UPSC Interview by Kumar Vivek (Chhattar Singh Board)
Name: Kumar Vivek
Date of Interview: 17th April, 2014
Board: Chhattar Singh
Exam Name: CSE
Educational Background: Engineer
One thing that I have learnt from my interview experience is
that one has to be ready with respect to any possibility. I could never imagine
that my interview would be based almost on my Graduation subject (Civil
Engineering). Although I answered most of the questions, I wonder whether I was
convincing enough to the Board. No question was asked from current issues,
international affairs, my profile and biodata. I do not know how UPSC is going
to judge my personality on the basis of a Q&A session on my engineering
subject!! But as we know UPSC has always been unpredictable, there is no need of
speculations. The following transcript may help those who are going to attend
the interview in the near future.
Chairman: So, are you Kumar Vivek or Vivek Kumar?
Me: Sir I am Kumar Vivek.
Chairman: Is this your photograph (pointing at my passport size
Me: Yes Sir. That's me.
Chairman: So we have two Kumar Viveks in the room. HeHeHe (All board
members accompany him in his laughter)
Chairman: What have you been doing off late?
Me: Sir after completing my graduation from Delhi College of Engineering,
I started preparing for UPSC and gave my first attempt in 2013.
Chairman: What was your graduation subject?
Me: Sir, I pursued Civil Engineering.
Chairman: Are Mechanical Engineers uncivilized?
Me: No Sir! It is not so. We are called Civil Engineers because we have
been building civilizations in the form of buildings, roads, bridges, dwellings
and so on. All these are part of human civilization.
Chairman: How do you see the future of concrete?
Me: We are experimenting with new materials and also trying to employ
recycled debris from buildings to be used in place of concrete. Since the
aggregates used in RCC are excavated from mountains, they are not going to last
forever, we have to look other substitutes as well. Also in order to improve the
durability of concrete structures, we are employing improved admixtures.
Chairman: On the historical timescale of civilization, at about what
time concrete was used?
Me: On the historical time scale, the use of concrete has been a recent
Chairman: How much recent? Recent can be 1000 years also.
Me: Sir! I guess it has been in use for about 100 years or so.
Chairman: You are correct. Do you know any substitute of concrete?
Me: We are trying to develop new materials but as in for now we are
relying more on Steel.
Chairman: Why steel structures are now replacing concrete structures?
(Then he started mumbling something to the board members and himself and I never
got the chance to answer as he moved on with other questions.)
Chairman: Are you aware about DPC?
Me: Sorry Sir. i am unable to recall it.
Chairman: OK. Do you know what is damp proofing?
Me: Yes Sir I am aware of that.
Chairman: How does the load on a building get distributed?
Me: The loads are distributed and transmitted through the columns and
beams towards the foundation. Ultimately it is the foundation that takes the
Chairman: Do walls bear any load?
Me: They can, but most of the load comes on the beams and columns.
Chairman: Have you seen a building being constructed? Tell me the
order of construction.
Me: Yes Sir! I saw the construction of my own home. The foundation is
excavated first and then we lay the foundation.
Chairman: What do we use in that foundation?
Me: Sir! We use concrete.
Chairman: OK proceed.
Me: After that we build the masonry wall, construct the plinth area, lay
beams and columns, construct the lintel.....
Chairman: Is it only beams and columns that we construct? No masonry
Me: Sir! Beams and columns provide the frame. But we also construct
Chairman: Where does the lintel come:
Me: Above the window.
Chairman then asks the next member to proceed with his questions.
Member 1: Are you aware of the North East?
Me: Yes Sir! I do have some idea.
Member 1: Draw the map of North East and locate Mizoram, Tripura and
Me: (I drew a decent map and showed him the locations)
Member 1: With which states do these states share their borders?
Me: ( I told him the answer with perhaps 80% accuracy)
Member 1: Nagaland shares border with Arunachal also. You missed that.
Me: Sorry Sir! Thank you for the information.
Member 1: What is NHAI?
Me: National Highway Authority of India
Member 1: What does NHAI do?
Me: Sir! NHAI is the regulatory authority for highways in the country.
Right now it is conducting the National Highway Development Project in our
Member 1: Does NHAI construct roads itself?
Me: No Sir! It gives contract to private contracting companies. In fact
all the stakeholders ranging from consultants, designers etc are outsourced.
Member 1: So you mean NHAI do contracting work only? OK leave it. How
do you know about the safety of a dam?
Me: Sir! That is a design exercise. If the torque produced by the weight
of the dam about the toe of the dam exceeds the torque produced by water in the
upstream region, the dam would not topple.
Member 1: What else?
Me: Sir! The shear force produced by the impounded water has to be
countered by the friction between the dam and the underlying surface.
Member 1: OK. In CPWD buildings, why there is uniform depth in the
beam? Why don't they taper it?
Me: (I did not know the answer precisely so I tried to give a general
answer based on my rudimentary technical understanding of bending moment,
flexural force, reinforcement and so on.)
Member 2: What do understand by green buildings? What are their
Me: Sir! Green building is essentially an energy efficient structure
having cost effective components. The essential features include efficient
design of components to ensure proper natural light to reduce dependence on
energy intensive artificial lights, better appliances having higher star
ratings, better acoustics, improved wind movement through the structure etc.
Member 2: What about water and environment?
