Friday, March 11, 2016

UPSC Civil Services Interview 2016


My interview was in the forenoon session on the very 2nd Day of the interviews on 9th March 2016 and my board was of Shri D K Diwan there was no female member in the board.

Since I was already in the service (IRS) and interview was also early on, I used to get very little time for preparation. However, whatever little time I got, I tried to fully utilize that because I always felt that there is no substitute for 'being well prepared and well informed'. I had thoroughly brushed up the current events and even my notes of Mains exam. I covered all areas of my DAF comprehensively, especially the hobbies part. It gave me a confidence that only a sound preparation can give. To refine some behavioural aspects, I underwent a few mocks with my colleagues.

Another thing that I felt in my earlier interviews and also from the interview experience of successful candidates was that apart from having knowledge - a right attitude, behaviour and outlook is also necessary for a good interview. So, I worked a little bit on that also. I tried to improve delivery of my answers, adopted a cheerful stance and softened my tone a bit. I tried to look confident during my interview and also tried to balance all my answers. I tried to be a patient listener and it avoided unnecessary repetition of questions by the board members.

I was the first candidate to go and was not very nervous as I had to wait only a little. I became comfortable once the interview started and was able to handle all questions quite well. I had some interesting hobbies and interests (cartooning, yoga) and had somewhat over prepared these areas. However, not even a single question was asked (unlike last two interviews), so I was a bit disappointed.

There were also some unique points about my interview. First of all, when I entered the room, the chair was tucked totally inside the table (it has never been the case in the earlier two interview and in one of them I was the first candidate as well). Since I was facing a Chairperson with military background, some mannerism (and their compliance) was expected also. I handled the chair very carefully and tucked it back at its original place when the interview got over. Secondly, another unusual question - and one of the very first questions of the interview - was a situational question in which the Chairperson asked me to deliver a few minutes speech vouching a case for permanent membership for India in UNGA (assuming myself as an Indian envoy there). I think I managed that well. I stood up in my chair and I delivered a proper speech with adequate loudness and passion in my voice.

Some questions were asked about my previous job as a Tehsildar in Haryana and I answered them quite well as I had prepared that area quite well and it further boosted my confidence.

I also remained a bit forthcoming, direct and vocal in my opinion on certain issues. On the issue of Jat reservation (being a Jat myself) and failure of administration and state in handling it, I was quite forthright and this was perhaps appreciated by the board and the Chairperson. I think, being balanced in your approach is one thing, but at times you are required to take stands and in those situations, one should not shy of taking the appropriate stand.

This is my full interview transcript -

Date of Interview - 9th March 2016, Forenoon (2nd day of interview).
It was Shri D K Dewan's Board and I was the first one to get in. It lasted around 35-40 minutes

I wished the members good morning and was asked to sit down. The Chair was tucked inside the table and I had to pull it out. It was a heavier wooden chair and as I tried to lift it, it hit the table above. 

CH: What is your roll number?
Me: 0055401 (Instead of saying fifty five thousand four hundred and one I told every single digit loudly and clearly)

CH: Where are you posted right now?
Me: Sir, currently I am a probationer at National Academy of Customs Excise and Narcotics, Faridabad (Here I avoided the abbreviated name of the academy).

CH: So, you have worked as a Tehsildar in Haryana. How long you were there?
Me: Sir, around one and half year.

CH: In which areas did you work there?
Me: Sir, I was still in training and for some time I got field experience as a Patwari and a Quanungo.

CH: So, you have not worked in actual capacity as a Tehsildar?
Me: No Sir, probation period was actually 2 years old and I had left before it was over.

CH: Nitin, India has been aspiring for a permanent seat in the UNSC for a long time and has been struggling for that. Assuming this is the platform of the UN and you are the Indian ambassador to the UN. You will get one minute to think or write and 2.5 minutes for presenting your case assuming that this is the gathering at the UN.
(I scribbled a few points on a piece of paper and was soon asked to stop and deliver)
Me: (with a little louder voice) - Good, Morning all, India is the largest democracy in the world and yet the irony is that India is not a permanent member of the UNSC. We are the third largest economy as well in terms of PPP. We are one of the largest contributors of the peacekeeping forces in the world. Historically, India has an excellent record of upholding peace and other noble ideals. We have also supported all the major progressive resolution in UN like - on women, rights of the underprivileged and so on. So, being the largest democracy of the world, we deserve this seat. (My conclusion was a bit awkward hinging on the word 'democracy'. Idea of nuclear weapon state, NAM etc was in my mind, but I deliberately avoided them for some reasons).

CH: You mentioned democracy twice, what so big thing about that. And It is a fact that we are still behind 5th on GDP. 
Me: (almost interrupted) Sir, GDP is measured in various terms, India is 3rd not in real terms, but on PPP.

