceptual understanding. Moreover the marks aren't coming as one expects. If I can quote an example, a friend got 53 marks less in Paper 2 alone than what he got last time even though he wrote it better this time. This was his 2nd attempt and interview. The nature is this exam is such that one cannot predict marks and even if that wasn't the case, I still strongly believe that one should not infer one's or anyone else's preparation from marks alone to evaluate the ability they have or their performance!

Mukul Pathak Sir is the best mentor one can have, and in my opinion not just for Psychology but also for a lot of other things in life. Apart from his classes and/or class-notes that you should do, his Psychology Mains Test series discussions are also helpful and rewarding but can also be very cognitively taxing and time consuming. Speaking for myself, I did not take any test series for Psychology when I was writing Mains and could only attend 2 discussions of Pathak Sir's test series, and that was sufficient I thought to get the essence of how I should approach writing it in Mains. Self study and discussing with fellow Psychology friends is more helpful and also sufficient for Psychology in my opinion, especially if you're taking any other test series. An integrated understanding is far more important than joining a test series in case of Psychology, unlike many other Social Science optional subjects.
How to write Mains in Psychology: Understand the basic concepts in an integrated and comprehensive fashion. Apply them in Paper 2 while being as original and comprehensiveness as possible. These two aspects are key for getting good marks in Paper 2. Reproduction of what you've read might not even fetch you average marks. For Paper 1 though reproducing the things you've read will get you good marks, but if that is accompanied by your understanding of issues it'll make them better.

What to read in Psychology:
Reading from anywhere that helps you develop a good understanding is all you need to do. For me Pathak Sir's notes was sufficient, but some friends of mine find it easier to understand through books. The sources that you choose are at your discretion which could include Baron, Morgan & King, NCERT, R. Solso (for Cognitive Psychology), Ciccarelli, Hall & Lindsay (for Personality theories) etc but do not not-read Sir's notes for sure. They should be covered for Paper 1. For Paper 2 application of that integrated understanding fetches more marks than reproduction, like I said earlier. So do read from somewhere whatever you feel is a good source for Paper 2, I can't think of one single source except for a book compiled by Smarak Swain for this purpose, but try and be original in your answers in it rather than reproducing what you've read whatever be the source of your reading.

Regarding Public Administration as an optional subject:

It is one of the most relevant things to study before one becomes a civil servant in my opinion. This year, ie 2011 Mains, the scoring has been pulled down due to scaling leaving only a few steep peaks that don't get affected by it.

If you have no background in the subject and are in Delhi, then MK Mohanty is a good teacher to understand it from. But like everything else in this preparation, relying on his notes or classes would be like believing the world is black even though its you who has closed his/her eyes. Newspapers, recent Commission reports summaries are essential for a decent preparation. I've been asked a lot of questions regarding IIPA journals, also called as IJPA journals
. I must tell you that I do not have links to IIPA journals and also didn't read any. I did have some of them with me though but in the form of a hard copy, but did not read them like I already said. IIPA journals are not as important as many might make you to believe they are. They are supplementary reading material once you've read the basic material. Not before that. They are not like standard preparation notes just in case you didn't know that. As far as what sources to study from, Prince [Dhawan] has articulated the details well, if you would like further details ie.

Whatever be your optional subjects do remember this: 

There is not a big difference and sometimes no difference between what a selected candidate can tell you and what someone else who is preparing would assuming he's preparing well. Also someone's marks, rank, service should not be your criteria to judge if his/her opinion is helpful or correct, especially if they are the ones that the media disproportionately highlights. You have to develop a comprehensive understanding. Do what 'you' feel is necessary for that. Read what and from sources which you feel are sufficient for you to be able to develop that. Reading a lot from a lot of places won't help. Reading things deeply and analytically from a few but comprehensive (which is not necessarily lengthy) would. Reading from the same source again and again would. Reading from your own handwritten notes and gists would.

The role of Luck:

I'll talk about this a little more than what is talked about by most people who get selected, so this might be the lengthiest of all subtopics I've discussed regarding the preparation.

Luck plays a part in different shapes and sizes in getting selected in this Exam. But for one to actually understand the effect luck can have on marks it usually needs to happen with oneself in a bad way. The effect can be as huge as getting us AIR 1 to throwing us out of the list. And it never gives a hint as to what role it'll play for you, it can be very different from what you imagine it would be.

