Here is an excerpt of the interview Sanjay Kumar (IAS, 2008 Batch, All India 6th rank) had with the board.
The interview panel comprised of five members, viz., chairman and four members (2 ladies and 2 gentlemen).
This is how the interview went:
Myself: May I come in Sir?
Chairman: Yes, come in Sanjay
Myself: Good Morning, Sir
Chairman: Good Morning, Sanjay
(I waited for a call to sit.)
Chairman: Sit down Sanjay.
Myself: Thank you, Sir.
Chairmen: So, Sanjay, you are from Bagpat. (After scanning my bio-data)
Myself: Yes, Sir.
Chairman: So, tell me something special about Bagpat.
Myself: Sir, it is the newly carved out district from Meerut. Sir, leave alone district, I will tell you particularly something special about my village. There is shooting coach Jaffer, who has trained various local youths in his own house and they have won various international medals.
(As I was not in hold of details about my district, I took them to my village. It is a fact that our village is famous for this, but it will be good to admit that I misquoted the name Jaffer instead of Farrukh.)
Chairman: From your village itself!
Myself: Yes sir.
Chairman: What is this….. your hobby, Rope skipping?
Myself: Sir, it is an international game, it may seem to be an easy or a girl’s sport (nodding in affirmation) but it is a fascinating game when one skips at the rate of 200-plus per minute. It involves double under, triple under, cross, double cross etc., and this year, I am even planning to participate at National Level.
Chairman: So, you are in Air Force, then be there, why do you want to join civil service?
Myself: Sir, I am there only, I am still working in Air Force (to emphasise that I have not run away), but if I have the ability and opportunity to go up in the career, then I would surely like to take it. As far as civil service is concerned, I wanted to go up in the career and for higher social status, in general. As far as particularly IAS is concerned, it is the highest peak an individual from ground can directly reach, and an aura and prestige is attached with it.
Member (Left): Do you know Vishnu Bhagwat?
Myself: Yes, sir; he was the former naval chief, and removed at the time of NDA government by Prime Minister Vajpayee.
Member (Left): Then, what happened to him was that right?
Myself: Sir, he was naval chief and as I belong to defense forces, I know that at the level of chief, so many important decisions are taken. So we in general or media will never come to know what the real reason behind his removal was. And decision was taken at the level of Prime Minister on the advice of Defense Minister, so I believe that they would have taken the decision certainly in national interest.
Member (Left): You leave alone Defense Chiefs, even Foreign Secretaries are removed [as such].
Myself: Yes, sir. I can remember that at the time of Rajiv Gandhi, a Foreign Secretary was removed when in a press briefing PM said that you would see a new Foreign Secretary from tomorrow. But still I believe that he was the Prime Minister of India and he can certainly take that kind of decision. We can do little about it.
(It was the issue I read in a book of Foreign Policy of India, ex-course material)
Member (Left): What do you think, civil service offer you?
Myself: It is All India service and constitutional post under article 312, offering status, job security.
(Chairmen interrupted in between, that proved beneficial to me, as I think, I was not following correct line in answering this question. I failed to get hold of this question; I could figure it out from the facial expression of questioner).
Chairman: You are talking about job security, where is it? Mayawati is going in any district and suspending DM and SP as she likes.
Myself: Sir, she is suspending them not removing from service, and if they are right then they should go to the court and get the suspension order revoked.
Chairman: But it is very lengthy process to go to courts, and it takes much time. Don’t you feel sometime to do something, or to fight it out or rebel against it?
Myself: No, sir, she has not become Chief Minister in one day (means by chance), people elected her and she has the authority to do so, and we can do nothing, sir nothing.
Chairman: Tell me whom do you consider a better leader Mahatma Gandhi or Subhash Chander Bose?
Myself: Sir, in my opinion, Mahatma Gandhi was the better leader.
Myself: Sir, I believe in his theory that means are as important as ends. Ours means were as pure as ours aims were. If we would have won the independence through violence, we had not had the 60 years of stable and peaceful existence, as after independence, where would those arms go? Nowhere, they remain there and spread instability (nodded affirmatively and acknowledged by saying yes, yes, and by other members too). You can take the example of various Asian and African countries even after independence there is hardly any stability. Also I do not believe his (Subhash Chandra Bose) theory of opting in between Fascism and Communism (they accepted but they did not understand that I meant that technically, from political thought, so I repeated it and left thereafter. I had made the point.
Chairman: But he (SC Bose) was given Bharat Ratan (in humorous tone).
Myself: Sir, leave that aside as that is a different political issue (wittily in refraining voice).
Lady (Right): Recently your defense Chiefs were in Delhi and making a big issue of pay commission. What is the basis of their arguments to support their demands?
Myself: Madam, I will tell their perspective as I have a different opinion about pay commission.
Lady (Right): Ok, yes, yes I have not asked for their personal opnion, I know they are there to support men’s demands.
