My civils interview : Prashant Agrawal
My interview was on 5th of April, afternoon session. After registration and
other formalities, I was sitting with 4 other candidates. We were 2 engineers
and 3 doctors. It was first civils interview for all the candidates. Initially
we tried, but later decided not to discuss anything important. I was the
second candidate to be interviewed. When first candidate was called for
interview, we came to know that its K K Paul's board. I tried to recall any
impression about that board, but cudn't. Later came to know that his board was
sitting for the first time. I grabbed a cup of tea, sat peacefully and talked
to other 3 candidates while waiting for my turn. A peon came and took me to
Paul's room. I was asked to wait outside. I cudn't believe I wasn't afraid of
the interview. A bell rang and peon opened the door for me. I asked for
permission to enter. The room was not as big as coaching institutes used to
tell. I walked to the chair. Besides K K Paul, there was a lady member and 3
other members. Members were sitting closer to my chair than K K Paul's. Paul
asked me to take seat. I wished ma'am first and then to all sirs and took my
(My background: Hail from a village in Surguja district of Chhattisgarh.
Schooling: Navodaya Vidyalaya. Graduation: Dual Degree in Electrical Engg from
IIT Kharagpur. Passed out in 2006. Optionals: Physics and Chemistry. Attempt:
2nd, cudn't clear Mains in first attempt. No job. Stayed in Delhi all this
time at Old Rajendra Nagar.)
KKP: Tell me your name.
Me: Sir, Prashant Kumar Agrawal.
KKP: Your roll number.
KKP: Your date of birth.
Me: Sir, 12th of August, 1983.
(Thinking why is he asking all these, its already there in my biodata)
KKP: So, you are from Chhattisgarh.
Me: Yes Sir.
KKP: Ok, you have done engineering from IIT Kharagpur.
Me: Yes Sir.
KKP: You have taken physics and chemistry as your optionals.
Me: Yes Sir.
KKP: Prashant, you play cricket or watch cricket.
Me: Sir, I play cricket.
KKP: You have played for any team?
Me: Sir, I used to play in college, but I haven't played for college team or
any other team.
KKP: (With a sarcastic smile) Do you know anything about cricket?
Me: (With full confidence) Sir, I know everything about cricket. (Definitely
an overstatement) I used to play in college.
(I was expecting his swingers now, but with God on my side he changed the
KKP: Where have you done NCC?
Me: Sir, in first year of my college, as a part of curriculum.
KKP: Okay, tell me something about LCD tv, plasma tv and **** tv (I cudnt get
tht one but was sure tht i never heard tht before. It wasnt hdtv also).
Me: Sir, LCD tv uses liquid crystals which are liquids with some anisotropic
properies like crystals do. (He was asking abt LCD tv, not liquid crystals,
KKP: And what is plasma?
Me: Sir, its a fourth state of matter where gases are fully ionised.
KKP: So which tv is better and why? (The big man might be planning to buy one
but he was asking the wrong guy.)
Me: Sir, Plasma is said to be better. I dont know much about them.
KKP: Okay Prashant, recently there has been much talk about a tribal welfare
bill. What is your opinion about that?
Me: Sir, are you referring to Forest Dwellers Rights Act?
KKP: Yes, yes that only.
Me: Sir, I think this is a very good Act and will come a long way in
addressing the grievances of tribals. Their rights will be recognised and
there exploitation can be addressed.
KKP: But there is also a view that there is nexus with mafia. And the
exploitation will be continued, rather legitimised.
Me: Sir, such cases has to be looked into and solved separately, but still the
Act is very much needed to solve the problems of tribals. It will recognize
their rights over land. Their livelihood issues will be addressed. They will
able to sell minor forest produce at the correct prices. It is also going to
be a big help in solving the problem of naxalism.
KKP: What are the causes of naxalism in Chhattisgarh?
Me: Sir, the root cause is the genuine grievances of tribals. In Chhattisgarh,
two areas Northern Chhattisgarh and Southern Chhattisgarh are heavily forested
areas and inhabited by tribals. They have been considered as encrochers upon
the land. They have not been able to sell forest produce at the desired
prices. They have been exploited by forest officials also. Mining rights have
been given to companies in these areas which led to tribals' displacement
without being given proper compensation.
KKP: Do you know how other countries have dealt with such problems of tribals
like red indians, and ....(gives two three names) ?
Me: I'm sorry Sir. I'm not aware of that.
KKP: Doesnt matter.
Asks the next member to ask questions, a lady member. She was smiling a lot.
