UPSC Board Interview Experience of Mr. Mittal, IAS

After writing my mains paper, I was quite confident about my Mains result and expected that I would qualify for the Personality Test. So soon after Mains result, I came to Delhi along with my four friends who were also candidates for the interview. We made a group and joined a coaching institute for interview guidance.

We made a group and joined a coaching institute for interview guidance. We also joined some mock interview sessions in another institute.

On the day of Personality Test, I wore a white cotton shirt, blue trousers & matching tie and black shoes. While waiting for my turn in UPSC waiting hall, I glanced through three newspapers lying on the table and then spent the remaining time with my friend who was scheduled to face interview just before me.

The Chairman asked me to sit after I entered the interview room. I was feeling uneasy and praying to God that nothing unwanted should happen.

The first question: Why did you opt for Geography & Philosophy in spite of your being an MBBS doctor?

The last question: Tell us about DWACRA, a plan for rural development, launched earlier by the Central Government?

Well, in between these two, there was a volley of questions and cross questions. The counter questions were asked very abruptly.

However, after the completion of Interview, I felt that it had not been bad, after all. I thought the Interview Board liked me and they wanted me to join the Civil Services.

Mr. Joginder Singh, former CBI Director, was a member of my Interview Board. He asked me about the corruption and inadequacy in Health sector in India. He asked me whether we should remove the hospitals from those remote areas where doctors did not stay. He asked me the same question three times in five minutes. I politely disagreed with him. This was a test of my mental stability.

Chairman: Good morning, Mr Mittal. Please take your seat and be comfortable. Don’t hesitate to ask if you need anything in particular. You can help yourself with the glass of water kept on the side table if you so wish. Since we are going to have just some friendly chat, you won’t be needing any writing material. You could see a world map on the wall over to your right and if during our discussions you want to point out anything on this map, you are most welcome to do so.

Mittal: Thank you, Sir. (He occupies the chair indicated and proceeds to address the Chairman further with a smile.) I am ready and at your disposal, Sir.

Chairman: I see, Mr. Mittal, that you belong to Uttar Pradesh and hail from Lucknow. You can perhaps throw some light as to why the communal conflicts continue to plague your State?

Mittal: You are quite right, Sir, and I agree with you that the incidence of recurring communal clashes is one of the major problems of Uttar Pradesh. Of course, communal trouble occurs every now and then in other parts of the country also. In my view, there are some important causes for the problem. One is historical. When Muslim conquest of India took place after 1000 AD, there were wars between the invading Muslim leaders and the resident Hindu rulers.

We also had such holy wars between the Christians and the Muslims. The British, who came to India later and founded their empire here, deliberately adopted the “divide and rule” policy, which encouraged the Hindus and the Muslims to continue on a collision course. The result was the creation of Pakistan, formed on the myth that religion is the foundation for nationhood. Although the appearance of Bangladesh has proved the concept of Islamic nationhood wrong, it has not yet percolated to the grass roots and to the masses as they continue to remain ignorant, illiterate and poverty-stricken. They fall easy prey to propaganda. Since its creation, Pakistan has been adopting a hostile attitude towards India and we have had three major wars. Hence Pakistan, with a view to creating problems for our country, persists with its inflammatory propaganda, instigating the anti-social elements to create trouble from time to time. In India, with the advent of parliamentary’ democracy, winning the elections has assumed special importance and the unscrupulous and short-sighted political leaders fan religious hatred and ill feelings to catch votes. The problem is acute in Uttar Pradesh because it has a sizeable Muslim population. Besides, Uttar Pradesh is economically backwards and seething in poverty. It has one of the highest rates of illiteracy. The passions of poor as well as illiterate people can be easily aroused and exploited.

1st Member: Would you call the communal problem as a class conflict since you attribute poverty as one of its causes?

Mittal: No, Sir. I beg to differ there. A class conflict is essentially between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. In all communal flare-ups, the clash is essentially between the ‘have-not’ of the two communities. On the other hand, the rich and affluent in both communities get along quite well. Thus the communal fights cannot be regarded as class wars. It is only in the caste conflicts between the Dalits and caste Hindus that we find the presence of class war elements. By and large, the Dalits are landless poor labourers and the caste Hindus fairly well-off landowners.

