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HomeStoriesUPSC Board Interview of IAS Topper Shubhra Saxena

UPSC Board Interview of IAS Topper Shubhra Saxena

Shubhra Saxena is an IAS Officer of 2009 Batch who scored AIR 1, U.P. Cadre and is currently posted as District Magistrate, Shravasti, Uttar Pradesh. Shravasti is one of the most backward districts in UP.

Shubhra Saxena says, “Everyone achieves victory at her own pace. Self growth is one of the paramount responsibilities of every one of us.” And one must be like Shubhra, constantly strive to grow and find there in fresh abilities to serve the world.

Marks Obtained by Shubhra Saxena IAS

 Total Marks  Marks Obtained
Total (Written)  2000  1161
 Interview  300  210
 Total  2300  1371  (59.61%)

Family Background

Born in Uttar Pradesh’s Bareli. Shubhra’s father, Ashok Chandra, an engineer, with the Central Coalfields Limited’s at Dhori Project. Her Mother, Kamna  is a house maker. Eldest among three siblings, Shubhra also guided her brother and sister in their higher studies. Both of them are now engineers. Shubhra’s husband Shashank Gupta works at Noida.

Shubhra said her husband was her “biggest supporter” in the past four years while she was preparing for the Civil Services Exam.

Must Read: Niharika Bhatt – Left a US Govt Job and Became an IPS

Educational Background

Shubhra had most of her education in Jharkhand. She did her schooling from DAV (Ranchi Zone). She gives full credit of her success to her well groomed parenting, schooling and her over all academics as all of these factors contributed in preparing a strong base, besides equipping her with a competitive zeal.

A software engineer graduated from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee, 2002 batch and quit her well-paid IT job after four years as she always had a urge to serve the rural population, who are deprived of of even basic facilities such as education and drinking water.

Optional Paper

Shubhra’s Optional paper were Psychology and Public Administration.


She cracked this prestigious UPSC exam in her 2nd attempt. Shubhra devoted her heart and soul and studied for an average of eight hours a day and 10-12 hours during examinations.

She said, “I always had faith in myself… so I won. Once a person understands the concept it is very easy to crack the exam. And more important is the ability to believe in yourself”.

Don’t Miss: How to prepare for IAS Exam? – by Rachit Raj, UPSC Exam Rank 3

Preparation Tips

Do not ever make notes in your first reading. Should go for making notes may be in 2nd or better in 3rd read. This is a very important process. You have millions of books and they seem intimidating at times. It’s always a good idea to make notes.

Finish your syllabus thoroughly and importantly these notes will work a lot.

Inspirational message

Please don’t let one single failure or one single success define who you are. Successes and failures are an integral part of life. Work towards success, but also have a heart to face the failure.

Experience with UPSC board

She shares her experience with interview board of UPSC. Now the interview starts:

CM: What’s your name?
Me: Sir, My name is Shubhra Saxena

CM:Tell us about yourself
Me: I told them about my education, prof background, my family and so on.

CM:Can you tell us the immunisation schedule of children
(Now let me tell you v frankly that I was shocked and thrown off guard. Maybe he wanted to destabilise me to see if I maintained my cool.)
Me:Sir, I am not aware of the immunisation schedule of children. But I do know some vaccines for children.

CM: Fine, go ahead.
Me: There is DPT, that prevents Diptheria, Pertussis and Tetanus. And there is OPV, Oral polio vaccine.

CM: Can’t you recall any more?
Me:Sorry Sir, I can’t recall any more.

CM:Isn’t there a vaccine for Hepatitis B?
Me:Sir there is, But I think it can be taken as an adult because I had this vaccine when I was in college.

CM: (Smiled) Yes but it is now given to children.
Me:I said, Thank you sir.

CM: Your hobbies include teaching. Can you tell us about that?
Me:Sir, I have liked teaching since childhood. I used to teach my younger siblings and the children of my colony. Now I teach some children of my maid servants.

CM:Tell us, who is a good teacher?
(I didn’t understand the question but I nevertheless tried to answer.)
Me: A good teacher is the one who can conceptually explain topics to students. Someone who can motivate students to do better. Someone who can be a friend, philosopher and guide to students.
( He was apparently not satisfied with my answer.)

CM: No, tell me if you are teaching students in a class, how would you make sure that they followed what you were teaching?
Me: Sir, I would first try to understand the level of cognitive maturity of students. Then I would try to adjust the speed of teaching to suit most of the students because at any level of teaching not all students would be satisfied. I would include practical examples to make them understand the concepts better. The students who have somehow not grasped the things I taught them, I would give them time other than the class to make sure they understood it.
(he apparently was satisfied. So he let it go. He gestured to the 1st lady member on his left)

M1: Your hobby is teaching. So can you tell me about a few education schemes of GOI
Me: I told her about SSA. She inturrepted me.