Dont know for what. I also smiled throughtout interaction with her even though
I didnt answered her questions well.
Smiling Lady: Prashant, Mahatma Gandhi was known as the Father of the Nation.
Sarojini Naidu was known as the Nightingale of India.
Me: Yes Ma'am.
SL: Have you read Gandhiji?
Me: Yes ma'am. I have read about Gandhiji.
SL: Ok, I'm not going to ask about him. (Picks out a paper with some things
written on it haphazardly. Asks looking at it and smiling) Tell me what do you
know about Sardar Patel, Rabindranath Tagore, Vinoba Bhave and Captain Laxmi.
Me: Ma'am, Sardar Patel was known as the Iron man of India. (It took me few
seconds to translate from Lauh Purush.)
SL: What for?
Me: Ma'am, he was able to take quick decisions, tough decisions.
Me: He took quick decisions while consolidating more than 500 princely states.
SL: Consolidating ??
Me: I mean, to bring the princely states into Indian Union. (I was looking for
the word 'integration'.)
SL: Anything else.
Me: No Ma'am.
SL: Ok now tell me about Sarojini Naidu.
Me: Ma'am, she was known as Nightingale of India because she used to sing
well. She participated in freedom movement. She was the first governer of
SL: Anything more about her?
Me: No ma'am.
SL: Ok about Vinoba bhave.
Me: Ma'am he was called Acharya Vinoba Bhave. He worked for the lower sections
of the society.
SL: Anything specific?
Me: I'm not able to recall ma'am.
SL: Aren't you forgetting something? Bhoodan movement ??
Me: Yes ma'am. Bhoodan movement. I missed that. (How could I forget that? I
had read abt the movement few days back.)
SL: About Rabindranath Tagore?
Me: Ma'am I not able to recall what was he known as. (Guruji)
SL: Thats okay. Tell me what was he known for.
Me: Ma'am, he was known for literature. For Gitanjali, for which he won Nobel
SL: Anything else?
Me: Ma'am, I'm not able to recall anything more. (Jan gan man, Shantiniketan,
had renounced knighthood)
SL: Tell me about Jaiprakash Narain. (Now this person was not on the agenda.)
Member 2: What was he known as?
Me: (Minutes before I was handed over the letter for Medical tests to be taken
at LNJP hospital) He was known as Loknayak. He worked for the lower sections
of the society.
SL: Anything more?
Me: No. ma'am.
SL: Okay Prashant. You have done this physics, chemistry (my optionals),
electrical engg (background). How are these going to help you in
administration? Means in place of history, political science etc. Tell me, how
are these physics, chemistry and electrical going to help you in
administration. (Almost repeated the question.)
Me: (well rehearsed answer) Ma'am, technical knowledge is only a part of my
learning at IIT. IIT education has inculcated in me the ability to perform
under stress, habit of hard work, working in a team etc. Such things are
definitely going to help in administration. And as far as knowledge is
SL: Knowledge I wasnt asking. Achcha, ok tell me about that also.
Me: Ma'am knowledge of electrical engg is going to help me if I get to work
with Power Ministry. Otherwise also, electricity being one of the most basic
services to be provided to the common man, the public, my knowledge can come
SL: (Looking at her paper) Suppose you are posted as DM in an earthquake prone
area. What steps you are going to take?
Me: Ma'am, since there is no warning system for earthquake. I have to keep
emergency services ready.
SL: What emergency services? (Quickly picks up a pencil and starts noting
Me: Ma'am first of all, medical services, ambulance etc.
SL: Ok. And?
Me: And Police. For security and transport.
SL: What else?
Me: (I wasn't getting anything really) Ma'am, in case calamity occurs, I have
to be ready about from where I have to source food etc.
SL: Okay, what else? Something more you would like to do?
Me: Ma'am general instructions have to be given regarding buildings,
SL: Are you going to check houses and all ?
Me: No ma'am, but instructions are to be given regarding precautions to be
taken while building new houses and other construction.
Me: Like, how much cement is to be mixed. How much should be the window area,
door area etc. Such instructions are to be widely publicised.
SL: Have you heard of building code?
Me: Yes ma'am. I was talking about that only.
(Gives a big nod, a big smile and asks the next member (Member 2) to take
charge. He was sitting right beside me. I had to keep my head turned at around
70 to 80 degrees to talk to him.)
M2: You are from Surguja. I have come to know that there are no naxalite
activities in Surguja. Isnt it?
Me: Sir, Surguja is a naxalite affected district. But since last 3 yrs, there
have been no major law and order problem there.