Comments: A well read, intelligent, and informed candidate who displays a wealth of knowledge, extensive ideas, and originality. He expounds his views with earnestness, understanding and conviction. He bases his arguments on facts, historical analysis and proven evidence than on mere assumptions, dogmas and theories. He is very practical and result-oriented. He reveals the drive and urge to seek new openings and accepts additional responsibilities. He is ready to venture out and take risks. Thus he speaks at length covering many new grounds. He is quite receptive to new ideas but has the courage to put across his independent views for what they are worth. His arguments are well supported by logical reasoning and rational thinking.

2nd Member: What do you think would be the impact of increasing emergence of regionalism in India, as can be seen from the triumph of regional parties in the elections to the State Assemblies in several States.

Mittal: Growing regionalism is bound to undermine national unity, the process of integration and security. If regionalism is not exclusive and linked to linguistic chauvinism but related to culture, geographical features or even to religion, it may not pose a serious threat to national unity. The bane of Indian regionalism is that it is rooted into linguistic narrow-mindedness and intolerance and founded on the existence of linguistic States. The trend set in the Assembly elections continues in the Parliamentary elections also, and we have not had very viable and stable Governments at the Centre for quite some time. Our Constitution does not provide for President’s rule at the Centre as it does for States. The earlier experiments have also clearly showed that a coalition or consensus Government at the Centre would be extremely weak and ineffective. The present UPA Government is doing a tight-rope walking all the time to ensure its survival. The State Governments controlled by regional parties would be pulling in diverse directions and the Centre would not be able to enforce its writ. The logical culmination of this process is the break-up of India as a nation and a single country. We are now witnessing increasing violence all around. Every issue is turned into a political issue and backed by violent agitations. Insurgency and seeking external support are on the increase. The need to seek Army’s help to aid the civil power for the maintenance of law and order is on the increase. Finally, due to such compulsions, the military may be forced to step in to prevent the break-up of the country. We shall then be witnessing what has already been happening in many of our neighbouring countries.

2nd Member: As we all know, 1942 is remembered as the year in which Mahatma Gandhi had given the historic “Quit India” call. Do you remember this year for any other major event in Indian history?

Mittal: Yes Sir, just after Mahatma Gandhi’s “Quit India” call, the Bengal Famine had occurred, which resulted in the death of an estimated 1.5 to 3 million children, women and men. Agricultural stagnation and famines were regarded among the major adverse consequences of colonial rule. Actually, famines were frequent in colonial India and some estimates indicate that 30 to 40 million people died out of starvation in Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Bengal during the latter half of the 19th century. They led to the formulation of elaborate Famine Codes by the then colonial government. These Codes indicated the relief measures to be taken when crops failed. During the Bengal Famine, however, heavy toll of human lives was a result of many factors such as the Japanese occupation of Burma (Myanmar), the damage to the Kharif crop both due to tidal waves and an epidemic caused by the fungus, panic purchase and hoarding by the rich and affluent, failure of governance, particularly with regard to the equitable distribution of the available food grains, disruption of communication on account of World War II and, on top of everything, the indifference of the then UK government to the plight of the starving people of the undivided Bengal.

3rd Member: What is your perception of the National Food Security Bill? What stages did India cross in order to change its agricultural destiny?

Mittal: It is really a great milestone in Indian history because it has come on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the mega-tragedy like the Bengal Famine. I would refer to the three phases through which India has passed to announce the Bill which is the world’s largest social protection measure against hunger. According to the great agricultural scientist, “the father of Green Revolution”, Mr M.S. Swaminathan, the first phase was the Nehru era which marked the development of the scientific infrastructure essential for improving farm productivity. This infrastructure comprised major and minor irrigation projects, fertilizer factories, agricultural universities, farm extension services and marketing facilities. The second phase comprised the strong policy support extended by Mr C. Subramaniam, encouraged by Prime Ministers like Lai Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi, which led to the Wheat Revolution. The procurement of food grains from farmers at a minimum support price fixed on the basis of the advice of the Agricultural Prices Commission came into effect. Mr Swaminathan thinks that the third phase comprised the synergy brought about among scientific know-how, political do-how and farmers’ toil, often referred to as the “green-revolution symphony.”

