Reminiscences from my Civil Services Interview

I call them reminiscences as they transpired 6 years back and two years into my quest for a chance to serve in the civil service of India. I push this post with the hope that it could be of some benefit to civil services aspirants.

A brief summary of my journey is warranted before i share the interview transcript.

  • Candidature filed – 7 times
  • Appeared for CS(Prelims) – 6 times
  • Qualified CS(Prelims) and appeared for CS(Main) Exams – 5 times
  • Qualified for CS(Interview) – Once
  • Qualified in CS(Examinations) – Never

After this long and arduous samudra-manthan , emerged the only chance to be able to cross the gates of UPSC at Dholpur House, New Delhi for a chance to cross the final hurdle.

Unfortunately , I couldn’t make it to the final merit list despite being awarded 195 marks by the interview Board – an interview score many UPSC rank holders couldn’t cross that year. My biggest career disappointment has been my inability to secure a rank in civil services despite coming so close to the finish line. Please make sure that the opportunities you get are translated into concrete outcomes. I hope that this narration proves useful in your endeavors.

  • Year : 2014
  • Board : Mr. Amar Pratap Singh ( Ex Director, CBI) 
  • Personal Background: B.Tech(Computer Science)
  • Duration : ~ 25-30 minutes
  • Marks awarded: 195
  • Panel’s numerical strength : 6 ( including the Chairman)

The interview started with the Chairman reading out of my Detailed Application Form[DAF] my name, qualification and current employment status. Thereafter, he straight away asked whether I wanted to join Civil Services ? I answered in affirmative without giving any further explanations.

Member 1(M1) took over. He asked about the need for Nuclear energy and whether’s that’s the future ? I explained by citing the context of the global warming driven by rising Carbon emissions and how for our country Nuclear energy offers a choice of raising per capital electricity commissions while making sure that India adhers to its committment at international forums for reducing the energy intensity of it’s economy.

M1 followed up by asking if such is the benign nature of Nuclear energy why are numerous countries opposing it’s adoption ? I answered saying that the recent Fukushima Nuclear incident in Japan brought back the memories of 3 Miles and Chernobyl Nuclear accidents and thus the furore over adoption of Nuclear energy as a source of power. M1 persisted saying that the general population is at unease with Nuclear energy. I replied saying that outreach programs, such as one run by Department of Atomic Energy of India, is essential in dispelling doubts about the benefits that Nuclear energy can offer.

M1 further asked about whether I have heard of NPT ? I answerd in affirmative and went about listing the three founding pillars of NPT i.e. Non-proliferation, Disarmament and peaceful use of nuclear energy. I remember having fumbled at this stage of recalling the 2nd/3rd pillars and forgot the elaborate what these pillars meant. M1 further quizzed me on the India-US 123 Agreement and whether India would benefit from the agreement ? I answered saying that I haven’t gone through the text of the Agreement signed but from what I gather from media reports is that apart from ensuring assured Uranium supplies for Nuclear reactors,  India has also got the right to process the spent nuclear fuel which would be beneficial for India’s 3 stage Nuclear Power Program.  M1 just refused to give up and asked me about the role of IAEA ? I said that the organiazation ensures the non-proliferation committments of nations joining NPT regime by checking that Uranium supplied are not diverted for non-civilian applications.  M1 also quizzed about how nuclear reactors in India have been made safe post-Chernobyl in Indian. Also, he put up a question on some conflict resolution which I cannot remember.

Member 2[M2] takes over. She asks me about NSS and it’s role ? [ I had listed NSS as one of the organization I was part of during college days]. Further, she asked me about the reasons for drug addiction in Punjab and if was made the District Collector in a district where drug mennace was high, what would i do prevent/abate it ? I answered citing the border proximity with Pakistan as one of the principal reasons for drug meance in Punjab. I also said that I would liason with the security agencies to cut off the supply of drugs. I also suggested working with Civil society organizations for effective outreach program among the target group. M2 further asked why youth is accepting drugs ?  I pointed out the influence of popular cinema and glorifications of drug use as one of the reasons. Also, I said that an element of peer pressure among youth is also responsible for its popularity.

M2 further enquired on my hobby of playing chess. She asked whether I play Chess and what qualities have you learnt by playing Chess ? I answered saying that our ancestors have taught us the wisdom of not dwelling over past or future. Chess, above all, teaches us to live in the present moment. She asked any additional thing which you have learnt ? I said it has taught to be more patient.