(Actually, she misunderstood my sentence, but I carried on.)
Myself: Madam, their arguments are simple. You are from civil so you may be aware about eight hours working schedule but we are in defense and we work at an average 16 to 18 hours a day, and we can never say no (in resounding voice). And they certainly believe that if we miss this opportunity, more and more officers will opt out from service and we will be deprived of good human resources.
Lady (Right): I read in a magazine that condition in the Sainik School is pathetic; they are the places where people are motivated to join armed forces and if such condition persist who are going to join! I have also heard people are not coming to join NDA, tell me why are people not coming to join the NDA? (Meant, to become officer)
Myself: Madam, issue is not that people are not coming up, but people with desired quality are not coming up; earlier there used to be no opportunity outside, but now there are plenty of opportunities lying outside, so they first prefer to work in civil than to join armed forces.
Member (Right): So, you said people will leave the defense forces and can join civil side, but I have read that civil airlines do not take Air Force pilots. There is a logic behind it, and now tell me, what is that?
Myself: Sir, you may please check it out; I have directly interacted with fighter pilots and they are certainly being taken in civil airlines.
Member (Right): (In complaining voice to Chairman) sir, he may not be aware of it, civil airlines do not take them, as their philosophy [of flying] is different as they drive in very risky way (demonstrating by banking palm both sides, meant dangerously).
Chairman: Ok, yes-yes, he (me) may not be aware of it.
Myself: No, sir (continued emphatically thereafter with resolute voice to make my point clear) I am absolutely sure that they fly in hundred per cent safer manner than civil pilots. You go through civil aircraft and you will find that after reaching runway end it immediately takes-off. You go through defense aircraft and you will find that after reaching the runway end, it will wait for ten to fifteen minutes before take-off because they follow hundred per cent laid down SOP, Standard Operating Procedure [words repeated with me by lady (left)]. They fly, absolutely, in safer manner compared to anybody.
Chairman: Now tell me that after independence we followed socialism and now we are moving towards liberalisation etc (means capitalism). So do you think that earlier we were wrong?
Myself: Sir, we can not judge the past through today’s perspective. When we gained independence around 1950 the reputation of capitalist system, world over, was not good, you can take the example of various Asian and African countries. And we had the successful example of Russia, which after 1917 revolution grown in very fine manner. As we were not ideologically inclined towards anything, we decided to follow the path of socialism. But when in 1991 we found that this system is not serving us well we opted for capitalism, and as we are not ideologically inclined with it, so even if in the future we find that ‘this system is not serving us well’, we will again revert back to the same.
Member (Right): Sir, (to chairman) I would like to ask another question from him (Chairman acceded the request by a gesture), So you (me) have supported Mahatma Gandhi, as a better leader; Jawahar Lal Nehru was also a great leader, and though Mahatma Gandhi wanted to disband the Congress Party, he (Nehru) did not do so. So, do you consider he was wrong?
Myself: Sir, first I am not ideologically inclined towards Mahatma Gandhi, that I will support his every decision. But as far as this issue is concerned, at the time of Independence we had decided to follow parliamentary system of governance, and rightly so because I am liberal I support it, and for the successful functioning of this system, existence of a political party is essential. At the time of independence, Nehru found that this role could be played by Congress only, as it was the only well established party; so he continued with it. But as far as Mahatma Gandhi was concerned he never said that Congress should be disbanded; he said that it should be disbanded as political party but it should remain as social organisation to exert moral pressure.
Lady (Left): Inflation rate is high and government has taken various measures to contain it. Do you support the decisions taken by government? If you would have been the administrator, then what have you done in this situation? What are the causes of inflation?
(I think she was psychologist as her both questions were very long and contained various parts, so I answered accordingly. And rest of the time she kept quite and examined me)
Myself: Madam, inflation, as far as in WPI term is concerned, it is primarily due to the rise in the prises of primary goods. In primary goods as far as agriculture sector is concerned, I think that it is due to supply side constraints. So I think there is no short-term solution, only long term capital-intensive farming will solve it. Among primary articles as far as mineral sector is concerned, especially steel sector I believe that it will come down after August; as after the Olympics is in August the demand for steel will come down as China will be having huge surplus capacities. So government forcing steel companies to lower the prises is not good, as it may even leads to pre-1997 position, when SAIL was in red. I think that rise of prises in manufacturing sector is also causing inflation.
(However, in reality even with its moderate inflation it leads to large increase in WPI, as having more than sixty per cent weightage in WPI. So I did not continue with it. The unconventional view was well explained in the previous day The Hindu’s article on ‘myths on inflation’)
Lady (Left): You have joined the Air Force in 1998 at the very young age of 17 years, so what do you think, in the last ten years has changed? Or what did you learn in these last ten years in Air Force?
