As it happens, I was fortunate enough to appear for IAS interview 3rd time. I shared my 1st two experiences with you earlier.
Although I got selected both times, but interview marks were average both times. I was not sure how I will perform this time, as my interview was on 1st day and I was able to prepare only basic things. I was the last candidate to be interviewed by IMG Khan board. I am not satisfied with my interview this year. Let’s hope that Khan saheb thinks otherwise. You can read the detailed transcript below.
Me: May I come in sir?
CP: Yes, Chakresh, please come in, take your seat.
Me: Good afternoon sirs, madam.
Cp: Good afternoon.
Me: Thank you sir.
Cp: So Chakresh, you have done B.Tech from IIT Kanpur and post graduation from IIT Delhi?
Me: Yes sir.
Cp: very good, and you are working somewhere I think?
Me: yes sir, I am in IRTS.
Me: Indian Railway Traffic Service.
Cp: Oh yes, based on last year’s exam?
Me: yes sir.
Cp: So, what are the major problems that railways is facing these days?
Me: Sir, there is lack of modernization, organizational bloat. And sir, most important problem that railways is facing is the lack of funds, which is cause of current grim situation.
Cp: So lack of fund is the biggest problem?
Me: yes sir.
Cp: What is the second biggest problem?
Me: Sir, human resource mismanagement, We have crunch of staff at some places and …. (interrupts)
Cp: ok, ok, tell me, if funds remain same, organization remains same, can we still improve the condition of railways somehow?
Me: yes sir, we can improve it by adopting some innovative measures. 5 years back railways was a turn around story, and we were in profit. All that was achieved by increasing axle load and increasing length of freight trains.
Cp: yes yes, good. Chakresh, when I was a little boy, train ran at the max speed of 80 miles per hour, they still run at same speed, isn’t that so?
Me: yes sir, it is so. We need extra funds for the modernization. In railway vision 2020 we have provision for separating passenger and freight traffic. That will give us opportunity to increase the maximum speed of trains.
Cp: IRTS is a generalist service in a largely technical organization. Do you agree?
Me: yes sir.
Cp: and given your engineering background, do you think that railway is doing a good job?
Me: Sir, there are positives and negatives of every coin. Railway is providing transport facility in a big nation like India. Railway is also working under the dual assumption of being a public – social organization and being a business entity.
Cp: That mean that there are political constrains involved?
Me: Ofcourse sir, railways is a government department so it serves nation in many ways that are not economically sound, but only due to political and social considerations.
Cp: So, what do you think future is. Do you think that it will be better if we privatize the railways, like we are doing with so many other things?
Me: (a small pause) Sir, I think that railways is a core and essential department of the nation so we should not privatize it but in my opinion, in future, railways is moving towards a condition where we will have many small corporations, looking after one aspect of the railway, like DFCC, IRCTC, DMRC etc and they will interact with each other on user fee basis.
Cp: You mentioned delhi metro, what is the reason that same railway engineers built such a nice infra and well functioning metro and they are not able to do so with indian railways?
Me: Sir, there are two issues involved. If we look at the engineering achievements then railways has also done many wonders. There are so many long lasting bridges, many lines which pass through almost inaccessible areas like konkan railways. Other thing about smooth functioning is that railways has to cater for a diverse type of passenger traffic. In the same train we have to provide for general coaches and first AC coaches also. Sir, recently there was an incident when a lady said to railway minister that she is ready to pay 2000 Rs more for Delhi-Mumbai service, if we can provide better service. On the other hand some people don’t even like to buy 5 Rs platform ticket. So sir, in my opinion, given the the socio-economic environment railway organization is doing a pretty good job.
Cp: (a big smile) you can pat yourself on your back all you want, but railways is in a big mess right now. Why China has improved its rail network when we have not?
Me: yes sir, there is always a scope for improvement. China’s advantage lies in largely undemocratic practices. They do not have problem of land aquisition & lack of government investment. Also sir, chinese economy opened up 20 years before Indian, so there is a lag that way also.
Cp: When did you join IRTS? How much time have you spent in railways?