M2 asked about the Aakash Tablet and its utility ? I answered saying that we have a program on NMEICT i.e. National mission on education through Information and communication technology. One part of this program is about content generation but how do we access the e-content generated. This is where the device comes in. To access the e-learning solutions. At this point, I started offering the standard description of Aakash being a tablet etc. M2 stopped me.

Member 3[M3] takes over. I had listed Cyber Security as one of my interests in DAF. He asks for my views on ethical hacking . I answered that penetration testing in information system bring to light vulnerabilities of the system and lead to the evolution of better system with time. I told that there is nothing wrong with ethical hacking as long as there is an agreement between the ethical hacker and the organization whose systems are being audited. M3 questions me about the Blackberry dispute and it’s current status. I answered stating that the encrypted communication on Blackberry devices was a problem for our intelligence agencies as they couldn’t crack the advanced encryption algorithm used on the device. The MEITY was working with the company to arrive at a acceptable solution which balances the need of RIM’s commercial interests and country’s safety and security.

M3 futher quizzed me on Wikleaks episode and what we have learnt from it ? I told the panel that the leaks have established that our so called friends are spying on us. It’s good for India, I replied. M3 further asked what were to happen if I were to leak my current organization’s secret ? I replied, if that were to happen, I must be prosecuted under the Information Techology Act. M3 asked why is not law catching up with Jullian Assange ? I replied saying that I believed that’s because there are powerful interest protecting him.

Member 4[M4] takes over. He asks about the God’s particle. I replied stating about the Higgs Boson. He enquires whether Higgs Boson is really there ? I replied stating experiments at LHC has confirmed the existence of Higgs Boson with large confidence levels. He further asks why there were concerns in India about LHC experiments ? I replied stating that a media frenzy was created on the assumption that LHC experiments would lead to creation of Black Holes which will lead to annhillation of the entire world. and thus the concerns.He asks what was the Indian connection to Higgs-Boson. I replied saying that the term Boson is dervied from Bose-Einstein Condesate named partly after the J.C Bose. This was incorrect partly BEC is named after Indian Physicist  S.N Bose.

Member 5[M5] takes over.  He enquires about the Super bug phenonmenon witnessed in some of the hospitals of our country. I told the panel that wide use of anti-biotics have made some bacteria difficult to deal with as they have become drug-resistant. Also, I told them given that our country was a centre of Medical Tourism; it was important to rememdy the situtation. M5 further asks what are the reasons for the drug-resistance ? I pointed out to the factors of over the counter sale of drugs by medical store, use of broad spectrum anti-biotics and the trend of patient leaving their medication mid way the moment they start feeling better. M5 asks who then is to blame for it ? I answered all stakeholders like the patients, Doctors and pharmacy stores will have to share the blame.

Member 4 steps in again. He asks that you might be aware of the latest developments in Nuclear Fusion ITER Project. I nodded. He asks what are some of the challenges in the ITER Project ? I told the panel about the issues of plasma confinement in the project. I also told the panel that I knew of no other technical challenges. M4 asks what is it that we would gain from ITER Project. I said if this experiment were to be successful, the entire world’s energy problem could be solved. After all, the principal source of energy, the Sun, gathers its energy from nuclear fusion.

Finally, the baton passed over to the Chairman. He launched a volley of factual questions. Some which I remember – Total installed Nuclear power in out country, what percent does the Nuclear Power contribute in India’s energy mix, the current thorium reserves of the country, plans of augmenting Nuclear power in our country. I told the panel the the thorium reserves are principally located in Kerala’s Monazite sands but I don’t remember the size of total reserves. The installed nuclear plant in our country contributed 4780 MW to the grid. With the recent commissioning of Kudankulam-1, the installed nuclear power base has increase to 5780 MWs – contributing nearly 3 % of India’s energy generation mix. The plan is to augment the capacity to 20000 MWs by the year 2020.

Chairman told that my interview was over. I thanked the members, starting with the lady member of the panel first and everyone else later, gathered myself and left the room.

If you have benefited from the post or if you have a Civil service interview lined up and need personalized guidance , you can contact me by sending a mail at er.abhinavkr[at] .


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