Me: Yes Sir. That is important. Water management through efficient
drainage and garbage and waste management through......(Interruption by the
Member 2: But you already talked about it. What about health
Me: Yes Sir......(Interruption by the member)
Member 2: Leave it. If you have not much idea, then there is no need
for me to go deeper into Green Buildings.
Member 2: What is western disturbance? Tell me about it's origin.
Me: Sir! Western disturbance is a prominent phenomenon during winter
season in India. It's origin can be traced in and around Central Asia. The jet
stream gets bifurcated by the Tibetan Plateau. The lower jet stream moves in the
form of pressure troughs and highs. When a low pressure trough passes through a
region, it leads to precipitation.
Member 2: How does western disturbance affect Indian economy?
Me: Sir the disturbance is associated with winter rainfall in the country
which is often accompanied by hailstorms. Hail affects crops adversely and
particularly wheat. This way, western disturbance has direct impact on
Member 2: What do we measure by time?
Me: (After thinking for a minute as this question confused me too
much)..Sir! I think time itself is a unit and we measure time itself (I know
that's a stupid answer but believe me, in the interview room you become clueless
Member 2: HeHeHe.........So you are trying to say, you measure time by
Member 3: Why you remained unplaced even though you were the placement
coordinator? Is not that a grand failure? (Then he started laughing like a demon
and I could sense his sarcasm)
Me: No Sir! It is not so. I never went for it as I was never keen enough
for a job.
Member 3: OK. So you were helping other souls?
Me: Precisely Sir!
Member 3: Which countries would you cross over if you take a flight
from New Delhi to US?
Me: Sir! That would depend upon the route one is going to take.
Member 2: That is a very good answer... HeHeHe. But he would measure
time by time..HeHeHe
Chairman: I would dig a hole in the earth and then reach the US.
Member 3: OK. If we have to catch a direct flight to NewYork, then??
Me: Sir I can only make a guess.
Member 3: No leave it then. You tell me which appliance should we
purchase i.e. in terms of star ratings?
Me: Sir! We should purchase appliances with higher star ratings as
efficiency increases with increasing star ratings.
Member 3: Will that be costlier or cheaper?
Me: Sir! That would be coastlier.
Member 3: Tell me the name of the recent book by the former coal
Me: Sir! Perhaps the name is Crusader to Corruption.
Member 3: You are partially wrong. It is Crusader to Controversy.
Me: Yes Sir! I made a mistake.
Member 3: You are the DM and there is a 100 bedded hospital being
constructed in your district. You received a complaint from the village Sarpanch
about substandard material being used in the hospital building. You are under
immense pressure from the lady CM to complete the project in 6 months. Then what
would be your response?
Member 3: Sir! First of all, I would verify the validity of the claims
being made by the Sarpanch by asking the Engineers in the project to submit a
quality control report immediately.
Member 3: How?
Me: Sir! The engineers would conduct requisite tests.
Member 3: But tests are conducted in the laboratory!!!!
Me: Yes Sir! That is correct. We have quality control engineers also in
Member 3: OK. What next?
Me: If there is truth in the claims being made by the sarpanch, I would
ask the contractor to immediately rectify the mistakes. As far as time
constraint is concerned, I think it is not prudent to compromise the structural
safety of such a critical building. In our country, where natural disasters like
earthquakes, floods and tsunami are so frequent, we can wait for some time until
proper safety of the structure is ensured. I would try to convince the CM about
the criticality of the situation and request her to allow the efficient
completion of the building so that the lives of several patients in future are
Member 4: Not everyone is able to sing or do poetry. How did you
develop poerty as your hobby?
Me: Ma'am! The school where I studied, the teachers used speak very good
Hindi. I was always fascinated by their speeches and occasional poems. Once my
father asked me to write a poem on the contemporary political scenario of the
country. I was probably in class 6th then....(Chairman interrupts)
Chairman: You were aware of politics at that time!!!!
Me: Sir! I had some rudimentary idea on the basis of the conversations
that my parents used to have. Based on that primitive information, I tried to
pen down my first poem. After that my interest got even higher as I started
writing on nature, society etc. I even wrote in Sringaar and Veer Rasa styles.
Today poetry is my passion and in fact my lifeline.
Member 4: You are sanctioned 100 crores for flood relief. What would
be your priorities?
Me: Ma'am my priorities would be:
1. Ensure food and drinking water logistics in the affected area
2. Make health care facilities e.g. doctors, medicines, immunization etc
3. Ensure reconstruction of critical infrastructure e.g. roads, bridges,
schools, hospitals etc
4. Construction of relief camp if necessary
5. Finally the compensation claims for reconstruction and rehabilitation
Member 4: Name a very famous civil engineer from India. Why he was
Me: E. Sreedharan for Delhi Metro Project and also the previous Konkan
Member 4: Who was a very famous Dam engineer from India?
Me: (After thinking for a while) Ma'am Sri M Vishvessaraiah.
Member 4: Correct. What do we celebrate on 30th September?
Me: Ma'am! We celebrate this day as Engineers Day.
Member 4: OK. Do we have any audit of educational standards in the
country for higher education?
Me: We have UGC and AICTE for the same.
Member 4: Any other agency?
Me: There are private surveys. I am not aware of any formal state
Member 4: What is NAAC?
Me: National Accredition Council.
Member 4: It is National Assessment and Accredition Council.
Me: Yes Ma'am. I forgot the full form.
Chairman: Thank you Vivek. Your interview is over
Me: Thank you Sir!