M1: Can you tell us about SSA?
Me: I told her about a few provisions under SSA as I did not know all.

M1:Can you tell me if there are any provisions for handicapped children under SSA.
Me:Ma’m I am not sure if there are any. But there mustbe.

M1:(Looks at other members) aren’ there? (Others nod)
Tell me about other education schemes?
Me: I told about MSA, MDM, KGBV , scholarship schemes for disadvantaged and backward students.

M1: (Interrupts)..That’s fine. Your extra curricular activity said Debating. I will give you a topic. Can you debate on that.
Me: Yes ma’m.

M1: The topic is “Women should empower themselves”
Me: Ma’m should I debate in favour or against the topic?

M1: Whichever way you want
Me: May I speak both in favour and against the topic?

(I was a little apprehensive if this gamble would pay off. But it did. She didn’t look offended.)

M1: Yes, go ahead.
Me:Argued first against the topic. Then later in favour of the topic.

M1:(looking very happy) Excellent Shubhra. You have argued well in both directions. But you forgot to mention the role of husbands.
Me:(I smiled) yes Ma’m. Thank you.

She now passed the charge to the next lady member..

M2: So Shubhra, you have stayed in many states. Which state have you stayed maximum in?
Me: Ma’m I have stayed for 16 years in Jharkhand and 12 years in UP and 2 years in AP.

M2: So can you please compare Jharkhand and UP?
Me: Yes Ma’m. Jharkhand and UP are topographically very diffrent states. Whereas JH has a hilly and forested terrain, UP is part of the Gangetic plain and very sparsely forested. UP is densely populated whereas JH has a low population density. JH has a sizeable tribal population mainly consisting of tribes like Santhal and Munda whereas UP has a low tribal population. Both the states primarily speak Hindi. In terms of HDI, both perform poorly.

M2: No, tell me what diff did you find on a personal level?
Me: Ma’m both states are culturally complex and offer a variety of ways of life. While I was growing up in Jharkhand I used to stay in isolated forested lands where sometimes wild animals like tiger would come into our colony. This is something I have never come across in UP. The food of these 2 states is more or less the same with a few regional variations. The people in both the states are very tolerant and loving and make one feel at home.
(Everyone smiled at the tiger comment)
She nods then asks.

M2: Tell me what is India’s equation with Nepal?
Me: Ma’m Nepal has traditionally been a good friend of India’s and India has always supported Nepal in many ways. But with the coming of Maoist government in Nepal, the equations are changing as Maoists are more sympathetic towards China. And therefore the hegemony of India in Nepal is weakening.
(She draws her eyebrows together as if frowning at me. I am telling you it was a scary moment)

M2: Do you think we should be using words like hegemony in context of international relations. India is a big country and shouldn’t it allow her neighbour countries autonomy rather than dominating them?
Me: Ma’m, (how to redefine the meaning of hegemony???) , I didn’t mean hegemony in the sense of controlling a smaller country for one’s vested interests. I meant primacy in international relations.
India is a very big country and that is the reason most of her neighbours are insecure about India’s intentions. But India is a very peaceful country and instead of dominating its neighbours she extends whatever support it can to her neighbours.

(again frowning….I am so scared now…)

M2: It is you who are saying that India is a peaceful country.But other countries don’t think so.
Me: Ma’m, I have had the fortune to work abroad in many countries and everywhere I meet people they always say that India is perhaps the most peace loving country in the world.

(She looks satisfied now…I heave a sigh of relief)

M2: Tell me about India’s relations with Myanmar.
Me: Relations between India and Myanmar haven’t been very positive ever since the military junta took over control of that country since India had never supported the junta’s rule in Myanmar. But lately, the contours of relations are changing for the better because India needs Myanmar for access to ASEAN route, for development of NE and to curb insurgency in NE. But even despite many efforts, Myanmar is more inclined towards China, that is using Myanmar territory for its naval base as a part of its String Of Pearls strategy to encircle india in the Indian Ocean. This is a concern in Indo Myanmar relations.

(She looks much happier now….Passes the charge to 3rd member.

M3: So, you have been a student of IIT Roorkee. Can you tell me the history of IIT Roorkee?
Me:Yes Sir. IIT Roorkee initialy known as Thomason College of civil Engg.It was named after Lt Governor of Agra Province whose name was Thomason. It was created in 1847 after a famine in British times led to large revenue losses. The British decided to construct a canal from Haridwar to western UP to irrigate these lands. Therefore a need was felt for Civil engineers. And therefore under Lord Hardinge, this instn was created. After independence it was renamed University of Roorkee. In 2000, after Uttarakhand was separated from UP, it was named IIT Roorkee.

M3: Can you tell me what is this structure in Roorkee where there is a canal over river?
Me: Sir, it’s called aqueduct.