CH: Who said that (with a wry dismissive face)? What is the difference? There must be some various other areas where India has excelled and which you might have added. Can you think of more?
Me: (It suddenly dawned upon me that Dewan is an ex-navy personnel) Sir, in terms of military strength also we are a leading country.

CH: Yes, we are fifth biggest military power. What else?
Me: In terms of population also we represent almost 1/6th of the world.

CH: What population (almost as if population is a kind of burden on India and is of no consequence). Give me some other points.
Me: Sir, nothing comes to my mind at this time.

CH: India has done so well in terms of technology, services. We are also a leading space power. We are also a nuclear power as well.
(I nodded at each utterance and at this he passed it to other members)

M1: What is the difference between Engineering and Technology?
Me: Sir, I would like to explain it with the help of an illustration. For example, in a lighter, how we make the lighter and its parts is about engineering and how it actually works is technology. (I had read similar definition and example earlier somewhere and I blurted it out).
(At this Chairman interrupted)

CH: Can you give another example?
Me: Sir, If we take another simpler example of say a wheel, then the process of making the wheel i.e. chipping wood off it, turning it etc will be engineering part and how the wheel functions is the technology.

M1: What is Panchsheel?
Me: Sir, it was a doctrine of foreign policy that was propounded in the early 1950s by India, especially keeping in mind our neighbours like China. It is said that its core philosophy was taken from Buddhism and it included 5 principles like - non-interference, peaceful coexistence and so on. Basically, it was a peace doctrine of India.

M1: Why did our first PM, Nehru, decided to go ahead with PSUs after the independence?
Me: Sir, at the time of independence, level of industrial development was very poor. Private enterprise was also very weak as the British followed a policy of imports and it had virtually killed our domestic private enterprise. Hence, to give industrial development a push in India, state had to invest in certain basic and heavy industries.

M1: Government invests more in engineering as compared to other social sciences. And when they go somewhere else, this money is wasted. Do you think so?
Me: Sir, education is not just about... (at this point, I was interrupted by M1). 

M1: I think you are not clear with the question. Let me repeat it again (and he repeated, saying that government suffers loss actually when this happens as engineers are not doing engineering work).
Me: Sir, there may be a notional loss in terms of say money when an engineer enters into other fields like Management, Civil Services and even entrepreneurship. The contribution that one make there cannot be always quantified in measurable terms and in terms of value addition, there may be even more in these fields.
(At this point, M2 takes over)

M2: In Lakshadweep, what kind of Administrative challenges do you face? (I was in DANICS earlier, so he probably asked this one for that reason)
Me: Sir, first of all, it is the communication and transportation. There are only two way to connect there - by sea or by air. And very few airlines operate on that route. So, essential supplies are one issue. Secondly, the island is a coral island and hence fragile one and hence tourism can also not be promoted to great extent. Islands are small and not well connected and hence this is also an issue.

M2: Any other issues?
Me: Sir, actually, I haven't been there so I not aware much about that.

M2: (smiling), So, what if you have not been there. From where do you get electricity there?
Me: Sir, I am not aware about that.

M2: Ok, what is the economic mainstay of Lakshadweep?
Me: Sir, Tourism is one source. Secondly, since education and literacy is high there, service industry is also another source. As the predominant Malyali community lives there, fishing is also important source of income.

M2: What else?
Me: Sir, I am not aware about that much.

M2: Coconut?
Me: (With a bigger smile and nodding, as if I knew it and had just forgotten to say it).

M2: You told that you have not worked much as Tehsildar, but you must be having a fair idea about land records. In some countries, land record system is managed very well and there are hardly any disputes, while in India, it is not so. Do you know about any such countries?
Me: Sir, I am not aware about any such countries but in India the problem is due to poor land records. First of all, the land is not consolidated in many states except a few states like Haryana. Some land holdings are still of irregular shapes and this creates problems. Further, 'intakaals' or mutations are also not timely and sometimes, revenue officials also connive with parties to deform the records. So, this creates issues in India.

M2: What is this 'Record of Rights' called in Haryana?
Me: Sir it is called 'Jamabandi'.

M2: How this system of land records can be improved?
Me: Sir, first of all, the consolidation of the land-holdings has to be carried out. Secondly, technology has to be used so that human interface is minimized. For example, in Haryana, to pay the stamp duty, there is now ‘e-Stamping’ in which money is paid in the banks and one need not bring cash. Similarly, there are also plans of digitization of all the records through Online Registration etc. This will ensure that all records are online and anyone can access these from any place. It will bring more transparency in the whole system.