M2: Yes, yes. I meant that only. No activities now, that threat will remain.
Now tell me, Bastar is also in Chhattisgarh.
Me: Yes Sir.
M2: Surguja and Bastar both are tribal areas.
Me: Yes Sir.
M2: Both are in the same state.
Me: Yes Sir.
M2: So, how come naxalism has been contained in Surguja, but not in Bastar ?
Me: Sir, Bastar is in Southern Chhattisgarh, contiguous with Andhra and Orissa.
It is in heavily forested Dandakaranya region. Naxalites find it easy to
launch operations from there, have been able to set up training camps.
M2: But that goes for Surguja also. It is also contiguous with Jharkhand, a
naxalite affected state.
Me: Yes Sir, that is true, but Bastar is contiguous with Andhra where
naxalites have been more strong. Also because of action taken by Andhra's
police, they have been flushed to Bastar region.
M2: Tell me some reason other than this contiguity.
Me: Sir, 3-4 yrs back, when there used to be major law and order problem
related to naxalism in Surguja, one IPS officer was posted who did a
M2: (Raising his voice a bit) Dont you think these are the institutions which
bring change? Can one two officers make such a difference?
Me: Sir, ofcourse these are the institutions which bring the change, but if
the officers are good, (gave a look towards K K Paul) if the leader is good,
he can also make a considerable difference. The officer I am talking about,
used to go to jungles on his bike for operations, and seeing his courage
subordinate policemen also used to feel motivated, and the operations were
successful. And once the law and order problem was contained, civil
administration took the development activities at accelerated pace.
M2: (Not so convinced still.) Ok tell me the hierarchy of IPS officers,
starting from district level.
Me: Sir, SP.
M2: Yes, that at district level. Above that?
Me: Sir, DIG, then IG, then ADG and DGP.
M2: Hierarchy of IAS officers. Okay, just tell me whom DM reports to?
Me: (Got a bit confused here on this basic question. No commissionaries in my
state.) Sir, DM reports to Chief Secretary.
M2: There are no people in between?
Me: Sir, there are in between, but they are departmental secretaries who rank
above DM, but DM reports to Chief Secretary.
M2: What about revenue commissioners then?
Me: (Got more confused. Gave up) Sorry Sir, I do not know.
M2: Okay, tell me how are the judges appointed? Judges of High Court.
Me: Sir, they are selected by a collegium of Supreme Court judges, involving
Chief Justice of High Court concerned.
M2: How are they chosen? Who is to be made, who is not to be made?
Me: Sir, based on the elegibility for High Court judges, the collegium
decides. I do not know the exact procedure.
M2: Okay, how is lower judiciary appointed?
Me: Sir, lower judiciary functions under the High Court of the state. Judges
are appointed through a competitive exam.
M2: Who exactly appoints them?
Me: Sir, I do not know.
M2: Okay, there was so much talk about RTI Act. Has it helped in any way?
Me: Yes Sir, its a very good Act. It has helped in bringing transparency and
fixing accountability in the administration.
M2: Can you tell me how exactly it has helped?
Me: For example, it has helped in speeding up the development projects.
M2: (Raising his voice a bit) How can it speed up the development projects?
Me: Sir, when some development projects had been sanctioned and were not being
taken, people have filed RTI applications, asking for the information
regarding status of the project. Officials started realizing that they are
accountable to the people, and it really has speeded up the projects.
M2: Is there any time limit to give the information?
Me: Yes sir, its 30 days.
M2: What if he doen't provide the information?
Me: Then appeal can be filed to the information commissioner.
M2: Do you know about CIC and SIC?
Me: Yes Sir, Central Information Commissioner and State Information
M2: So, does the SIC functions below the CIC?
Me: I'm not sure Sir.
( Points to the next member to ask questions. For him, I had to keep my head
turned to 70 -80 degrees, now on my right.)
M3: Do you know about Comptroller and Auditor General ?
Me: Yes Sir.
M3: What does he do?
Me: Sir, his function is to ensure that all the expenditure done by the
government is as per the law, no diversion is made.
M3: What about diversion?
Me: Sir, if any diversion is made, expenditure is not according to the law,
then he includes it in the report.
M3: To whom he gives the report?
Me: Sir, report is submitted to the parliament.
M3: Why was UPSC provided for in the Constitution itself ? What does it do?
Me: Sir, it recruits personnel for the administration.
M3: But that could have been done by it being under executive itself. What was
the need for it to be made autonomous, an independent body?
Me: Sir, it also gives reports and suggestions to the Parliament to enhance
efficiency of the administrative machinery. (Didnt handle this question well.)
