Blog by: Parveen Kaswan
(Totally based on my memory and sorry for typos as it is crude and unedited. Maybe missing few things. Could have said better things. But I was blank at many points, was facing this performance degradation(as like everybody else). The problem in such interview is that your memory and knowledge fragments. There is euphoria all around when you see other candidates so well dressed and well prepared, some of them are already in service. But throughout interview I was smiling and was confident as I made it very clear to me that it is not interview it is a Personality Test.)
After a lot of formalities and changing places you finally got a call from board. That day there were eight boards, every board has a chairman which is UPSC member and 4-5 other members which are invited by commission. Commission rotates these members every third day. One get the information about ‘which board’ only five minutes before the interview. My board had 5 members including a chairman, he was a retired senior diplomat who served in various countries and also represented India in various international forums. All other members were senior and intelligent people, it seems. All were very cordial. I entered room, which was quite big and environment was serious. A big table surrounded by big chairs and I was offered a seat on other corner of the table. And it is going to be my life’s first job interview !!
Some details from Detailed Application Form submitted to commission: I did B.Tech in Aerospace Engineering (2008-2012) and masters from IISc, Bangalore in Designs (2012-2014). I am from a village in Hanumangarh district of Rajasthan, fathers profession is farming. Played handball at North Zone level and was drawing scholarship from MHRD during last two years. Hobby is blogging and reading books. (But they didnt ask from my DAF)
Me: May I come in Sir.
Ch. – Yes.
Me: Good Afternoon Sirs and mam.
Ch. – Please sit down.
Chairman: SO you studied Aerospace engineering and your optional is geography. USSR disintegrated in 1991 and became many countries. Can you name these countries.
Me: Kazhakastan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, tazikistan and Russia. Sir I remember these only.
Ch.- He named some other countries. What was the reason behind the disintegration.
Me- Sir USSR was becoming very centralised and reasons were economic also. Then Gorbachev’s reforms like Glasnost and Prestroika also led to disintegration.
Ch. – Glasnost and prestroika is ??
Me- Glasnost is Open-ness and Prestroika is Restructuring.
Ch. – Are these reforms not for stopping the disintegration, then what happenned ??
Me – Yes they were meant for that only. But because of openness in system people came to know about the difference between them and the west and also the inefficiency in the economic system such as agriculture.
Ch. – Some people say that the reason was also because USSR was going for a race with West in space and nuclear missiles.
Me- Yes that is true Sir (I added some line related to space and nuclear missiles).
Ch.- Some also say that the Afghanistan war was the reason behind the disintegration.
Me- I am sorry Sir, I dont have much knowledge about it (I dont want to get into this).
Ch. – So it seems communism didn’t work.
Me – Yes Sir, it has not worked as the idea was to have a socialistic state but the perceived equality never realised.
Member2 – What are the change in relation between India and USA after Independence.
Me – Sir, may I take one minute.
Sir After independence we went with the idea of South South cooperation, anti colonisation and development of developing countries. We didnt follow any particular camp.
M2 – There is a term for this.
Me – Yes Sir, Non Aligned Movement. After 1990′s we started the policy of globalisation and then both US and India came closer. ( I could have answered it really good as have written extensively on this issue but now I am regretting)
M2 – We are spending crores on space mission and here people are so poor. How do you see it.
Me – Me: Sir, I think both the things are not competitive in nature. Back in 1928 Dr. CV Raman while enquiring about the colour of Sea water came up with the idea of Raman Scattering and today Raman spectroscopy is extensively used in Medical Science. It takes time but research provides fruits. ( went for a different kind of answer,,, lets see if it will pay)
M2 – Some years back India did nuclear tests. How do you see it.
Me – Sir, I see it as a necessity. When we know that we can not defeat China in tactical warfare, Nuclear deterrence is a good option. And at the same time following the policy of No first Use and Credible Minimum Deterrence.
M2- What is Arab Spring.
Me- Sir in middle east many countries were ruled by autocratic rulers. It started from Tunisia and in countries like Syria and Libya people started demanding more democratic system.
M3- There is this aircraft which runs on solar energy and moving around the world. What is it called as??
Me – Sir, Impulse 2.
M3 – Yes. Can you tell me at what height it is flying and speed.
Me- Sorry Sir I dont know the exect values. But if i may guess the speed will be around 40-50 metre per second. Which is required so that the aircraft should not stall. (He looked at another member after this answer as if I am very wrong, but now I feel he was confused with the units which I used.)