4th Member: How do you account for the phenomenal rise in inflation?

Mittal: Sir, inflation signifies a situation in which the commodity market is unable to fulfil the consumers’ demands due to a decline in the supply of various goods and products, which they need. In other words, it signifies a situation in which the balance between demand and supply is skewed in favour of the former, thereby making too much money chase too few goods. Due to dwindling supply of essential commodities, consumers pay more to purchase them than they do in normal, inflation-free situation. It leads to a hike in the prices of those commodities and goods. Data released by the Commerce and Industry’ Ministry in January- 2013 showed that retail inflation based on the all-India Consumer Price Index (CPI) was in double digits in 2012. The annual inflation rate based on all-India general CPI (combined) for December 2012 stood at 10.56 percent as compared to 9.90 percent for the previous month. The inflation rates for rural and urban areas for December 2012 were 10.74 percent and 10.42 percent, respectively. This was largely driven by stubborn food prices. However, after touching a three-year low in January 2013, inflation inched up marginally to 6.84 percent in February-2013 on the back of costlier food items and petrol. In February 2013, it was 7.56 percent. Inflation based on the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) had declined to a three-year low of 6.62 percent in January? 2013. Food and primary 7 articles have shown higher annual price rise of 11.38 percent and 9.70 percent, respectively, led by expensive onion (154.33 percent) and potato (45.99 percent). Besides, wheat, vegetables, rice and cereals became dearer, as per the reports published in mid-March 2013.

4th Member: Do you think that inflation may have dangerous fall outs for our economy in future?

Mittal: Sir, what is worrisome is the fact that such internal loopholes of our economy may- keep aw^ay investors, thereby adversely affecting our global image as a fast-growing economy. So, the policy-makers and economic planners should make a more realistic assessment of the situation that has arisen in the wake of the rising inflationary’ trends. It is a fact that inflation cannot be done away with completely. In other words, inflation is inevitable to some extent. However, we must hold on to the assumption that the impact of inflation is essentially counter-productive for any economy, developing or developed. And a steady rise in inflation cannot, by any standard of judgement, be considered to be advantageous. We should feel even more concerned because we are a developing nation and have lesser means to contain inflation if it soars beyond a reasonable limit. Finance Minister Mr P. Chidambaram has already announced quite a few tangible measures with renewed emphasis on fiscal, monetary and supply sides. The purpose is to maintain the stability of price line, particularly for essential consumer goods and commodities.

Comments: This candidate has kept himself abreast of the current events which vitally affect national interests. Besides, he has got in-depth knowledge of Indian history. His grasp of the questions and the issues involved is very quick and sharp. His mastery over the subject and topics is also remarkable and highly commendable. He has covered all aspects such as constitutional, political, social and others in great depth and finesse. He has argued his case coherently and convincingly without exaggeration or overstatement. In other wiords, he has remained objective, impartial and balanced throughout. He has no emotional bias or other narrow considerations.

5th Member: Do you subscribe to the view that US President Mr. Barack Obama’s second term would pose fresh difficulties in Indo-US relations?

