Today I appeared for second UPSC interview of my life. Last year was an average performance for me (click here for 2011 interview), hence a scope for improvement was there. I was the first person to be called by P K Mishra board. I sat outside the interview room for almost 10 minutes, drank a glass of water. With heart pumping like anything I decided to think about Sachin Tendulkar’s century, just like harry potter used to do when he faced dementors, happy memories, you know. Finally the bell rang and below is what conspired in next 35 minutes. (cp: chair-person, m1, m2, m3, m4: members of board)
me: May I come in, sir.
cp: Yes, please come in.
me: Good morning ma’am, good morning sirs.
all: Good morning.
cp: Please take a seat.
me: Thank you sir (adjusted the chair a bit)
cp: Please make sure you are comfortable.
me: Thank you sir, I am comfortable. (smile)
cp: So, you are from Aligarh.
me: No sir, I am from Mathura, Aligarh was my birth place.
cp: Oh, alright. (pause for few seconds) (with big smile) Tell us something about what is “Norway’s egg on delhi’s face story” (everybody else laughs)
me: Sir, this was a headline in today’s newspaper. Story is related to custody of two children in Norway. The parents, who are Indian, requested Indian government to intervene in the issue as they argued that it is an issue of culture insensitivity. Govt of India registered the protest, even sent an special envoy to Norway to resolve the issue and bring the kids back to India. But now the news report is that the issue was related to domestic problem of the couple. So, govt has to retract its intervention. That is why such a headline.
cp: Do you think govt was wrong to intervene?
me: Sir, I think it is proper for govt to intervene for interest of Indians abroad, but govt should have investigated a bit before getting involved in the issue.
cp: What was the role of media in this case? Do you think that affects the decision of govt?
me: Sir, media in general tend to put emphasis on the emotional content of issue without thinking about rational dimension. I think sir, govt should be careful and should consider the interest of our foreign policy. Otherwise such small issue can give rise to bigger diplomatic crisis, which is not very good for our position in the world.
cp: Okay, what is this red-cross competition that you won in your school time? What was involved in that?
me: Sir, it was a state level competition among various schools. I was part of the team of my school. Competition involved some practical tests based on the knowledge of primary basic treatment given to wounded person, tying the knots, preparing stretcher etc.
cp: Who was the founder of red-cross movement?
me: Sir, Henry Dunont from switzerland.
cp: Okay, do you know what is the structure of red-cross at district level?
me: Sir, i know that there is a committee at state level. But I am not aware of exact situation at district level. Sir, collector is in-charge of such operation.
cp: (laugh) Yeah, collector is in-charge of everything, safe bet, isn’t it so?
me: (smile) Yes sir. He is the co-ordinator of everything
cp: So, What are the major works undertaken by red-cross?
me: Sir, in India or in general?
cp: Tell us first in general then in India.
me: Sir, in general red-cross is UN authorized body to take care of wounded soldiers in battlefield. It works as a neutral body… (interrupts)
cp: okay, okay, in India now.
me: Sir, in India, red-cross has worked at the time of various wars like kargil war. It is also active in maoist affected areas.
cp: You are missing a major work done by red-cross.
me: (a bit thinking) Sir, they organize blood donation camps.
cp: That’s alright, but I was pointing towards AIDS camps. They have done good work in that area.
me: Yes sir, thank you sir.
cp: So, you have written debating as hobby. Do you start to debate wherever you go? Would you start a debate right here if I provoke you. (big smile)
me: (smile) No sir, I was part of debating team in my college time.
cp: Did you win any competition?
me: Yes sir, I won prizes in IIT Kanpur and IIT Delhi in inter-college cultural festivals.
cp: What kind of topics were there when you won those debates?
me: Sir, there used to be many rounds in debate competitions. As I recall when I was in IITK, there was a topic on the emerging patterns in electoral politics of UP. This was right after 2007 election in UP.
cp: Can you tell us few trends emerging in recent election without naming any party or person?
me: Sir, first I would tell about +ve then -ve trends.
cp: Yeah, go ahead.
me: Sir, positive trends are, number one, election are violence free, they have higher voter turnout. Then sir, people are giving clear mandate. So the hung assemblies are becoming a thing of past. Then sir, most important trend is that shift is taking place towards developmental politics… (interrupts)
cp: So you mean issue like bijli, sadak, paani are main issues now.