Scores are a relative, subjective, scaled as per UPSC wants even within the subject at times, luck based result of one's preparation and arbitrariness of this exam. Don't judge any aspirant based on his performance in the exam (like his marks, service allocated, rank etc) even if he hasn't reached the Interview. You'll realize what this exam is if and when you take it. Once you've prepared enough, the rest is not in your could still not even be in the selected list of candidates for any service! I hope the bad side of it doesn't harm you personally and you don't have to see it to know it, and therefore I'm telling you that before just so you know. This isn't JEE or CAT where aptitude and preparation alone matters most of the time. You got my hint I hope.

Whosoever tells you that UPSC requires high IQ doesn't know much about what this Exam is. It does not 'require' IQ, but obviously having a high IQ helps! In my opinion IQ is overrated anyways and doesn't actually give a measure of true intelligence. IQ though is required in exams like IITJEE, CAT etc but not in UPSC Civil Services. In CAT its also a little bit of luck nowadays, but that's minuscule in front of what clearing UPSC CSE demands.
What UPSC needs is Emotional Intelligence. That is something very helpful in this preparation. That apart from the need hierarchy I mentioned at the top of this post.

A friend said this after getting selected,"It’s funny, but after Duryodhana is killed, Krishna turns to the Pandavas and says, “We’ve been lucky to win.” This is God speaking. And so I realized that no matter how sincere or motivated the effort, the result was eventually a matter of luck. Even though Krishna is God and already knows the outcome of the war in a sense, he plans meticulously, tries his best to avert an inevitable war and does not even back down from adopting less than fair means. This spirit of detachment is what we should aim for. We should not develop an emotional attachment to the final result and must focus on the particular stage of exam we take next. But he also simultaneously tells us that we may or may not achieve what we try to and must be prepared for both outcomes."

To elaborate what he meant, In Mains somebody else has to check the copies, who checks them, his personality, his knowledge, his ideology, his mood, his concentration on what you've written, his priorities, his reasons for checking your copy, his interpretation of the question, his interpretation of what you've written, his hunger, his habits, his thirst, his energy that day affect your marks. What copies get checked before yours, your handwriting, your cuttings, your presentation, the perception of your presentation by a particular examiner, your writing ability especially in the English medium, and at what time of the day the copy gets checked affect your marks. On the day of the exam what questions come, whether in that split-second you interpret the question correctly, whether you are able to manage time properly, whether ideas come into your head that are required to give a good answer, your confidence, your calmness and presence of mind, a mental block etc affect your marks. Then these factors come into play in every one of the papers you've taken and on every question while its being checked. In the Interview, somebody else has to judge your personality, and everything gets reduced to a matter of perception. What questions are asked based on whatever strikes them in their head to ask you for whatever reason that day, what words you use, how your body reacts and moves, your clothes that day, your expressions, your features, their gestures, their personalities, the weather outside, which candidate in the serial order are you to go in, what personality and evaluation the candidate(s) who took the interview before you had especially the one just before you and then the others on that day in that board, what is the time of the day and so many other factors all affect your marks. 

Not just these, there are other factors too. Rather the two most crucial factors are scaling and arbitrariness. Scaling is the biggest factor that leads to skewed marks of a lot of hard working candidates. And scaling also happens both within and between the subjects. Also which subject will be scaled to what extent and whether upwards or downwards cannot be said beforehand. On top of that the trends of which are the favoured subjects keeps changing every few years. In the model that's followed it appears that the peaks and extremes are the least effected, as you too would know if you've read about statistical data whatever be the model UPSC uses. UPSC is trying to improve upon that by making the syllabus the same for all candidates who appear in Mains. This change will happen soon. To give an example of luck, an aspirant got 348 in Sociology in 2010 Mains, and then in 2011 in spite of having prepared and done better he got only 231. Another one got 204 in Psychology Paper-1 in 2010 Mains but managed only 29 in Paper-2. And this isn't a one off instance, a lot of students who had Psychology got such marks in Paper-2 in 2010 Mains. How could everyone write so bad when they didn't write bad at all in the first paper, I wonder? In 2011 Mains Psychology, Sociology, Geography and Public Administration have been heavily scaled down, the average marks being less than 250 or so including of some very well prepared students, whereas the Sciences, Languages, Engineering, Medical Science and Mathematics have very high scores and the averages are above 320 or so and moderately hard working students have scored more than 370 easily with some even crossing 410. No one in a few languages has scored less than 300. This data and these marks cannot be verified, and may even be an incorrect over-generalization. To stay optimistic, lets think and hope that that is the case. Afterall, hard work doesn't go unrewarded! Well, most of the time anyways. And even if its partly true, at least scaling will no longer be an issue after the changes happen to Mains, which'll happen soon. That's yet another reason to prepare hard.

