Reading Time: 8 minutesAlok Ranjan Jha, the UPSC Civil Services Exam Topper of 2002 year who opted for IFS, “Diplomacy is the most challenging field. The IAS has its own social recognition.” Alok stated in an UPSC topper Interview.
The reason he opted for the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), is that, “The world is changing and so are our relationships with other countries. India’s policy has changed from being moralistic and idealistic to being more realistic and based on self-interest.”
Alok Ranjan Jha did his schooling from St. Michael’s High School, Patna and did his graduation and MA in Delhi from Hindu College, Delhi University and M. Phil from Jawaharlal Nehru University respectively, taught political science at Hindu College before topping in the Civil Services Exam.
“I would not like to confine myself to being a Bihari. However, I am happy and grateful that the people here are happy over my success. But it is not enough that Bihari students are doing well in different competitive exams. We are backward in many other fields,” he observed.
Attempts by Alok Ranjan Jha
He failed even to get through the UPSC Civil Services Exam in two previous attempts and topped the list of successful candidates in the third attempt.
“I will not be able to put my finger on the exact reason. Perhaps I was more systematic in my studies this time — making better use of my potentiality and more desperate.” He stated that the failure on two earlier occasions was depressing. “But I had the support of my family and friends.” Alok mentioned in his UPSC Topper Interview.
Alok opted for Sociology and Political Science as his optional paper because he had Political Science as a subject in my B.A., M.A., and M.Phil. Further, he taught it for a couple of years too.
On an average Alok studied for six to eight hours a day.” He maintained that preparing for the UPSC Exam at Delhi or a place like Allahabad is an advantage.
Advice for Aspirants from UPSC Topper Interview reply
Two things must be very clear. First, they should have a career chalked out either in academics, media or elsewhere before they get into this, because I do think there is some amount of unpredictability in this exam and Second, I want them to have a sense of detachment from the exam. Don’t take it to your heart, because (God forbid!) if you don’t get through, you should not feel dejected and stop giving hundred per cent to everything else in life.
A function was attended by Alok Ranjan Jha’s father, P Jha, a NAFED official based in Delhi, who said, “Although as a father I am proud of my son, I will like to say his success is the success of the people of Bihar.”
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UPSC Topper Interview – Mr. Alok Ranjan Jha
This UPSC Topper Interview was taken after his grand success in the IAS exams.
Q. How did you feel after your success?
A. Initially it was extremely difficult for me to believe. I feel elated at the result. It took a couple of days for the news to sink in. But the feeling was really good.
Q. Tell us something about how you started out.
A. Actually I was teaching at Hindu College as a lecturer in Political Theory. And that was the time when I decided to go for it. In 1997 I started my preparations and 1998 was my first attempt. I managed the Prelims but could not make it through the Main. In 1999, I did not write because I decided to concentrate on building my career as a lecturer. In 2000, I wrote again. Again I got through the Prelim but not the Main.
A. I think I was more methodical and systematic this time.Q. How did you prepare for Political Science?
A. I did not need much extra preparation because I had Political Science as a subject in my B.A., M.A., and M.Phil. Further, I taught it for a couple of years. So, I was very comfortable with this particular subject. Of course, I had to brush up certain areas to tune my preparations to the demands of UPSC. For that, I prepared some random notes with jottings and stuff. But that did not take much of my time.Q. Why did you choose Sociology?
A. Basically for two reasons. Primarily because Sociology and Political Science have much in common. That cuts down your preparation time. Secondly, study of society really fascinates me.
UPSC Topper Interview continues about option subject:
Q. Did you have any formal training in Sociology?
A. “No, I did not.” he gave a quick reply in this UPSC Topper Interview.
Q. How should one go about preparing for Political Science?
A. I was initially upset because quite a few changes had been incorporated in the changed syllabus. There is less emphasis on political theory and thought and more on contemporary issues like Globalization, Human Rights, International Law, Environmental Issues, Global commerce, and the like. And I think a student who is a regular reader of a good newspaper or a good magazine and is aware of what is happening around him stands a good chance now. So, on the whole the approach is quite contemporary and I managed to handle the scope after a few initial hitches.
Q. Apart from what you have already told us, what do you think of Sociology as a subject? How did you prepare?
A. It is interesting, particularly, the theory part. The way we have to study about thinkers, is fairly interesting. And, a friend of mine, Nayanika Mathur was a great help to me. At that time she was a student of the Delhi School of Economics.
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Q. What about General Studies? What was going wrong with you in previous attempts?
A. One of the biggest mistakes I made in both my previous attempts, was time management and that still remains a problem. One of the two papers was quite lengthy. In the first attempt it was difficult to manage all questions. So I was very careful this time. I said to myself if I am not able to write more than 150 words within 3 or 4 minutes I am not going to succeed. I would rather leave the answer incomplete than exceed the time limit. So, time management was one factor that made the difference.
Q. Did you practise answer writing regularly?
A. Not really. For Statistics I did practise a bit. Otherwise I did not practise writing as such, but I did jot down important points for all possible questions and topics.
Q. What is your opinion about choosing coaching institutes?
A. I think coaching institutes play a very crucial role. But I would like to say that one should be careful about the kind of institute one is choosing. All institutes are actually not up to the mark. So one has to go by the institute’s record, the kind of people who are teaching there and, interact with them. If one feels comfortable there one should go. Coaching institutes, I think do have a role to play because the syllabi for the exam is vast, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Institutes guide you how to go about it, think about time management and they keep you on track. That, I think, is very important.
Q. How did you prepare for Essay?
A. Actually I did not do any deliberate preparation for the Essay. I relied on my wide reading, my understanding of the world around me, and my understanding of social issues. Both my optionals helped me in this regard.
Q. How was your interview? What was your experience?
A. I was a bit scared to begin with. But the moment I entered, right from the beginning the Board was very cordial, very friendly and extremely nice. So, not even for a moment I felt uncomfortable. They were very polite.
Q. Why did you choose IFS?
A. It has more to do with my fascination for diplomacy and international relations rather than aversion to any other service. And I think the way India and the world is changing and the way India’s relations with the changing world are taking shape, I feel foreign service in coming years is going to be extremely challenging.
Q. You did graduation from Hindu College and then you went to JNU. What do you think is the difference in approach in both universities?
A. As far as merit and academic excellence of faculties is concerned, both are equally good. As a place for students JNU is far more compact. There is much more interaction among the students at JNU than compared to that of DU. Of course, the number of students in JNU is far less. No doubt, JNU does have very meritorious students, but that is true for the Delhi University too.
Q. Where have you done your schooling?
A. St. Michaels, Patna.
Q. So, do you attribute your success to your school and those formative years?
A. Every school as an institution always gives its contribution to an individual. We might not realise that in concrete terms. It has left a deep impact on my personality, attitude towards the world and the people around me because it is the first place where socialization begins outside the family.
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