Me: Sir, I joined on 17th December 2012, so almost 3 months.
Cp: okay okay, what is the basic job of an IRTS officer?
Me: Sir, IRTS officers are mostly in 3 departments of railways, operations, commercial, safety. They also go on deputation to other ministries.
Cp: okay, that’s it from me.
M1: You have written that you worked as an intern in Italy. How did you get that intern?
Me: sir, it was a R&D company. They had positions of interns so I applied there and they accepted.
M1: no no, I mean, you were in your 3rd year of graduation, did they came to your campus for recruitment or what?
Me: Sir, actually, one of my professor gave the reference. He worked on some paper with an executive of that company. He recommended me and I got that opportunity.
M1: hmmm, you have given very unusual service preferences.
Me: Sir, at the time of filling this form I was not aware of the real nature of IRTS. So I kept my options open. But now when I have worked as an IRTS officer, I like this job. My real preference list contains only IAS now.
M1: you have also not given first preference to your home cadre, why?
Me: Sir, there are two reasons. First I am very much familiar with almost all north Indian states so all of them are like home to me. Second in my home state, I have many relatives, so I don’t want to be an IAS officer there.
Cp: (jumps from his seat): what, please elaborate on this point. This relatives point.
Me: Sir, If I am working as an IAS officer in a state where my relatives live, then they are bound to come to me for small or big favors. Now sir, whether I do their work or not, whether they get it by rules or not, whether I do something legitimate or not, people are going to question my integrity. And sir, I don’t want my integrity and honesty to be questioned by anyone, on any issue.
Cp: wow, that is a very refreshing take, very good. Please continue. (points to M1)
M1: can you list your first 5 cadre preferences?
Me: Yes sir, they are (I listed them)
M1: okay fine.
M2: Chakresh, you have opted for arts subjects when you are an engineer. Why did you choose these two subjects?
Me: Sir, while choosing pubad I thought that it is going to be useful for me in my job as a civil servant, so I took it. The other one sir, because during my BTech, I have to study 4 humanities courses and I studied sociology in all those courses and I liked it. So I chose sociology.
M2: ok, what can you tell me about India’s demography?
Me: sir, in general or should I tell some specific aspect.
M2: in general.
Me: Sir according to 2011 census India has a large population of 1.2 billion. The growth rate is decreasing but it is still very high. We have a low sex ratio. Literacy is around 74% and it is constantly improving and I am hopeful that in 20 years we will have almost universal literacy.
M2: What else?
Me: Sir, India is going through a demographic transition phase. We have a very young population. Around 50% of Indians are below 25 years.
M2: so, what do you suggest, we should do to put this young population at productive work.
Me: Sir, 1 or 2 years before, I am not able to recall the correct year, there was a new national youth policy. It bracketed youth in 3 categories. 18-24 need quality education, 24-30 need skill development and increase in employability and 30-35 need self employment opportunities.
M2: So basically focus should be on skill development?
Me: yes sir.
M2: okay good. (passes to M3)
M3: You have written that you worked as senior editor in some media company.
Me: Actually ma’am, I and one of my friend from IIT founded this company. We started 4-5 blogs. I used to write on social issues and he used to write on technical issues. Later when revenue start to come we opened an office also, where we had around 10 people working for us. I left that position and closed my blog after 2011 exam result. That company is still running in very good condition.
M3: So, you must be having good knowledge of media.
Me: yes ma’am.
M3: Do you think that today’s media is working very well.
Me: Do you mean mainstream media or others also, ma’am?
M3: No, I mean mainstream TV and print media.
Me: ma’am, in a democracy, media is essential part of public life. It acts as watchdog. Indian media has played that role very well. But there are some problems also, like paid media, yellow journalism etc.
M3: What was the role of media in recent nirbhaya case?
Me: ma’am media highlighted the issue very well. Then people came out en-mass on streets. There were many debates and discussions on TV channels.
M3: Was there any problem with the coverage?
Me: yes ma’am, I think that even after having so many screen-hours devoted to that issue, there were no concrete solutions given by media. Our media tend to use issues for increasing their TRP. They hop on and hop off from news to news, giving too many breaking news, without much serious fruitful discussion.