To give you an example of arbitrariness, which sometimes also masquerades as scaling, a senior in the service who got 245 in the interview in one attempt, got only 65 in the next attempt. He appeared again and the third time he got 232. Arbitrariness plays havoc sometimes. It could affect Prelims, Mains or the Interview. So, I feel lucky to have the service that gives me the platform to do good work, serve and help people.

But one should do three things well at all stages: read, write and be confident. Believe. Hope. It'll all work out well in the end! It always does.

Well, I guess after writing so much I might have made you feel that either I am fatalistic or am trying to make you so or I am trying to make you believe that all one needs in this exam is luck. But that is not the case, not at all. My only intention of writing this is to try and make you better prepared in this preparation, so that you know what can happen, so that you do not leave any stone unturned, so that you are successful. After the changes in Mains subjectivity will decrease to some extent in the way that scaling, which is the biggest contributing factor to luck, will no longer have an influence on Mains marks. So it's all the more important that you prepare well as you'll have lesser things to blame other than yourself for not doing well. Touch-wood that won't happen. 

A clarification:

This is one of the honest blog posts among the sea of blogs of toppers, that I have come across. Perhaps, you have your feet planted firmly in the ground. Thanks for the post.

I have a question though: Would it be preposterous to replace the word "luck" or the word "arbitrariness" by words like "corruption"?

Wish you all the best for your career :)


  1. Thank you so much for your kind words and wishes.

    To answer your question, YES calling it "corruption" would be preposterous! To give you an example, the runs scored by a cricketer of the caliber of Sachin Tendulkar can be luck based and totally unexpected/arbitrary, but that does not directly mean that he/she has has been involved in match fixing or corruption. So YES, on the front of corruption, this is as fair an exam as Sachin Tendulkar's cricketing prowess.

    I would like to also say something more. The scenario in our country is not as grim or fallen into moral putrefaction as it seems. For example, we read or hear about heinous crimes and accidents too in the news every day, but that does not mean that that is all that happens outside our homes, does it? The answer to this question was obvious because you've seen things outside your home, but because we don't know about the good things in the corridors of service or power, we think of the contrary about that.

    A lot of good civil servants and other many other people toil every day to ensure that we continue moving forward and functioning despite all odds, and their number is increasing every day. Therefore, "I Hope". Therefore, I've chosen this career. :)

    Thanks again. God Bless us all. :)
Best of Luck!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Feeling of Happyness

I was with a lot of friends when the result came as all of us were waiting for the result for oneself or the other. I would anyways have been with them having been staying in a hostel for the past year, but this gathering on the 4th of May, 2012 was different. But before I move ahead, I'd like to recap things a bit.

Vikash (a close friend, fellow hosteller and batchmate at college who had also taken the interview) and I were watching Hugo when the Interview Calls Roll Number List came on the 1st of March. We couldn't complete it then owing to the celebratory mood that overtook the entire hostel as soon as the list came, and Vikash decided that we'd complete it on the Final Result day, given that Hugo had brought us both luck. I for one was dumbstruck to see my name in that list itself having written the worst Mains I thought I could. Never had I been so shocked and surprised in such a way in my entire life. I was shaking and trembling after seeing the list, literally, and it continued for the remainder of the day, obviously out of happiness! To tell you the truth that was a far more happier day than the 4th of May, ie when the Final Selection List came.

But by the 4th of May, Vikash in anticipation of the result on the 3rd itself had already seen Hugo the day before. He tried a lot to make the result happen on the 3rd by pausing it and delaying its completion as much as he could but that didn't help. I couldn't find the nerve to see it even on the 4th. What if the result still didn't come on the 4th and we both would then be left out of luck. I couldn't take that risk, so in a way I was conserving my luck, but at the same time thinking what if not being able to see it before the result would be a sign of bad luck? What if the result came suddenly?