me: Yes sir, however the traditional caste politics is still there but emphasis is shifting. Then sir, negative trends that I could think of, is related to communalizing the election un-necessarily. There was also a tendency to confront EC on various issues.
cp: You are from UP, you must know what is social engineering?
me: Sir, social engineering is a political concept where political parties try to form a coalition of social groups based on caste or religion and then use that as a vote bank.
cp: Alright (points to next lady member)
m1: Tell me name of any musician from south India?
me: A R Rehmaan, ma’am
m1: Right. Anyone older?
me: M S Subbalaxmi, but she is more famous as singer.
m1: Chakresh, why is kannauj famous in modern time?
me: Ma’am, Kannuaj is famous for ittra industry.
m1: Tell me the detail of this industry? Is it being exported?
me: Ma’am ittra is made in kannauj from the locally produced rose, chameli and other such flowers. Factories for this are located in every street of kannauj. Then the products are exported, mostly to middle east and south-east asian countries. The local consumption is very small, if I recall it correctly.
m1: What are the main problems of this industry these days?
me: Ma’am, most important problem is related to the marketing and competition from products of other countries. In today’s globalized world this industry is not able to compete properly. In Kannuaj, the technology used is still very old and there is no organized efforts to increase the sell of ittra.
m1: Can govt do something to face this situation?
me: Ma’am, govt can provide basic infrastructure and can take care of supply chain. It can provide training for latest technology. Other than that, in today’s competition based economy, survival in dependent on market mechanisms only.
m1: Do you know anything about co-operative moment in India? Tell us whether it is successful or a failure?
me: Ma’am, this movement started at the time of national struggle for freedom. Co-operatives are formed by forming a group of small scale producers, farmers etc. They were very much popular in 70s and 80s, but now the influence of these co-operatives is reducing. One famous example of co-operative is Amul.
m1: So, what is the main difference in a company and co-operative?
me: Ma’am co-operative is formed by a community and profit is shared among members. While company is profit oriented organization. Co-operatives are mostly in rural areas, while companies are urban centered… (interrupts)
m1: co-operatives are in cities also.
me: Yes ma’am, but mostly in rural areas.
m1: Okay, How do they work?
me: Ma’am companies have a board of directors and CEO as its head. Co-operative are a mutual election based organization. I do not know much details about this ma’am.
m1: Okay, how are they formed?
me: Sorry ma’am, I do not understand the question.
m1: I mean, under which act?
me: Companies are formed under company act and co-operative under co-operative act (smile)
m1: Good guess, was it a guess? (smile)
me: No ma’am (smile)
m2: Which country in Africa is famous for its co-operative movement?
me: Sorry sir, I don’t know, but I can take a guess.
m2: Yeah yeah go ahead.
me: I recall faintly, It is Kenya.
m2: (laughs loudly) nahi, galat zabab, it is Tanzania.
me: Thank you sir (smile)
m2: What is the full form of NHRC?
me: sir, National Human rights Commission.
m2: Who is the chairman?
me: ex-CJI K G Balakrishnan.
m2: Okay chakresh, you must have read about nuclear disaster in japan. So do you know any nuclear summit taking place on this issue?
me: sir, I know there is a international meeting, but i don’t remember the details of this meeting.
m2: Actually it is taking place in this month itself and our PM is also going there. What in your opinion would be the most burning topic in this meeting in context of japan incident?
me: Sir, right now major issue is the security of nuclear reactors from the natural disasters and terrorist activities. There is a growing fear in public worldwide about the security. I think, the strategy to face this challenge would be the major issue in any such meeting.
m2: Go on. How to remove these fears from mind of people?
me: Sir, in my opinion, people must be made aware of the technical details of such reactors. New cutting edge technologies should be imported in developing country like India so that our reactors can be made with best security features in the world. Then the publicizing these security measures can remove fear from people’s mind.
m2: Good, have you heard about 2G scam?
me: Yes sir, It was a scam … (interrupts)
m2: Wait wait, have you read anything similar in today’s newspaper?
me: Yes sir, there is a news report about allocation of coal fields to private and public companies without following the proper procedure. CAG has estimated a loss of more than 10 lac crores. But I think sir, it would be pre-mature to comment on this issue without reading further about the issue.
m2: That’s alright.
