I was summoned in Forenoon session at 09:00 IST on 8th of May (exactly 4 months after my Engineering Services interview). After entering the UPSC Bhavan, documents verification began and by 09:15 my documents were verified. I had 5 more candidates in my group. After having a light conversation with other candidates, I realised I was youngest on the group and was glad about it. At around 10:00, we were told that Kilemsungla mam will be interviewing us.
I was second person to be interviewed that day. I asked the peon who escorted me if any lady member other than Madam was present so that I could wish in that order. I entered the hall finally after letting my heat beat with a reckless speed.
(I knew this was it. It was my moment. I had been waiting all these years just for this very day. I tried to becalm myself. I kept on saying ‘Carpe Diem’)
Inside the interview hall:
Dr. Mrs Kilemsungla was the chairperson (CP) and was accompanied by 4 other male members (M1, M2, M3 and M4)
I recognized M1. He was Vivek Katju, an Ex-diplomat & frequently comes on TV for matured discussions.
M2 was retired bureaucrat I guess.
M3 was an Ex-Vice Admiral Mr. Chopra (his ID card said so)
M4 was psychologist I reckon as he was sitting quite close to me & constantly gauging my body movements.
After I wish CP & Members, CP asked me to take the seat.
- So Mr. Abhijit Thorat (Mam had peculiar way of pronouncing and I realized I had to be on my toes to get her accent) you work with Coal India Limited in….??
In Singrauli Mam. Amlohri is name of my Project & Singrauli is the District.
- Okay..Coal India imports from where? How much?
Ma’m, it’s not CIL as such which imports but other decentralized players. They import from Australia, Indonesia, and Africa. Around 200 MT is presently imported.
- Why it imports?
India lacks high quality coking coal mines hence coking coal imports are imperative. Thermal coal is also imported due to lack of production technologies with CIL.
- We read about CIL from newspapers but what are Latest happenings from CIL?? Some inside news? *With a broad smile*
Ma’m, E-tendering is mandatory from February 2015 in our subsidiary. Also talks of technology infusion are going on. Denationalization is also on cards.
- Yes, I read about denationalization. How much shares does GoI has now??
- What you do in CIL??
I’m looking after e-tendering
- Why e-tendering & not core construction??
Ma’m its not that I’m aloof from core engineering. But I also look after colony maintenance job.
- Industries must have been affected by e-tendering??
Yes ma’m, IT industries did get a boost and also employment opportunities rose.
- How e-tendering reduces corruption??
One can’t fiddle with documents since the IP addresses are noted and each move is under scanner while in offline tendering, there were instances of favouritism.
- CSOs is mentioned as one of your hobbies. How did your hobby start??
Ma’m actually it started by chance during 1st year of engineering. I had lots of time so I just thought to look out for diverse fields and it clicked.
(M1 comments: All good things start by chance)
- What all you did in CSO?
We had formed a student’s group called Prayaas while in college wherein we taught slum workers kids. Then I was involved in V-guide, did a couple of months with Goonj, Anandwan etc.
- I can see from your DAF (Detailed Application form) that you have shown leadership qualities all along your career. How will it help you?
Ma’m, Can you be a bit more specific as the question seems too open ended.
- How will you use leadership skills as DM, if posted in Naxal affected areas??
Ma’m, I’d use my leadership skills in two ways. Firstly I’d take immense development projects because I feel lack of development has played a vital role in spread of extremism. Secondly I’d use leadership skills to influence people & make them an active part of governance.
- With question remaining same, assume the district in which you are posted as DM, it is short of funds. Now how will you proceed in mainstreaming youth?
I’d use skill development so that youth would gain employment opportunities…..
- (Intervenes) Assume you have no funds…now how will you use your leadership skills?
Ma’m, I’d make youth communities wherein I’d stay in constant touch with them and make them indispensable part of local panchayats. (I was clueless how to answer this. I wasn’t satisfied with my answer & so wasn’t she I guess. I felt it was lowest point of my interview)
- Okay….If you were made DM of Nagpur. What two steps would you take?