Some of the friends in the hostel who had taken the Interview had been following the orkut community Interview prep for IAS since morning that day. Names had been flashing on the community threads now and then since 10:30 am on the 4th. But considering UPSC has a big rumour budget, so I stayed away from it. At around 2pm I started hearing that the Final Selection list had been posted on the UPSC Building Notice Board. Also around the same time the traffic on the community threads suddenly increased and many names, with ranks, started surfacing. Almost the whole hostel gathered within minutes in Anoop's (a close friend who had taken an amazing attempt) room where this Community thread was being followed. Abid (Syed Abid Rasheed Shah, a very dear friend who was undergoing his IPS Training in Hyderabad then) called me and asked if I had somebody outside the UPSC Building to see the result. Now that the news had reached Vallabhai Patel National Police Academy and from what Abid told me in the next few minutes, I couldn't not believe in its authenticity. He told the name of Rajat Bansal, who was training with him, had been confirmed to be in the list, with a rank that would make him an IAS, by a friend of Rajat's who was outside the UPSC Building. I told Abid not to worry, wished him all the luck in the world, and reminded him of last year when both of us were having the same conversation and the Final Selection list was put up within 15-20 minutes of when it was pasted on the UPSC Notice Board.

The wait now was over. But I could see the look on all my friends faces, had the wait only finally begun for them? I was not expecting my name to even be in the Interview Calls list, like I wrote earlier, let alone the Final Selection list, so I couldn't feel the intensity for myself, but still minutes seemed longer and I was pumping with energy to read the names of all my friends who had taken the Interview.

I quickly went to my room and put on Hugo and came back to Anoop's room where everybody was at the time. Some more time passed and Chakresh's name appeared on the Community thread to no one's surprise along with his rank, the only surprise for me was the rank. He deserved better I felt. I thought to give him a call, but then stopped myself as this still wasn't official news. Then began the continuous refreshing and reloading of the UPSC site. Were we waiting for an absolution? Was there one for all my friends?

I could almost hear the heart beats of those next to me. And soon a new link appeared on the UPSC website, the link we all wanted to click. I had asked Anoop to scroll down rather than search for names, but that was easier said than done. The pdf opened and Anoop started scrolling with everyone's eyes glued to the laptop screen with some of us sitting on the floor, some on the bed, some standing. Vikash's heart was touching my knee and it was beating so hard that I felt its rhythm was pumping blood in my body. I felt pulses of 'happyness' when I read the names Sanyam, Namit, Abid, Chandra Mohan Thakur. But then a sad feeling took over when I didn't see Chakresh, Anoop, Vikash, Rishi and Anurag on the first page. I held my nerve. Pawan Kadyan appeared. I didn't feel anything for it couldn't have been mine, there must have been some other Pawan taking the Exam. Anoop kept scrolling. Harsh, Abhijeet, Vivekanand, Anjani, Mayur, Ajit, Ashish, Ravi, Vikas Choudhary, Rishi, Chakresh, Rupak, Anurag appeared. Anoop kept scrolling. Vikash's heart could have easily broken his ribs and come out I felt. Alok's name appeared. We were nearing the end of the list. The list ended. Vikash and Anoop, who were next to me, and Prakash didn't find their names in the list. I felt numb. And this wasn't a happy numb like the one on the 1st of March. We 'searched' Anoop and Vikash Kumar Shahwal's names. No Anoop was found. A Vikash, albeit someone else, did surface. I checked the name Pawan Kadyan again. It had my roll number. But why then couldn't I still believe it was me? Why wasn't I feeling happy? Everybody started congratulating me for becoming an IAS. Vikash and Anoop too. They had done so much, I can't imagine what must have been going inside them. The phone calls started coming. I was given a beating on the backside.

I called home, Dad picked up. I asked him to call Mom too and to switch the phone to speaker mode. I said, "Aapka beta IAS ban gaya."(Your son has become an IAS). No replies, all that I heard was the sound of them crying. The phone call ended. I could feel my eyes were wet, my lips trembling, and it was then that I felt happy. My parents gathered themselves, and called back, "Beta ab ghar aaja." (Son, now come home).