M3: Have you heard of Srikrishna report?
Me: (Tried to recall but cudn't) Sir, I'm not able to recall.
M3: Okay, tell me what is your opinion about legalisation of prostitution.
Me: Sir, I think it should not be legalised.
M3: Why so?
Me: Sir, its not in consonant with Indian social values.
M3: But many social activists are demanding for its legalisation. Prostitutes
are harassed. Their rights are not protected.
Me: Sir, that can be done if some changes in present laws are made. At
present, they are treated as criminals. They should be treated as victims and
we should try to prevent human trafficking in this area.
M3: Under what act this is done?
Me: Sir, under Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act.
(Looks towards K K Paul. He asks the fourth member to ask questions.)
M4: You have been to Singapore?
Me: Yes Sir.
M4: What for?
Me: Sir, to present a technical paper in a conference. It was based on my
BTech project, as a part of curriculum at IIT Kharagpur.
M4: So, what did you like most about Singapore?
Me: Sir, attitude of people there, that was very cordial.
M4: Do you know how big is Singapore?
Me: Sir, its a city state. I do not know the exact area.
M4: How much is the population?
Me: Sir, its around 4 million.
M4: Its a developed country, isn't it?
Me: Yes Sir, it is a developed country.
M4: Do you know at what rate it is growing?
Me: Sir, I do not know the exact rate.
M4: Okay tell me, its more than India's or less?
Me: Sir, I think its less than India's rate of growth. Its base is high, per
capita income is high, so it cannot be 8-9%.
M4: Are you sure?
Me: No sir, I'm not sure.
M4: Okay, tell me why is it so developed?
Me: Sir its a small city state, small population. Its economy has been able to
take care of everybody.
M4: But it doesn't have resources too.
Me: Sir, it has framed liberal laws, has attracted foreign companies to set up
offices here. Its a financial hub. Also, it has been able to tap full
potential of tourism.
M4: (Not convinced.) Cant we develop like that?
Me: Sir, we can but that will take time. We have a large population.
M4: Okay, cant we develop some small place, say a district in Kerala, like
Me: Sir, we can, if we make a different set of laws for that place. But that
will create disparity. We do not want that kind of development.
M4: What kind of political system is there? Is democracy there in Singapore?
Me: Yes Sir. Democracy is there in Singapore.
M4: What is the difference between India's democracy and Singapore's
Me: I'm sorry Sir. I do not know.
M4: Okay, you have done electrical engg. Tell me about the situation of
India's power sector.
Me: Sir, demand for power is increasing at a fast pace, because of economic
growth. But power generation has lagged behind.
M4: (Interrupts) From what sources we generate power?
Me: Sir, majority of power comes from thermal, around 60%. Then, around 30%
comes from hydel. 6-7% from wind energy and a small chunk of around 3% from
M4: It is said that we have a large potential of hydel power. Why haven't we
Me: Sir, because of problems associated with hydel projects like displacement
of people. Also, most of potential lies in North-East. We havent been able to
M4: Which power is cheaper?
Me: Sir, it depends. Hydel will be cheaper if its a multipupose project, used
for irrigation etc. Thermal will be cheaper if coal is sourced from a nearby
mine. Sir, per unit cost actually varies a lot.
M4: Okay, more about power sector.
Me: Sir, our transmission and distribution losses are very high.
M4: How much is the transmission loss?
Me: Sir, its around 15%.
M4: 15 only??
Me: Sir, only transmission loss is 15%. If we take total losses i.e aggregate
technical and commercial losses, it goes above 40%.
M4: So, we lose half our power that way?
Me: Yes Sir.
M4: Why so?
Me: Sir, our focus has always been on more and more generation. Transmission
and distribution sector have been neglected.
M4: What should be done? As an administrator what will you do?
Me: Sir, to reduce T&D losses, we have to invest in this sector.
Transformers and lines need to be replaced or upgraded. Then we have to
prevent theft also. Installing digital meters is good step in that direction.
M4: What is your view about privatisation of distribution?
Me: Sir, thats a good step.
M4: They will take care that there is no theft. Isn't it?
Me: Yes sir, that is true. But we (like I'm in the government already) need to
ensure that consumers get electricity at the right prices.
M4 looks towards K K Paul.
KKP: Your interview is over. You can go now.
Me: Thank you, Sir.
Thank you Ma'am.
Made an exit thinking why they are sending me back so early. Didn't realize
that 30 minutes had passed by that time.
Now keeping fingers crossed for the final results.
Comments are invited.