Ma’m, having studied in Nagpur for four years, I have observed that public transport is not much prevalent. Buses and shared autos aren’t that frequent. I’d create a better network of public transport in Nagpur via Rapid Transit System.
(CP hand gestures M1 to ask)
M1 (He was Vivek Katju, esteemed IFS officer )
- Our profiles don’t match, Abhijit. I like sociology & you are an engineer. And interestingly you have taken civil engineering as your optional. So, you are a pure technical person & I am not (laughs). So let’s come on terms with each other.
Sure Sir (with a wide grin)
- Do you know how Indian society evolved?
I don’t have exact idea. But sir that’s your interest area. (He laughs & we all join him)
- Tell me one major difference between Indian society and Western society.
Sir our society is family oriented and West is more focussed on Individualism.
- H’mm…Do you have any other interests than engineering? Tell me something which is not mentioned in this form (I guess he knew we prepare our resume well :P)
Yes sir. I like to read and I try my hand at writing sometimes.
- So, what did you read today?
Sir, I read newspapers.
- Which newspapers do you read?
I follow The Hindu mostly and occasionally, I read Business Standard.
- (Laughingly) Occasionally means today you might have read BS too. A big occasion right?
- Which page of newspaper do you like the most and why?
Sir, I like the editorial page as it gives us informed & learned opinion of issues going around us. Also they help in improving articulation of views.
- Before coming inside, which editorial did you read??
Sir I read the one on NGOs.
- I was coming at that. Now quickly tell me the gist of the editorial i.e. Hindu’s stand, Government’s stand & your stand on the same.
Firstly, the newspaper mentioned that NGOs have played a greater role in development of governance via laws like RTI, Street vendors Act etc. So, stern dealing might be unbecoming of a democratic nation like ours.
Nextly, government has sternly dealt with the issue of non-compliance of laws like FCRA. They feel law of the land should be strictly followed.
Lastly, I feel that yes, Law of the land should be followed with utmost sincerity but the way government dealt with Greenpeace activist was wrong.
- Yeah..what was her name..some Pillai.
Yes Sir, Priya Pillai.
- What did Delhi HC say on the issue?
Delhi HC rightly intervened and allowed her to travel as per her wish saying that Article 19 of the constitution mentions Right of free speech and expression which necessarily includes the right to criticise and dissent.
- Okay (to CP) (CP hand gestures to M2)
- You must be aware of recent earthquake in Nepal. Which country do you think is leader in Earthquake resistant buildings?
Japan, I feel is more advanced in such technologies.
- Have you heard of floating houses in Japan?
Sir I’m not aware of the technicalities but I know the idea. These houses are built on latex like material. The material then expands like the balloon and decouples the effect of earthquake.
- Okay, why don’t we have such buildings in India?
Firstly Japan is an advanced nation and can afford just technology but India is grappled with basic issues of housing for instance, the slums conundrum. Secondly, I feel geographic location too has a major role in here. Japan lies in Ring of Fire region & is more prone to earthquakes than India. So they have advanced technologies there.
- You mentioned two reasons. Which one do you think is most appropriate?
Sir I feel the second point is more correct.
- So you should learn to prioritize things.
Sure Sir, I’ll keep that in mind.
- Okay now if I make you DM of Mumbai & ask you to take steps such that individual bungalows too should be earthquake resistant, how would you ensure that?
Sir presently the BMC just uses the design aspect to pass the project of individual homes. I would innovate & make sure that long with design aspect even technical aspects like earthquake resistance are checked & would devolve the same to local Municipal Corporation.
- I was watching discovery yesterday wherein they told me how earthquakes are formed. But I’m inquisitive about Tsunamis. Can you tell me how Tsunamis are formed?
(I brought my hand above the table & explained him with my hands. Each hand represented a tectonic plate.)
- Also do all earthquakes result into Tsunamis?
No sir. Transform boundary movements of plates (explained using hands) result in earthquakes but not in Tsunamis
(CP interrupts: Abhijit, Is this your first chance?? I clarified whether chance meant attempt at Civil Services exam & then replied in affirmative)
- Okay so you are from CIL which is a PSU. These are mainly inefficient. Do you agree??