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My UPSC Interview, 2012

Name: Pawan Kadyan.
Interview/Personality Test Date: 22nd March, 2012.
Slot: Afternoon; Reporting Time 1315 hours.
Interview order: Last of the 6 persons to be interviewed by that board in that slot.

The Board was known at 1445 hours when the first candidate to face the board from our group (name: Vivek Chaudhary) was told about it. Our board was that of Sh. I.M.G. Khan.

Time passed...after Vivek it was Rupak, then Hari, then Nidhi, then Jackson...and then my turn. By the time Jackson went it was 1640 hours. In a few minutes all other candidates left in the waiting hall had also gone for their interviews in their respective boards. Mine was the last interview of the day across all boards. I was called to come and sit outside the Board's Room after about 15 minutes from when I was the only one left in the Waiting room. The guards by then, one male and the other a lady, had become acquaintances. We had even shared a joke or two and laughed with the Voice-repeating-cat application on the mobile. They wished me luck and smiled. The guy who came to call me for the interview too by then had seen enough of me to share a smile and good wishes, and he too wished me good luck. He had a squint and big glasses, and was a nice man to talk to. I thanked him and asked him what time it was. He replied, “5 baj gaye hain.” I asked whether it'd be better if I greeted the board with a 'Good Evening' rather than a 'Good Afternoon' to which he nodded in the affirmative and with a smile said, “Aap chinta mat keejiye, Khan Sahab achhe se interview lete hain”. (I wondered how he reached the inference that he drew from my question, but his reply did help me :)) We reached the Board room and he asked me to sit on a chair outside it. I realized Jackson was still inside and I asked how long had the previous candidate (Jackson) been in? He said it had been 15 minutes. Tea was being prepared for Mr. Khan while I sat on the chair. The guy who was preparing tea offered me some kajus and biscuits. I picked one and said, “Thank you. Candidate ko to chai nahin di jaati hai na”. He said, “Kya aap chai lenge?”. I said, “Nahin nahin, main nahin loonga”, and smiled. “Khan Sir ki chai mere andar jaane se pehle de dijiyega.” And he nodded with a smile, “Theek hai”, and in a few moments went inside the Board room with the tray.

I practiced sitting into and standing off the chair a few times (by the way I was wearing a deep blue suit), focused my attention and thoughts for a few minutes, asked myself why I was here, and thanked God for the opportunity and felt happy for it.

In a few minutes Jackson came out of the Board room. I mimed to ask about how was it. He looked at me looking a little nervous but happy, and nodded positively as he walked away.

The time had arrived and I asked the big glasses guy who had escorted me there about the time. He showed me his watch which read 1710 hours. The chimes of the bell rang. It was my turn. He opened one of the two planks of the door and I stepped forward....

(A note: The demeanor of the conversation was very cordial and conversational and I was most of the while smiling as if talking to friends.)