M2: What is the name of the program of the Government of India regarding this?
Me: Sir, It is National Land Record Modernization Program. (at this he nodded and seemed a bit satisfied)

M2:  You have worked in both the private and public fields. How did you find them?
Me: Sir, both the places had their own advantages and specialties. In private, things are more streamlined, there are fewer rules and paperwork is lesser. As compared to that, in government, diversity of work is more though paperwork is also more as e-Governance has still to catch up in government. In some areas like work-life balance, some companies like Infosys – they are actively promoting work-life balance – as you find everything you need within campus itself. On the other hand, public sector has still to catch on these terms. (I had mugged up so many points, but only these came out).

M3: Have you heard of this term ‘Work Ethics’? (I said ‘Yes’). What is it?
Me: (I struggled a bit as I didn’t have a clear definition in my mind and tried to fabricate one) Sir, work ethics is doing your work with full honesty, dedication and sincerity. It is aligning your goals with organizational objectives and pursuing them. (And I almost repeated the same things again, but as a different sentence).

M3: Different countries have different work ethics. Some are known for good work ethics. Can you name a few.
Me: Japan is one such country sir. I have heard that employees work there diligently even if employer is not watching them. This is the reason that even the notions of ‘quality’ comes from… (At this I was interrupted).

M3: Ok, leave Japan and Germany, which other countries?
Me: Sir, there are many other European countries. In Asia we have Singapore, and for that reason, it is also at the top of Ease of Doing Business Index as well.

M3: Do you agree that India has inferior work ethics?
Me: No sir, we don’t have 'inferior' work ethics, but ‘different’ work ethics. Different would be actually the right word. The notions of ‘work’ in modern history arrived with industrialisation which incidentally happened first in the West and some Asian countries like Japan and South Korea and hence the idea of work ethics. We have a different historical context and have a complex society. So, sometimes there are some extraneous factors that affect workplace as well.

M3: What are those extraneous factors?
Me: Sir, caste is one. Religion is also there. We have pictures of gods and deities even in our government offices. Apart from it, we are a very closed knit society and sometimes relatives and friends ask for some favours as well.

M3: Why sex ratio is poor in Haryana?
Me: Sir, Haryana is a patriarchal society and for that reason, people attach different notions and values to male and female child. Secondly, some sociologists also suggest that as land prices went up and property became costly, due to a patriarchal and patrilineal system, preference for male child also became higher. Thirdly, Haryana is closer to Delhi and hence there was early access to sex detection techniques in the region. (again, this was another much expected question and I had prepared it well. But only these things came out of me)

M3: Can you name a few Indian Sociologists?
Me: Sir, starting from G S Ghurye, M N Srinivas, Yogendra Singh (and then I suddenly went blank, though I know names of a lot of them, and seeing my this situation, M3 came to my rescue).

M3: Ok, tell me the contribution of any one of them.
Me: Sir, Mr M N Srinivas is considered as to be belonging to the structural functionalist tradition in Indian sociology. He gave various theories on village, caste and religion. He gave idea of ‘Dominant Caste’ and ‘Sanskritisation’ which explains the phenomenon of social change via cultural change.
(Now the Chairman took over)

CH: Recently, there was some issue in Haryana. How do you feel about that? Why they were doing so and how things played out? (He was actually referring to the stir by Jats for reservation and the consequent violence)
Me: Sir, regarding how I feel about it, I feel very bad about it… (at this I was interrupted and I also realized that perhaps I had made a wrong selection of words).

CH: I am not asking about your emotions. You are a future administrator, you have to take decisions. Tell me how it played out and where administration failed.
Me: Sir, the protests started as a particular community (I deliberately avoided putting a name) felt that their main economic mainstay ‘land’ is no longer a viable option as land holdings become very small. They also found themselves with no other options like other castes have. Adding to that, employment opportunities also shrunk in both public and private sector. Public jobs declined from 21 million in 1990s to 17 million today. Similarly, private sector also failed to provide meaningful jobs. In this situation, the particular community felt that they are no longer the so called ‘dominant caste’ that others used to call them and hence suffer from economic handicaps. Regarding how it played out, I would say that it was an ‘error of judgment’ on the behalf of administration. While the protests were growing, adequate preventive and enforcement measures were not taken and intelligence also apparently failed. Government and higher officials also failed to establish dialogue and bring the parties on the table for talks to alleviate their apprehensions. So, there was a communication gap as well. In this situation, technology played its role and mis-information and rumors spread like a wild-fire through social media, Whatsapp etc and situation turned very volatile. As a result, communities turned against each others as well.

CH: What do you think that they should be given reservation or not?
Me: No Sir.

CH: Thanks, your interview is over.
Me: Thank you sir. (I said thank you to other members as well).

Suddenly, it came to my mind that chair was inside the table when I entered the room (and keeping in mind that I was sitting in front of an armed forces personnel) and to show my etiquette) I picked up the chair very gently and tucked it again inside the table – where it was earlier – and left.

I don’t remember what the 4th member had asked (not even sure that whether he had asked any Qs at all), or whether some of these Qs were by the 4th member. So I have totally skipped him.