M3: ok, that’s about media. Why do you think that so many people came on the street on rape issue?
Me: ma’am, this issue concerned all of us. Firstly India is a young nation and youngsters connected with this issue very much. Secondly media did proper publicity of this incident. As it was in Delhi, so it was always on media radar. If same incident took place somewhere in MP or UP, media might not have given that much importance to it. Thirdly as a sociology student I can say that India is going through tough economic times when protest is a very frequent way of displaying anger.
M3: okay good. (points to M4)
M4: You must have heard recent terrorist incidents?
Me: Yes sir, In Hyderabad …
M4: Let me finish the question.
Me: Sorry sir.
M4: What is the subtle difference among terrorism, militancy, fundamentalism, insurgency?
Me: Sir, terrorism is the use of any method, violent or verbal or symbolic to create terror in the mind of general population. Militancy is use of violent method for achieving some political purpose. Insurgency is violent protest against the state or any authority. And in the last, fundamentalism is the adherence to an ideology on the exclusion of other ideologies. It may be based on religion, region, caste, ethnicity or any other thought.
M4: Very good. Can you tell me, in which part of India insurgency in going on?
Me: Sir, we have insurgents in J&K, North east states and maoist affected areas.
M4: Tell us about AFSPA?
Me: sir, it is a provision to be used in disturbed areas. Military is entitled to search, arrest or even shoot if anybody violates the provisions of this act…
M4: No, we all know about AFSPA. I meant to ask, what is your opinion about it. Do you think it should be removed?
Me: Sir, it is a complex issue. In my opinion there should be a case to case specific study. And then if ground realities permit we should remove it. Jeevan Reddy committee has recommended its removal from north east.
M4: But army is against removing it.
Me: Sir, I think that we should not be rigid about it. Ultimate aim should be its removal when conditions improve. A recent committee recommended that in JK we should remove it from civilian areas but keep it for areas falling under 20Km from LOC. I think that can be a good suggestion.
Cp: But what can we do about people falling in between terrorists and security forces. Do you think collateral damage should be allowed?
Me: Sir, in my personal opinion even at the risk of letting 5 terrorist go, we should not kill 1 innocent person. Security forces should act only if they are 100% sure about identity of terrorist.
Cp: No, but that never works in real life. Recently a kashmiri student was arrested in Banglore and he remained in jail for 3 months, later he was found innocent. What you can do in such situation.
Me: Sir, I don’t know the details about this particular incident. I can not question what lead police had to arrest that person. But what we can do in long term is to give better training to police for human rights issues.
Cp: But what does it say about our nation that even after 60 years of independence, we are still facing so many insurgents.
Me: Sir it is due to diversity of our country and historical reasons that differences arise, but many foreign powers are involved in fueling those small differences.
Cp: So, you are saying that diversity is a bad thing. I think that it is one of our greatest assets.
Me: Sir, I am not saying that diversity is bad. It is basis on our unity. But we should not let others misuse it against us.
Cp: But now Bangladesh, Myanmar have stopped doing so, don’t you think so?
Me: yes sir, that is why we have north east terrorism almost under control. But one foreign power is still not relenting.
Cp: (laugh) They are not going to stop so easily. okay, okay, so tell me what we can do to make Kashmiris feel that they are as Indian as you and me?
Me: Sir first thing we should focus on economic and educational development of J&K. We should provide enough employment opportunities. This in long term can achieve such goal.
Cp: yeah that’s all good, we already pour in too much money there. What can we do here, in Delhi, amongst general Indians, so that Kashmiris don’t feel alienated?
Me: Sir, we should increase people to people interaction. We should sensitize our citizen about this issue by media.
Cp: (laughs) ohho, we are back from where we started. Media sensitization and role of media, that is ever questionable. So, in the end, let me ask you, do you think media is playing good enough role in this case.
Me: Sir, it is not living upto its full potential.
Cp: No, no, tell me yes or no. Is it doing what it should do ideally?
Me: No sir.
Cp: Okay, thank you, you can go now.
Me: Thank you sir.