Me: May I come in Sir. (while I noticed that the table was to the right of the door with the Chairperson, Mr. Khan, facing away from the wall having the door; that I had to walk a circular arc of 90 degrees to face them, and that there was a lady member in the board.)
Mr. Khan: Come in, come in.
Me: Good Evening Ma'am. Good Evening Sir. Good Evening to you Sirs.
Mr. Khan: Take a seat.
Me: Thank You Sir. (I jovially sat down and acknowledged all the members and the Chair by eye contact)
Mr. Khan: (he was turning over my summary sheet at that time and had reached the last section having job details). Oh! You worked somewhere (and started reading the address) PP Service..where was this Nagothane?
Me: Sir it is in the Raigad district of Maharashtra.
Mr. Khan: What does it manufacture? (he would have read the words 'Manufacturing Division' in the address)
Me: Sir, it manufactures low and high density polymers.
Mr. Khan: So why did you leave the job? Didn't you like it?
Me: No Sir (happily), it was immensely satisfying and I liked it. But while I was there I used to go to a school nearby to help students. Slowly I started feeling more inclined towards that, so I decided to pursue a career that is more challenging and where I can connect directly with people.
Mr. Khan: So Pawan, (smiling) what have you been doing since then?
Me: Sir, I've been preparing for the civil services.
Mr. Khan: You left the job in 2009. Its more than two and a half years, close to 3 years now. You could have done so much at a school by now!
Me: Yes Sir, (emphatically & empathetically) I feel that pain too and want to start contributing as soon as possible.
Mr. Khan:(smiles) But some countries do not have a Civil Service. Like the US (a member intervened to add that a few services do exist in the US but not a civil service) and some other countries like (he told a few names that I don't remember) do not have a permanent civil service. Shouldn't India also abolish the civil services?
Me: Sir, every country has its own parameters to judge that. India has evolved in a manner that we need a civil service. The US has had a long history and time to develop (Mr. Khan interrupts: But we've had a longer history.) Sir, I mean since independence. We need more time before we can do away with the civil service if that is indeed needed. Civil services are the drivers of the car the country is. We play a critical role, perhaps the most critical role in taking the country forward. (M4 interrupts while looking at Mr. Khan: Sir, he is identifying with the services.)
Me: (in an embarrassed, humble, jovial & conversational tone with a smile) Sir, I didn't mean that. I am extremely sorry (and a big smile).
Mr. Khan: I never thought of this analogy before (looks excited and inquisitive). So, if the civil services is driving the car (smiled) then what are the politicians doing?
Me: Sir, they along with many others are sitting in the back of the car. Civil services decide how well and at what speed the country moves forward.
Mr. Khan: Hmm...(and acknowledges with a bigger smile. And asks inquisitively..) So, when did the civil services start in India?
Me: Sir, they started in the British era. The Office of the District Collector came up in the 1770s.
Mr. Khan: But the names Tehsil, Taluka, Zilla, Mansabdari still exist. What are they then if the services started in the British era?
Me: Sir, the names exist to mark a continuity in the governance system. So that people feel connected to it. There were administrative systems before too, but the present day professional civil services started in the British era.
Mr. Khan: So we have them because of the British legacy?
Me: No Sir. We have them because we need them...(He interrupts me here, smiles and says: are sticking to your point. Good. He now looks at Member 1 as if to tell him that he can ask questions now)

M1: What is the Indo-US Strategic partnership?
Me: Sir, if my memory is serving me right it started in 2004. I might be incorrect. It is a partnership covering many areas from defence, science & technology, education, trade, civil nuclear energy and many more.
M1:What benefit is India getting out of it?
Me: Sir, the US is the world leader in technology, defence equipment and many other areas. We can learn from them in these fields.
M1: So, what benefit is the US driving from it?
Me: Sir, every country has its own experience and share of successes & failures. India too can offer the US such knowledge, and this knowledge sharing can create a new synergy and a higher level of progress for both the countries. India is also an emerging world leader and the US would benefit from this engagement.
M1: Wasn't it because the US wanted to use India against a particular country?
Me: No Sir. No one can use India for its interests. We entered the partnership on our own terms.
M1: What is AFSPA? What are the controversies related with it?
Me: Sir its the Armed Forces Special Powers Act which came into force in the late 1950s. Its applied in disturbed areas, declared so by the Governor of the State. It was applied initially to regions in the North-East and extended to J&K in the 1990s. It gives the Army the power to take suo moto action in matters of national security, countering terrorism and other such activities which include searching premises, opening fire etc. The recent controversies relate to the human rights violations in J&K by the Army and the decade long fast by a lady (I intentionally didn't name Irom Sharmila to avoid questions on her or Manipur) in the North-East.
M1: What are the problems in the civil aviation sector?
Me: Sir, the individual operators in the sector have different problems and business models, but their business models are not the ones that are best suited to make profit. In case of Air India it being the national carrier, it has to operate flights between less profitable or liability creating routes and airports. Kingfisher's Mr. Mallya is funding his airlines from his other avenues. His model was never profitable and required him to pump money from his other avenues. The operators in the sector are more than what India requires in terms of demand. The induced competitiveness has led to very low fares but the losses have begun to show. (I could feel the answer was getting long and the Member was losing attention).
M1: So in short what is the problem?
Me: Sir, its the improper business models of the different operators.
(M1 acknowledges that positively and looked at Member 2 to hand it over to him. M2 had a stern look to begin with but that changed soon)

