UPSC Interview 2014 by Rachna (D. K. Dewan Board)
Qualification: BE, MS (Environmental Engineering)
I reached UPSC by Noon as I had to submit the attestation form copies at the
DoPT in the North Block. This was the first time I was so close to the
Rashtrapati Bhawan. Glancing at it from India Gate doesn’t come anywhere close
to the feeling I got while being there. It sort of motivated me to do my best in
the interview. After submitting the attestation form, I reached Dholpur House
and entered after showing my call letter. The cell phone was collected in the
reception area itself.
I was assigned to table XXII. There were seven groups of six interviewees
each. I was the last person to be interviewed by the panel our group was
assigned to. The first two members of the group had relatively shorter
interviews, the third alright, the fourth seemed to go longer than the others
(although it might also seem so because of the long time we had been there by
then) and by the time the penultimate person was inside, I could hardly
comprehend my surroundings or time. I was waiting for about seven eight minutes
outside the room where interviews were being conducted. By this time my hunger
pangs had started (I hadn’t had any lunch) and I was afraid of becoming the
irritating self that I do if I don’t get food on time. Just then, I was told to
enter. I asked the fellow sitting outside what the time was then. At 5:00 PM,
the ordeal began!
There were four panel members (M1, M2, M3, M4) in addition to the chairman
(C). there was no female member.
Chairman- What does your husband do?
Me- He has just completed his MBA and will now be working with ABC Company as a
Chairman- Why different paths? Wouldn’t it be difficult?
Sir, I have worked in various different forms of organizations (including a
private consulting firm, a start up, a Central Govt. University and a Maharatna
Chairman- yes, I can see that on your form
Out of these, I have come to realize that my skills, temperament and attitude
are more suited to working in a Govt. job.
Chairman- but wouldn’t that mean that you would have to live apart.
Sir, we have already been staying in different states owing to our respective
careers and have handled that to our satisfaction.
Chairman- It is easy in young age lady, it gets tougher as you move up,
especially when you start a family.
(Thinking where is this headed and smiling broadly) I shall keep that in mind,
Chairman- Do you know about Crimea?
Yes sir, Crimea, which was a part of Ukraine, has recently been annexed by
Chairman- Why is EU interfering in Russia’s annexation of Crimea?
Sir, they are worried about possible expansionist tendency of Russia, especially
owing to Russian troops being present at Moldova, Transdniestria.
Chairman- But why is that an issue with EU?
(feeling a little confused) Sir, US and EU on one hand, and USSR on the other
have always had different ideologies. With Ukraine coming closer to EU, the
annexation of Crimea by Russia, the most important remain of former USSR, is
being seen doubtfully and further military presence at Moldova is adding to
Chairman- But why is that an issue for EU, military presence didn’t occur just
like that, it followed a process, do you know what process was followed before
annexation of Crimea?
(Now even more confused and visibly fumbled) – Sir, they are worried because of
the military presence, the process which was followed… hmmm… - interrupted by
M3 but just in time I said - referendum, where a majority supported
annexation of Crimea by Russia,
M3- again interrupts, says, not majority, 97% supported
(I was getting visibly nervous by now, what did they want to hear?) Yes sir, 97%
(i.e. in overwhelming majority) supported the annexation of Crimea in the
referendum, but after that annexation, there is a possibility of civil war as
there are conflicts between the ethnic Russians and…
M3- interrupted again, But what has that got to do anything with EU?
(By now, I think I finally understood the question), Sir, Crimea has a strategic
importance owing to its proximity to Black Sea, the oil & gas pipelines (and
immediately thought to myself, what oil pipelines, crap!!)
Chairman- Oil Pipelines? Are you sure? And do you know which place exactly is of
strategic importance and why?
I am sorry sir, I have read about it, but I can’t recall it at the top of my
head (Apparently he was asking about Sevastopol, by now, my morale was already
down, not being able to answer such a simple, relevant and in news daily
question to their satisfaction and mine :( but I braced myself for whatever was
to come next)
Chairman- What is the difference between LPG and CNG
Sir, LPG is liquefied petroleum gas and CNG is compressed natural gas. LPG is
used for cooking while CNG is used in vehicles for travelling purpose.
Chairman- Do we make our own LPG and CNG or import?
Sir, we refine most of it ourselves and import some (Major disaster here, I
meant to say extract and not refine)
Chairman- We refine? Refining is done for oils or for gases?
Sorry sir (My face must be showing my disappointment with myself)
Chairman- Never mind, What % of Indians do not have access to drinking water and
Sir, about 40% (actually it’s ~30%) Indians do not have access to electricity.