M3- Which conducting material it is using?
Me- I am sorry I dont know.
M3- What is Food Security Act?
Me- It is an act to provide food to 67% population of India in rural and urban areas. The state will procure and find out the people and centre will fund the process.
M3- Do you know what is the total food grain production of India?
Me – Yes sir. It is around 250 million tonne. This year projection is at 251 million tonne.
M3- Do you know how much food grain is required for this act?
Me- I am sorry Sir I dont know the exact number but I think it will be around 100 million tonne.
M3- it is 140 million tonne.
Me- Thank you sir.
M3- There is a problem in PDS system. Where the grains get spoiled while transportation. What solution you have for that.
Me- Sir, presently FCI procure food grains from market and shift it to their own godowns. To save this transportation time we can go for decentralised godown system where godowns are in tehsils and blocks. (I added some more things like GPS monitoring, DBT, Aadhar etc but dont remember exact specifics)
M3- There is also this problem of bags and their management.
Me- Sir for that i think only solution is better transportation and management of godowns. (Actually his discussion was from Shanta Ram committee.. in between I touched some points but dont remember exact things)
M4- Gandhi Ji said that India lives in its villages. But we adopted a central planning system. What do you think, should we go for Gandhi’s ideas.
Me- Sir Multi Level planning is a good thing to do. As it results in stakeholder approach. I have personally experienced planning process in grab sabhas, it is a good process. The planning of even schemes like MGNREGA, makes schemes more useful. Because of central planning only we have a system where we have hospitals without doctors and schools without teachers. To check this there is a need for more devolution, if I may say so. For example some accountability of doctors in primary health centres should be towards gram sabha and panchayat should have some power to recommend names of atleast guest teachers in schools. ( I touched some more points where i mentioned that central planning is also required as not all regions in India has requisite resources, this was like a general discussion)
M4- But dont you think this Panchayat Pradhangi and trends like Sarpanch pati will not solve these problems.
Me- Pardon me Sir, I have different opinion here.
M4- Ofcourse you do.
Me- Finally it comes to the individual who is pradhan, how capable he is and how educated he is.
M5- There is an issue raised recently about Prithvi Raj Chauhan, Akbar and rewriting the history (she added some more lines, dont remember). How do you see it.
Me- Mam, I think we need to see history from a rational and objective prespective. That was time when all rulers were acquiring new lands and regions. Even from Maharana Pratap’s side there were many muslims fighting and from Akbars side in battle of haldighati the commander was Raja Man Singh of jaipur, who was a hindu. So i think there was nothing religious about it.
M5- Lets keep the religious part aside. What do you think why any king should be called as great ? In your opinion what makes a particular King great and not other ??
Me- Mam, I think ‘Social Upliftment’. And when I read history I see limited things done in regard to social upliftment by Maharana pratap. He was a great commander and a great warrior.
M5- Do you think there is a difference in empowerment of women in India and Western countries (she said something else also which i dont remember).
Me- Yes mam I think there is, in India picture is not so gloomy.
M5- How can you say so?
Me- By looking at various reports mam. As we can see in the labour participation ratio. And even in my state, Rajasthan, women literacy rate is just 52% but overall is 67%. So there is a huge gap. (I dont remember much about this part, there were very short questions)
M5- So how to tackle it.
Me- Mam, education is one of the mean.
M5- What will education do.
Me- As they say Mam, education liberates. It increases their choice. As an educated women can be doctor or engineer but illetrate connot.
M5- So you are saying education is sufficient.
Me- No Mam. What I am saying is; education is not sufficient condition, but it is a necessary condition for empowerment.
Chairman; Your Interview is over !!
Me : Left the room after thanking all members.
(Answered questions with smiling face and with same level of confidence throughout. All people asked questions turn wise and remaining were noticing all your actions including hand gestures, selection of words and your confidence level. Last lady was trying to tell you that she is not satisfied, a type of stress interview where the interviewer will tell you that he/she is pissed off with your answers just to see your reactions. But she was cordial and giving me time to speak. Throughout they were writing something. I will appreciate your feedback and your thoughts about the interview. It was indeed a great experience. Thanks !!)
I got selected for IFS 2015.
My IAS/IFS pre strategy: Here
My IFS 2015 interview: Here