M2: Pawan, you are a sportsperson. You come from a sports school. You have been doing sports regularly. Tell us, what according to you are the problems in Sports in India?
Me: Sir, the biggest problem is in the way we perceive sports. Its seen as a hindrance to academics. Sports is not seen as an economically viable career. Then the Govt incentives and focus on sports has been low. Sports infrastructure is lacking. Private investment in sports is also low. But Sir, the past few years our sportspersons have performed very well in various international competitions and have shown us the way ahead.
M2: What can be done to tackle these problems?
Me: Sir, the first thing we need is a strong & balanced Sports Policy and Sports Law. Also academics should integrate sports in it for the overall development of children. The government spending should increase and infrastructure be built using existing schemes and new schemes. And the private sector should promote sports persons as role models through advertisements and sponsorships. Talent hunting and improvement in coaching facilities should also be important focus areas.
M2: What about hockey?
Me: Sir, in hockey we did not adapt with the changes that happened with the coming of the Astroturf. Our physical fitness also didn't meet up to other teams. But after Micheal Nobbs has become the hockey coach, this is improving and we've recently qualified for the Olympics too.
M2: Do sports keep us fit?
Me: (almost sounding obvious and smiling) Yes Sir, both mentally and physically fit.
M2: But in our country so many people are malnourished. How can sports keep us fit when we don't have food?
Me: Sir, nutrition is a critical necessity. Without it not just sports but every activity we undertake suffers. But sports is not a competing factor. In fact sports can help give the confidence that can translate to all other activities, like to take more risk in economic ventures, wage & self employment etc to earn a better living and nutrition levels. Sports will also find a way for itself if we can provide better nutrition.
(M2 looked at Member 3, who was also the lady member. She started looking at what was written in her diary. I could see a lot of scribblings in it as if it were a rough work diary)

M3: Pawan, you seem to be a talented young man. What in your opinion are the three big problems of India? How can they be tackled?
Me: Ma'am, in my opinion the biggest challenge before India right now is of how to ensure that we reap our demographic dividend. The second is that we still haven't achieved inclusive growth. And the third is (I am thinking...) that the status of women is still not at par with men.
M3: What is corruption? (She might have been expecting I would say corruption, but somehow it didn't come to my mind then!)
Me: Ma'am, any activity done with malafide interest is corruption in my opinion. If there is an illicit purpose involved and loss to the public at large.
M3: Doesn't it have to be monetary?
Me: No Ma'am. Not necessarily, in my opinion.
M3: Give an example where it is not monetary.
Me: (affirmatively) Ma'am say someone connives with someone else to accrue power or favours. That too would be corruption in my opinion.
M3: What is demographic dividend?
Me: Ma'am more than 50% of our population is young and less than 30 years of age. They have a lot of energy and creativity to offer. That is demographic dividend. Being able to tap that energy and channelize that in a positive direction is the challenge.
M3: What were the other problems you told.
Me: Ma'am, lack of inclusive growth and the status of women.
M3: What is the status of employment in India? How can we address it?
Me: Ma'am 60% of the people are employed in Agriculture. Roughly 20% are in the Services sector, and the rest in MSMEs (she looks as if wanting to ask what that is. I continue..) ie Micro, Small and Medium scale industries and Manufacturing. I do not recall the figures exactly.(to which Mr. Khan says: We don't need figures. We want to know what you think.) (I acknowledged him and smiled) (Now I am addressing both Mr. Khan and M3) We need to divert people from agriculture. 40% of farmers don't want to be in agriculture. We can provide them skills & training so that they get employment in small scale industries and agro-based industries that can be setup in and around where they live. (Mr. Khan was nodding positively and smiling while I said this).
M3: What model has China adopted for this? (I understood that she was hinting at what can be done in the Manufacturing Sector in India)
Me: Ma'am, they have invested in building large scale infrastructure like roads and SEZs and these have created large scale employment.
M3: So what is India doing on that front?
Me: Ma'am India has formulated a new National Manufacturing Policy which will create around 10 crore job in the next 10-15 years. We also have plans to set up National Manufacturing Investment Zones and various SEZs. We have launched schemes like NRLM and National Skill Development Mission.
M3: So, is NREGA a solution?
Me: Ma'am, its a solution but only in the short term, not in the long term because it does not impart skills or create productive & permanent assets.
M3: Yes, (nods affirmatively) NREGA is only a transient solution. (looks into her diary and looks back at me from between her eyebrows and her glasses) Are our policies a failure then?
Me: No Ma'am, (smile) our policies aren't a failure. It is their implementation and the awareness about them that is still lacking.
Mr. Khan: It is easier said then done.
Me: Yes Sir, I agree, (empathetically) and therefore we need conviction and commitment in the civil services.
(She looked at Member 4, who looked indifferently towards me while he was laid back in his chair)