M3: Tell me about Ganga Canal.
Me:I told him about the famine of 1837-38. The canal consists of an upper ganga canal from Har-Ki-Pauri in Haridwar to Aligarh and Lower Ganga Canal from Aligarh to Kanpur. Told them the distance of Canal and which governor general started its construction(now I can’t recall)

M3:What is the river over which the canal is passing?
Me:Sir it’s known as Solani. Similar to the aqueduct structure there are structures like superpassage wherein river flows over canal and a structure called siphon.

(He is looking visibly glad all the research paid off)

M3: So you are an engg in Paper technology?
Me:Yes sir.

M3:Can we make paper out of weeds?
Me: Yes sir, if the weeds have vascular structure that will yield fibres.

M3: That would solve the problem of weeding then.(smiles to himself )
Me: I smile back.

M3:So where was paper first made.
Me:Sir, it was first made in Egypt from a plant called Papyrus, that’s why the name paper.

M3:But people say it’s China.
Me:Yes sir China later followed this practice and made it more sophisticated so that paper came in daily use.

M3: When was this?
Me: Sir it was around 2nd or 3rd century BC.

M3: Tell me something, who invented printing?
Me:(AAAAAAAAARRRGH) Sir I don’t know. But I know that the person who invented the prniting press was Gutenberg.

M3:No, you tell me one thing. Why did it take printing to travel from China to Europe 400 years?
Me:(I am thinking…what?.. what is this question. The CM i slooking impatient as well) Sir,I am not aware of the reason.
(Thankfully the CM interrupts and said it’s ok.)

M3:Tell me your hobby is teaching. Why does ragging take place ? there was a committee created for tackling ragging.
Me:I told him it was Raghavan committe. I told them the psychological and sociological reasons for ragging.

M3: Since your hobby is teaching,Tell me, what was the committe recently created for higher education reforms? (I am wondering why they are all fixated on my hobby only)
Me: Sir I am not very sure. But I think it was Yashpal committee.
(Everyone murmurs..yes yes)

M3: What were it’s rcommendations?
Me: I told him about improving UGC affiliations, Deemed univ and so on.

CM interrupted- Enough. He gestured to the last member to start.
Somewhere I was getting apprehensive why the CM was getting impatient. Did he think I was no good and wanted to end the interview? But I found the answer in the end. You will also see that)

M4: Your extra curricular activities include athletics. What all did you participate in?
Me: I told them the activities I had participated in.

M4: Can you tell me some type of athletic events in which more than 2 types of athletic events are there.
Me: I told them 2.
M4: What are the special features of Indian Democracy?
Me: Parliamentary democracy, quasi federal structure, Independednt judiciary, Written constitution, supremacy of constitution etc etc.( I explained these also)
M4: Can you tell me the independent agencies under Indian Constitution?
Me: Told him SC, HC, EC, CAG, UPSC(along with the articles)
CM interrupted and said ” enough”. He apparently wanted to ask more questions.
CM: So you are from UP. Tell me the districts in Bundelkhand.
Me: (I remembered only 3) Sir, they are Jhansi, Mahoba and Banda. There are 2 3 more But I can’t recall them.
CM: There are 4 more. Can you recall them?
Me: Sorry Sir, I can’t.
CM: Do you know Hamirpur?
Me: Yes sir, its in Bundelkhand ( He then told me 3 more distts)
Me:Thank you sir.
CM: So, UP has been bifurcated . Most of the forest cover has gone to Uttarakhand. How would you go about reforestation in UP?
Me: Since the land-man ratio in UP is very low, we will need to find fallow land that can’t be used for agricultural purposes. Also, we can promote social forestry.
Agricultural land can be bordered with trees. That would not just reduce soil erosion but also improve the water table. In addition, the local populace can benefit from Minor forest produce and timber.
CM: No Shubhra. These are conventional measures. I am looking for an innovative solution. An out-of -the-box solution. If you give me an innovative solution, you will make my day.
(To be honest, I had not felt this much pressure in the entire interview. My entire performance would be gauged by this last answer. I tried to think of a novel and innovative solution. But nothing worthwhile came to my mind. I took about 2 min to think but they seemd like hours as the board was waiting for my answer)
Me: Sir, i think we can make planting and maintaining trees an incentive scheme from the govt side. For eg, if one planted and maintained a tree, they can get subsidies on land, property, govt. schemes. There could be monetary incentives for people who took ownership for planting and maintaining trees.

(I was nervous if this solution clicked. To me, it was a very mediocre solution. In fact on my way back home, I thought of much more innovative solutions for this problem. But under that pressure, that was the best I could do. )

He smiled and said. “Thank you. Your interview is over.”
I thanked them, got up and left.

The interview lasted 35 mins.
I got 210 out of 300.

See : IAS Topper’s Strategy – Bhavya Mittal, IAS, AIR 34 – How to Prepare?