UPSC Interview by Kumar Vivek (Chhattar Singh Board)

UPSC Interview by Kumar Vivek (Chhattar Singh Board)

Name: Kumar Vivek

Date of Interview: 17th April, 2014

Attempt: 1st

Board: Chhattar Singh

Exam Name: CSE

Educational Background: Engineer

Optional: Geography

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 photograph)?
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 phenomenon.

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.

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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 ultimate load.

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 walls!!!!
Me: Sir! Beams and columns provide the frame. But we also construct masonry walls.

Chairman: Where does the lintel come:
Me: Above the window.

Chairman then asks the next member to proceed with his questions.

Member 1

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 Nagaland.
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 country.

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

Member 2: What do understand by green buildings? What are their essential features?
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)

Member 2: But you already talked about it. What about health component?
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 agricultural production.

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 sometimes)

Member 2: HeHeHe.........So you are trying to say, you measure time by time....HeHeHe
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

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 secretary.
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 the laboratories.

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 not compromised.

Member 4:

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 available
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 famous?
Me: E. Sreedharan for Delhi Metro Project and also the previous Konkan Railway Project

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 organization.

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!

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