M4: You mentioned Agro based and MSMEs. What are the Food Processing related incentives in the Budget? You must be following the Budget?
Me: Sorry Sir, I did follow the Budget but I do not recall these provisions right now.
M4: But this seems to be your interest as you mentioned them. There seems to be a discrepancy in your knowledge and your interests.
Me: Sir, I remember the essence of what was said, but not the details. Should I tell that?
M4: OK.
Me: Sir, the Finance Minister in his Budget speech gave incentives for attracting investment and generating employment in the Food Processing industry. (He looked satisfied now)
M4: The entrepreneurs and businessmen are responsible for creating a lot of jobs but they don't seem to get the respect as the civil servants and politicians do. Why is that?
Me: Sir, people respect entrepreneurs and businessmen too. I don't feel that they are not respected.
M4: I am not talking about the downtrodden. They respect everyone. I am talking about those who matter. Who among those sections respects these entrepreneurs and businessman?
Me: Sir, in my opinion the downtrodden matter too, but the other sections like civil servants and politicians, and the middle class also respect the businessmen. Especially since the advent of Indicative Planning they have been given even more respect. They are now called to help with plan formulation and preparation of the budget too.
M4: (looks satisfied and smiles). Suppose you are the District Magistrate of a district. Two politicians, an MLA and a MP, are tossing you around for political gains. What will you do?
Me: (almost jokingly) Sir, I can't imagine something like this happening. I believe politicians are rational people. (M4 starts to grow a humorous smile on his face) And even if this happens, I will follow what the law suggests me to do. I will also consult my seniors and colleagues if the need arises.
M4: Law is always the last resort. (Everyone started laughing, including me)
M4: (from what I felt) (Gave a long speech on relations between politicians and civil servants and stopped without asking a question).
Me: Yes Sir.
Mr. Khan: You didn't seem to have got the question. (looked at M4 and said) Be more specific.
Me: (looking at M4) Sir, I am extremely sorry. I didn't get the question.
M4: (in a smiling and relaxed tone) How is the RTI a boon for civil servants? Or is it not a boon?
Me: Yes Sir, it is a big boon. Now the civil servant can demand things in written from the politician if he feels the need for it. RTI also streamlines office procedures, interdepartmental communications and coordination. It helps record keeping and improves efficiency in implementation also.

Mr. Khan: (Gave a monologue on RTI and its positives for politicians too).
Me: I intermittently affirmed and subscribed to his view and thanked him.
Mr. Khan: A new reform of Performance Review of Civil Servants has been proposed. You must be knowing about it. (I nod affirmatively). Suppose I suggest that there should be a 10 year contract for the civil servants and then a compulsory performance review, and if not found meeting the standards set the civil servant will be thrown out. What would you suggest?
Me: Sir, the reform you suggested is similar to the one being proposed. (Mr. Khan interrupts: The civil servant will be thrown out!)
Me: In that case Sir, I prefer your suggestion. That will create positive performance pressure, increase healthy competition and efficiency in the service.
Mr. Khan: But do you want to be thrown out directly?
Me: Sir,(emphatically) if I don't perform, I don't deserve to be in the service.
Mr. Khan: Thank you. (smiled). Your interview is over. You may go.
Me: Thank you Sir. (I get up from the seat). Thank you Ma'am. Thank you Sirs. (while looking at the respective members, and move towards the exit briskly. At the door, turn back for the final eye contact and see that Ma'am is still looking at me. I acknowledge her with a smile & a nod and exit the room.)

I left the room. Went and collected my belongings and came out of the UPSC Building, the last candidate to appear out of the gate.

PS: I have intentionally not written the various facial expressions & gestures the Board members had or I made, as that didn't seem to be needed. The overall atmosphere and the mood everyone had was cordial and I was smiling most of the time which was not a forced one. I have tried to write what transpired in the fashion that it did. Some words or instances may have changed, but I 've tried to stick as much as I could to what happened in the interview.