Chairman- Are you sure? And water?
No sir, actually I am not very sure and neither very comfortable with hard core
data as numbers (and then mumbled something).
Chairman- Ok, never mind, tell me what are the qualities required of a
Sir, Integrity, Empathy (As soon as I said empathy, he asked me to think of four
most important qualities and rank them in order of preference). – Sir, may I
take a moments to list them down in that case. - By all means - (I wrote on the
paper and ranked for about 20-30 seconds) – Sir, the four most important
qualities of Govt. servant in my opinion are -
Motivation for public service
Willingness to learn new things
And now I shall give you my reasons for the same. Sir, we can’t be happy and
successful at any job unless we derive work satisfaction from it, therefore
motivation for public service becomes first and foremost in the list of
desirable qualities. As Govt. servants, we would be dealing with public money
and resources, therefore integrity becomes the second most important thing. In a
country like India, where there are so many people who would be needing Govt.
services, efficiency becomes desirable with effectiveness and lastly, in a
diverse country where a Govt. servant might be posted in any region and
department, with changing times, willingness to learn new things becomes very
Chairman- That’s all right, I didn’t ask you for the reasons(Feeling flushed yet
not showing so) And what might be the one biggest disadvantage of being in a
Sir, disadvantage? (Pretending to think while I knew what I had to say) – Sir, I
think the absolute hierarchical structure in Govt. organizations is a limitation
and disadvantage as it leads to unwanted bureaucratic delays but
Chairman- But that is true for any Govt. service in the world
Chairman- Tell me what is the, ok, not disadvantage, but not so much an
advantage of working a Govt. job
(After thinking for a very brief moment), Sorry sir, I can’t think of one at
At this time, the chairman asked M1 seated on his right to start asking me
questions. I realized that I haven’t made a good impression and thus mentally
prepared myself to answer whatever came next without any prejudice to what had
M1- So you are a Human Rights activist and have done street plays on social
(He was reading from my DAF where I had mentioned a training of trainers on
Human Rights and listed President, Dramatics Society as my position of
responsibility) – Sir, not exactly a Human Rights activist, but yes I have
attended the mentioned training on Human Rights and have conducted a number of
street plays on social issues.
M1- So, i will ask you of a dilemma regarding human rights – should cell phones
be allowed in prison?
(Finally glad of an opinion based question, confidently answering) Sir, Human
Rights are those which are available to a person by the virtue of being human.
Though right to communicate might be such, right to own a cell phone is not. My
answer may vary for a prisoner in solitary confinement, but in general I do not
think that prisoners should have access to cell phones. There are various
reasons for the same. Certain prisoners, held due to terrorism cases, may use
phones to plot further attacks. Prisoners with sensitive information may leak it
outside and so on. Therefore, I don’t think cell phones should be allowed in
M1- Ok, another question in the similar direction, What are your views on
capital punishment. Should it be banned? Why?
Sir, my personal opinion is against capital punishment. However in the very
training that I had attended on Human Rights mentioned in my form, I had heard
some compelling views on the other side. In a country like India, which has so
many mouths to feed, is it prudent to spend so much on food and space for
prisoners who might have committed heinous crimes and infringed on somebody
else’s human rights while doing so. However, I still believe that as long as
there is a slightest chance of a person showing reform, capital punishment
should not be resorted to as there may be a chance of the person reforming and
making himself productive for the society in general and for himself.
M1- So you are sounding like Mother Teresa
M1- So, you are an environmentalist as well. Why is there so much hype on
environmental issues now? Why wasn’t it there before?
Sir, the environmental problems have always existed since long time but in
current times the impact of these problems have become much more apparent to the
general public. If I may take an example of the climate change, any layman can
visibly observe the climate change patterns now. In Hyderabad for example, there
have been recent news of extreme hot weather and hailstorms at the same time
leading to deaths. And since people have become more aware of these issues and
their environmental causes, there is more hype on environmental issues now as
compared to earlier times as now people want to find out ways of living in a
sustainable manner without being impacted much. (The chairman was about to hand
over the dialogue to the next member owing to time but M1 said he would ask me
one final question, apparently stemming from my previous answer)
M1- So, what do you understand by Sustainable Development?
Sir, sustainable development is holistic development keeping in consideration
environmental, economic and social perspectives. It is a means of carrying out
any project/ activity in a manner such that our future generations are left with
as much if not more resources than us. (I kind of minced a few words here, damn,
my linguistic skills weren’t helping that day.)
The chairman then asked the next panel member (M2), who looked a little strict,