Mittal: Yes Sir, I also subscribe to the view. There is striking unanimity among analysts and commentators on this point. They think so because the end game in Afghanistan is almost certain to be a major problem between the most powerful and the largest democracies, i.e. the US and India, respectively. Because of its decision to exit the rugged country w here the US has fought its longest and unfinished war, the Americans find it necessary to pander to Pakistan. This has already downgraded, in America’s scheme of things, India’s role in the security of Afghanistan which is traditionally a friendly country with regard to India. Besides, Pakistan, along with Britain, is promoting a settlement between the Taliban and the Karzai government. This settlement is going to prove a bad news for the region and is bound to add to the strains between India and the US. Moreover, China will be another source of discomfort. Not long ago, Mr Obama had declared the shift of his country’s pivot from India’s west to East Asia and promised to rebalance American military presence in the area. The global response to this statement was at once clear and it hinted that Mr Obama had said so because he wanted a measure to contain China’s influence and increasing assertiveness. But during Congressional hearings for his confirmation and afterwards, US Secretary of State Mr John Kerry has softened America’s approach to China. Some analysts have called it rebalancing of the earlier rebalancing” Mr Obama had proclaimed. That America does not want to indulge in any armed conflict with or any provocation to China has become obvious on many occasions. If Mr Obama becomes too much friendly with either Pakistan or China, it certainly bodes ill for an Indo-US relationship. China and Pakistan, history bears testimony to it, have been traditionally hostile to India. They will try America to keep away from India’s welfare.

Comments: The knowledge and understanding of this candidate on major international issues and development are very sound and praiseworthy. He has got an excellent grasp of the various issues involved and he reveals the ability to discuss the matter with an expert eye from several angles. He presents his case very convincingly satisfying the requirements of logic, rationality and pragmatism. He is successful in creating a strong as well as a favourable impact on his listeners by his sincerity and real.

6th Member: How do you visualise the inconsistent performance of Indian cricketers?

Mittal: In my view, it is neither the coach nor the skipper, but a myopic cricket administration which should take the blame for the inconsistent performance of our cricketers. For instance, in January 2013, Team India performed quite well. Though we had lost the Test series to England, yet we won the ODI series against them. In February-March 2013, India set a record by winning unprecedented all the four Test matches against Australia in a series-and regained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. In fact, our cricket administration is dominated by selfish and biased people devoid of any cricketing sense or
background. Their sole pure is to corporatise and promote cricket as a lucrative business venture instead of a popular sport. Interference of self-seeking political personalities in non-political affairs has been extremely counterproductive and detrimental to die future of a number of sports. And cricket stands out as no exception in that regard. However, instead of self-critically analysing their own part in exacerbating the grim situation, our cricket administration has been engaged in firefighting, bullying others and passing the buck on to their detractors. The prime objective of the BCCI authorities over the past many years has been to generate maximum possible revenue from different sources rather than promoting cricket. Stepping into their shoes, most of our players have also gone to the farthest extent to earn money from their ‘off-the ground’ activities. Powered by the riches flowing from popular celebrity ads, they have created alternate channels for revenue earning. They have made themselves richer by capitalising on the fact that cricket lovers adore them as their icons and idols. Their immense popularity has facilitated them with an easy access to the booming ad market leading to hefty endorsement packages and securing enormous privileges for them. Ironically, the fundamental driver of all that makes the ‘business of cricket’ thrive today to countless benefits for both the BCCI and our cricketing heroes—a high-quality performance of the latter— has generally suffered the most.

Comments: The candidate has an insightful understanding of a major problem facing the country’s most popular sport today and has dealt with it in an expert manner. He has systematically gone into the causes and presented his views candidly with convincing reasons. His approach indicates good grasp, fine reasoning ability, penetrative mind, objective attitude and proper understanding. As we have witnessed earlier, there is logical Reasoning and analytical ability in abundance in his. presentation. He demonstrates his ability to think clearly, discern the essentials and clinch the issues with determination.

Concluding Comments and overall assessment: To sum up, this well-dressed and smart candidate proves to be thoroughly intelligent and imaginative. He displays good initiative and originality in answering the questions posed to him. His grasp is excellent and he enjoys extensive ideas. He is able to argue his case convincingly and present his views forcefully and with the appeal. His bold and pragmatic approach enables him to create a strong and favourable impact on others. An active and dynamic individual, he displays high potential for leadership. Selected with distinction.

Winning Checklist

  1. Set your targets in advance and do planned preparation.
  2. Prepare your own notes on national, international, political and economic topics gleaning the essential points from what you read, participate in mock discussions and watch on TV.
  3. Develop presence of mind. However well you prepare, you may not be able to answer all the questions in the manner the Board wants. In fact, the Board may be more interested in how you answer the questions rather than whether your answer has been right or wrong.

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