Myself: Madam when I moved out of Delhi, ten years ago, I had all kinds of superiority complex of a North Indian (Chairman asked to clarify but other members did that, I continued.). But when I met with the people from different cultures. Bangal’s culture (musics etc), Gujrat’s peacefulness, value to education given by South Indians….. (it is hard to find respect in Delhi, on the basis of your education). In Air Force when I joined as youngster, I had initially that rebellious attitude but later on, I become used to it and liked it. As now, I am a senior most unmarried living-in member there (in billet), so now everybody wishes me and respects me. So now, it all looks very good system to me.
Lady (Right): Did in Air Force you face any problem while preparing? Because it is very difficult to prepare while on job. Does Air Force play supportive role for studies or …?
Myself: No, madam it was easy, they support it.
Member (Right): Now tell me that Singapore is very small country, it do not have land, people, oil, mineral etc. but still it has developed to such extent, So do you support that Singapore’s model should be applied to India? Say only yes or no.
Myself: No, sir (emphatically, with a pause).
Member (Right): Then explain why (with frowned face).
Myself: Sir, Singapore is small city-state and is having economy of around 60 billion dollars. It can grow by providing transit route or becoming trade hub (or tax haven). Further, sir in their development history they have sacrificed the democratic rights, which I do not support. And India is very large country with large uneducated mass and mass poverty, so we can not grow by adopting their model. Further, sir if we would not have adopted that system, (socialism, as his reference was pointing towards my earlier defence of socialism) I had not got the state’s subsidized education and today I had not been able to sit in front of you.
Chairman: So what are your preferences of services?
Myself: First IAS and then IPS and then IFS
Lady (Right): So, what were your subjects in graduation?
Myself: History, English, Hindi and Mathematics.
Chairman: So, Sanjay now you pick up a card from the bunch lying on the table.
(I picked one lying on the top.) Oh! You have picked up the first one, nice. Now read the massage written on the reverse side of it, loudly, and comment upon it.
Myself: If you can not prevent the injustice, is a different matter, but you certainly have the right to protest (this was the massage written over it, after reading I started commenting). Sir, let us imagine that immediately after moving out of this UPSC hall; I found that someone is beating a child in front of UPSC. Then I may not be able to prevent it, but I have the right to protest (suddenly I slipped and I said let it be Policeman). So if a policeman beating someone I may not be able do anything.
Chairmen: So, you want to say that you will not do anything in such situation. In Bihar, we are watching that Police is dragging criminals with jeep, by tying their hands. So if you are from public then what will you do? Tell me, what will you do in such circumstances?
Myself: Sir, I think by being a part of public, I will not be able to do anything.
Lady (Left): So, you want to say that you will not do anything in such situations.
Myself: Madam, I can do little about it. If I will try to stop Police, they may even slap me.
Chairman: Oh! He (me) has already said, na, that he will not do anything even if Mayawati going to do anything.
Lady (Left): It means you will not do anything in case of Godhra and 84’s riots if politician desire.
Myself: No, madam, that is a different case if I will be in authority I will do the most, and as far as 84’s riots are concerned, we even kept a Sikh’s family in our house.
Lady (Left): Thank you for that (but she was perturbed by my answer).
Myself: Sir, you may belong to upper strata, but sir, I belong to ground, and I have seen various times injustice was being done on the road; my heart pained for that I wanted to do something, but I found myself unable to prevent it. I always thought, ‘Sanjay you can not prevent injustice by being a part of public’, so to do that I need to become authority, and that’s why today I am sitting in front of you.
Chairman: So, say that you will protest but your form of protest will be different.
Myself: Yes, sir.
Chairman: So, Sanjay, now you tell us, what is your opinion about this Board?
Myself: Sir, When we were sitting outside I thought you will grill me and will ask very difficult questions, but I found this board very cordial and cooperative, further you gave sufficient value to my opinions and asked only opinion based questions.
Chairman: Tell me, (eagerly) what were you talking about us when sitting outside?
Myself: Sir, we were not talking about you; we were trying to think something else.
Chairman: Sanjay, now you can ask any question from us if you want.
Myself: No, sir. No specific question.
Chairman: No, no you can ask anything it is not related to your selection.
Myself: No, sir. No question or just I would like to give a suggestion that if you announce the final result of this exam at least one month before prelims, and start conducting interview one month prior, then we can take decision about next year, if we do not make it this year.
Chairman: We are also trying to expedite it. We want to announce it as early as possible. Ok, Sanjay, now you can go (by rising from his seat and offering hand to me. I was not expecting such a short interview, I thought I had more to reveal. However, once he offered hand I was left with little option). Thank you, Sanjay.
Myself: Thank you, sir (After rising from chair and shaking hand, offered a departing wish to all), good day, sir.
I moved out of room, facing towards board. I was relieved and content. I met other remaining candidates, just to say it was an easy and cordial board. Thereafter, I moved out of UPSC precinct.