m3: You have mentioned that you worked for tsunami relief fund in your college days.
me: Yes ma’am.
m3: What could be done in the field of disaster management in our country?
me: Ma’am, disaster management involves four steps, mitigation, preparedness, response and rehabilitation. The most loss of life occurs due to lack of pre-warning system and the diseases in aftermath of disaster…(interrupts)
m3: Okay, lets go one by one. What should be done for preparedness?
me: Ma’am we can face such disasters better if we follow certain steps such as installing pre-warning systems in case of tsunami, earthquake, floods. General public can be trained for such disasters by mock drills similar to one in delhi few weeks back. Then a important point is to establish the alternate, more secure mode of communication from districts to central national disaster management authority. Training special task force to face such disaster is also a good step.
m3: Okay, what is mitigation?
me: Ma’am mitigation is process by which we try to avert a natural disaster even before it takes place. Like banking of rivers, coastal area management to avert the effect of tsunami.
m3: Okay, so what is the difference in leadership at the time of disaster and normal time?
me: As in public administration theories ma’am, at the time of disaster leadership should be centralized and top-down, while in normal times it should be participative and bottom-up.
m3: Why centralized?
me: Ma’am at the time of crisis, time is most important factor and there is a need of quick decision making. This can be done in centralized leadership only.
m3: Hmmm, okay tell me what is difference between aptitude and attitude?
me: May I think a bit ma’am.
m3: Yeah sure sure.
me: (5-10 sec pause) ma’am aptitude is the technical and educational suitability of a person for a job and attitude is the trait of personality, which we showcase towards others in any normal condition. I am not sure ma’am how this definition match to the psychological definition (smile)
m3: (smile) no no, its quite close. Attitude is this only, but definition of aptitude is wrong.
me: May I try again ma’am?
m3: No, its alright (points to m4)
m4: What is CNG?
me: Sir, CNG is compressed natural gas, it is used as fuel in vehicles.
m4: Is it better than others?
me: Sir, it is better in terms of pollution but it can be used for short distance only. So it is good for metropolitan cities as Delhi because distances are small here, but not so good for longer travel.
m4: What are the other fuels used in transportation.
me: Sir, other than CNG, petrol, diesel, coal, organic fuels are used. Now a days new technologies are coming with use of hydrogen and electricity also. Some vehicles use LPG cylinders also.
m4: What is the main gases in pollution?
me: Sir, pollution is caused by oxides of nitrogen, sulfur, carbon particles, ozone
me: Sir, there is nascent oxygen present in pollutants which forms ozone.
m4: So, do you think Delhi is very polluted?
me: Sir, Delhi has high level of pollution compare to other cities in world. But level of pollution has come down after metro and use of CNG.
m4: How many percentages of pollution is caused by transportation sector?
me: Sir, I don’t know the exact figure, but I read an estimate in newspaper that it should be around 15%.
m4: Hmmm, may be in rural areas, but in cities it is around 25%.
me: Thank you sir.
m4: So, tell me few factors that cause air pollution and few for water pollution?
me: Sir, air pollution is caused by traffic, industrial units, rice cultivation. Water pollution is caused by industrial waste, dead bodies in rivers, fertilizers etc.
m4: Okay, what is water harvesting?
me: Sir, rain water harvesting?
m4: Yes yes, the same.
me: Rain water harvesting is a method of collecting water locally for use in irrigation and drinking etc.
m4: (smile) what you mean by locally?
me: Sir, rain water is collected in reservoirs or tanks locally before it can go to the river. Then it is used locally
m4: Okay, water level is going down in whole of our country, do you agree?
me: Yes sir.
me: Sir, main reason is the excessive use or wastage of water in daily activities. Then there is lack of proper management of rain water… (interrupts)
m4: Alright, good good, you are from UP?
me: Yes sir.
m4: okay, have a nice day. That’s it from my side.
me: Thank you sir, nice day.
cp: (with a cunning smile) Okay chakresh, answer my last question then you can go. Who was the most famous king of Kannauj?
me: (smile) Sir, king Harsha Vardhan
cp: (smile) Okay, interview is over, you may leave now.
me: Thank you sirs, Thank you ma’am.
Interview board was very cordial. Everybody was smiling the whole time. So, Harry potter came out of azkaban waving his wand happily. Now the wait for marks and result begin. I hope the smile is still there after the result 😉