(Interview) UPSC Interview 2014 by Rachna (D. K. Dewan Board)

UPSC Interview 2014 by Rachna (D. K. Dewan Board)

Name: Rachna

Attempt: First

Qualification: BE, MS (Environmental Engineering)

From: Delhi

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 XYZ Manager.

Chairman- Why different paths? Wouldn’t it be difficult?
Me- 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 PSU)

Chairman- yes, I can see that on your form
Me- 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.
Me- 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.
Me- (Thinking where is this headed and smiling broadly) I shall keep that in mind, sir.

Chairman- Do you know about Crimea?
Me- Yes sir, Crimea, which was a part of Ukraine, has recently been annexed by Russia.

Chairman- Why is EU interfering in Russia’s annexation of Crimea?
Me- Sir, they are worried about possible expansionist tendency of Russia, especially owing to Russian troops being present at Moldova, Transdniestria.

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Chairman- But why is that an issue with EU?
Me- (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 these doubts.

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?
Me- (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
Me- (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?
Me- (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?
Me- 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
Me- 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?
Me- 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?
Me- 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 electricity?
Me- Sir, about 40% (actually it’s ~30%) Indians do not have access to electricity.

Chairman- Are you sure? And water?
Me- 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 government servant?
Me- 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 important.

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 government service
Me- 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
Me- Yes, sir.

Chairman- Tell me what is the, ok, not disadvantage, but not so much an advantage of working a Govt. job
Me- (After thinking for a very brief moment), Sorry sir, I can’t think of one at this moment.

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 already passed.

M1- So you are a Human Rights activist and have done street plays on social issues?
Me- (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?
Me- (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 prison.

M1- Ok, another question in the similar direction, What are your views on capital punishment. Should it be banned? Why?
Me- 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
Me- Just smiled

M1- So, you are an environmentalist as well. Why is there so much hype on environmental issues now? Why wasn’t it there before?
Me- 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?
Me- 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, to continue.


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