Sir, I don’t think we can generalize all PSUs as inefficient.
- Okay…How about CIL?? On scale of 1 to 10, how do you rate CIL’s efficiency??
Sir I’d rate CIL 7 to 7.5 in terms of efficiency.
- So you agree that there’s scope for improvement?
- Why is CIL not efficient as in why not 10/10?
Sir, multiple reasons are there. Firstly, people are complacent and since there’s no incentive if one’s efficient. Secondly…
- Let’s continue on this point i.e. Human Resources (HR). Let’s say you become IAS and on deputation, you take charge as Chairman of CIL. Now how will you tackle this problem?
Sir presently there’s no timely evaluation of employees as in once a person is recruited he stays without adequate checks on his efficiency. I’d create a system wherein employee’s technical skills are tested every five years & if he or she’s underperforming, his case would be flagged and he would be given a warning. If inefficiency is repeated again, I’d make sure such persons are removed from the company.
- So you mean to say if found inefficient you would remove him. What about legal hurdles.
Sir presently legal hurdles are present due to subjective criteria. If we have proven objective criteria that the person is inefficient, we can surely remove him & the case would stand the test of time and law.
- Okay…what is constitution??
Sir, The constitution is the basic law of land and all others laws & policies emanate from Constitution.
- Name one country from which we took our constitution?
Sir Constitution wasn’t borrowed from one single nation but it was influenced from many national constitutions.
- What all was borrowed?
Sir the Parliamentary form of government was borrowed from Britain, Independence of Judiciary and Fundamental rights was taken from the USA, Fundamental duties from USSR.
- Many critics say our constitution is rigid. Your views?
Sir I feel constitution is rigid yet flexible. For instance, the name of Orissa was changed to Odisha by simple majority. Then NJAC bill would require special majority….
- (Intervenes) I know all this. You just tell me are the critics right in calling it rigid?
No Sir, I don’t think they are right.
- You mean to say you disagree with the article printed in newspaper?
Sir since I haven’t gone through the article I might not be able to comment on that. But I disagree with the idea that our constitution is completely rigid.
- Earlier you spoke about NJAC. Tell me do you agree with the bill. Don’t explain. Just tell me if you agree.
Yes sir, I’m in favour of NJAC.
- Okay (to CP) (CP hand gestures to M4)
- You are working in Madhya Pradesh, which is north India. But whenever North Indians come to Maharashtra, Marathi people get restive. Your views.
Sir I don’t think we can club entire Marathi community as restive towards North Indians. There are many hidden agendas of very few selected people towards North Indians.
- Your personal opinion?
Since the Constitution specifically mentions Right to move & settle in any part of India is fundamental right of a citizen. I feel such biased opinion must be done away with, in a globalized economy as ours.
- Now I’ll ask you one question. You may disagree with the government. We should want your personal views. So answer what you think is right or wrong.
- There was a recent law that banned beef in Maharashtra. Your views on the same.
I feel the ban is not justified because firstly, we can’t decide the dietary choices of the people. Beef is the cheapest source of protein to minorities & many lower castes in Maharashtra. Secondly, distress on farmer would increase as now old bulls would be liability while earlier they were sold off. Thirdly, economically too, Beef industry gives employment and FOREX reserves to our nation.
- But these people went to court, right?
Yes sir but the Bombay HC upheld the ban on beef. So the law prevails.
- (Laughingly) So Abhijit do you eat beef.
- Everyone is imperfect. There’s no human which can be perfect. Even we have a phrase, ‘To err is human…’. What are your two negative qualities? Feel free to answer.
Sir I have trust issues as I tend to trust people blindly by giving them benefit of doubt. And secondly I’m emotional person.
- (Intervenes) Emotional means short-tempered?
No Sir. Emotional means I tend to bring in emotions like, for instance, by seeing a poor person, I might feel sorry for him and getting emotional at such points might affect my professional working.
CP: Okay your interview is over. Best luck!