Friday, March 22, 2019

On Twitter Now!!

Dear friends,

I will love to connect with you all on Twitter also. Just drop in at:

See you there!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

2018 Sociology Mains Paper and the Essential Sociology Book

Dear friends,

This is our understanding of this year's paper and how the book responds to it. We are commenting  on only first few questions, but the readers will get an idea about how to approach Mains questions, especially with the help of the book Essential Sociology. (Just in case some other question piques you, please drop a comment below the post, I shall get back).

Sociology Mains 2018 Paper Analysis
**Paper 1**
Part A

Q1. (a) Focal point of Sociology rests on interaction. How do you distinguish it from common sense.
The question was not a very direct one, but if your concepts are clear, then you can easily answer this. Interaction is an important dimension of sociological analysis as various social thinkers have highlighted. So, as per many thinkers, it is a focal point and their arguments need to be made part of your answer. It is different from common sense because - common sense is a often person or context specific, but interaction is a group phenomenon. Common sense is intuitive, interactions are often calculative and in interactions responses are fabricated instantaneously as per the demand of the situation. Common sense on the other hand provides stereotypical prefabricated answers to situations - in one size fits all manner - without much application of mind. The book covers the topics very well and one can easily come up with a good answer if one is well versed with concepts given in book.

Q1. (b) Distinguish between Fact and Values in Weber's Protestant Ethics and Spirit of Capitalism.
The question is a very straight forward. The book has clearly explained what a fact is and what is a value. Weber's idea of Protestant Ethics embodies values (in terms of the subjective beliefs of Protestants as well as Weber's own understanding of those values - thus a dual application of concept of 'values' in Sociology). Fact includes - historical conditions, material factors, Capital and other such dimensions which are accepted by all indisputably. The book dwells almost completely on all these aspects which explaining Weber's idea of Protestant Ethics and Spirit of Capitalism.

Q1. (c) Do you think 'I' and 'Me' are central terms in Mead's work?
The question appears as if it is straightaway taken from book. The diagram that we have drawn for Mead's idea of self must have proved particularly helpful. I am reproducing the diagram here for convenience of readers of this post.

Q1. (d) What is the difference between natural and social inequalities. Give examples from class and caste dimensions.
Again the question is straightforward. The book has specifically explained the difference clearly. One can pick various dimensions of caste and class and link them with natural and social inequalities. For example, birth is a natural process which can lead to inequalities (leading to both caste and class inequalities). In this question, one must be careful enough to not to attribute some inequalities associated with caste or class as natural inequalities. One should have especially avoided saying that caste being associated with birth (a natural process) leads to natural inequalities. It is actually not true, as caste related inequalities are mostly social in nature. Most of the attributes associated with both caste and class result into social inequalities only barring a few. For example, a person in rural background (or say in hilly areas) may be in some way unequal (and vice versa) from a person born in urban settings as he or she shares a common economic or market situation with all other people who are similarly placed (as per classic Weberian definition of class, also given in the book) due to some natural factors.

Q1. (e) What are the new forms of families in developed societies? Discuss?
This question has been addressed at length in the book by illustrating change in structure, functions and forms of families - as a part of both paper 1 and paper 2 in the book with many contemporary examples. So, even this question I consider as if taken from the book directly.

2 (a) Is non-positive methodology scientific? Illustrate.
The answer in one single word is  - yes it is scientific. The book clearly mentions the arguments that Sociology as a subject is scientific and as a corollary - all the approaches (including non-positive methodology) which are used to study Sociology are also scientific. This is because, non-positivists also use certain methods and approaches which confirm to scientific study. One may conclude that - it may not be as scientific as natural sciences which are considered pure sciences. (Arguments to this effect are given in detail in the book).

Q2. (b) Explain Durkheim's basic arguments on suicide. Can you analyse high suicide rates of contemporary Indian society with Durkheim's theory.
First part of this question can be directly answered using the contents of this book or in fact any other standard book. Second part needs to be given some thoughts. Durkheim's theory fits only to the extent that it explains certain social currents which cause suicide. Modern socio-psyschology has established that there are way more number of factors (as compared to the model that Durkheim has taken into account) and suicide is much more complex phenomenon to explain using a single model. Hence, in conclusion, applicability of Durkheim's model is only limited in contemporary Indian society.

Q2. (c) Evaluate if social stratification is functional for society.
The question is basically about the critique of functional view on social stratification. The question is almost a replica of the various thinkers and their critiques thereof which have been discussed in the book. One may conclude with a pinch of salt saying - though it seems that stratification is making the society work, but saying so would be undermining various systemic faults that lead to such a stratification. There are a lot of dysfunctions also of stratification which weaken the argument given in the above question. Stratification is functional only to the extent it fulfills some positive functions.

Q3. (a) Does collapse of functionalism and bankruptcy of Marxism coincide with the rupture of modernity? Discuss
This is one of the questions in this paper which tests the real understanding of the subject as a whole because the question itself is very value loaded. First of all, one may not agree that functionalism has collapsed completely and Marxism has bankrupted. After the financial crisis of 2008-10, Das Capital of Marx was one of the highest selling books worldwide as people suddenly lost faith in working of capitalism. Rupturing of modernity is also not a very well accepted idea. Even if rupturing of modernity is accepted, post-modern thoughts are wide enough to accommodate both functionalism and Marxism in their modified forms. Finally, traditional timelines of flourishing of Marxism, functionalism and modernity are not coterminous. So, the statement in the question is perhaps not true. (However, this is one question which can be answered in so many different ways - and many of them being equally good ways of answering this question).

Q3. (b) Define patriarchy. How does patriarchy manifest in interpersonal relations.
The question is very simple and straightforward. y interpersonal relations, the examiner simply means all social relations - especially the close one to one relations.

Q3. (c) What is the difference between Anomie in case of Merton and Durkheim. Explain.
The question is again straightforward. The book also uses a beautiful table to illustrate it. I am reproducing that table here again for the convenience of all the readers of this post.
Durkheim sees anomie as a result of pathological consequences of certain social facts
Anomie is a structural phenomenon
Anomie is a temporary stage, occurring when there is a transition from one set of values to another and there is lack of value consensus during this transition
According to Merton, anomie is ever present in society as some degree of structural strain is always there
Durkheim sees anomie as synonymous to normlessness and since it is pathological state, it has negative consequences
Anomie is not normlessness per se, but a result of frustration from inability to achieve culturally defined goals. It may also lead to positive effects like innovation, revolution etc

Q4 (a) According to Marx, how are human beings alienated from their human potential and what does he suggest to change this?
We have explained in the book that human is basically a creative being and capitalism kills creativity of humans leading to alienation. This creative aspect or potential of human personality is subdued to a great extent in Capitalism and Marx also uses a concept of Commodity Fetishism to explain a situation where commodities of consumption assume more importance than humans and man feels alienated to the highest degree. Marx' idea of alienation of humans from their potential is explained in the book by using a model which shows two ways in which it happen in a given mode of production and over the period of time. The book also clearly explains various dimensions (four to be precise) by which Marx thinks that alienation of humans and their potential occurs. The book also mentions the solution which I am quoting here verbatim -
"Solution to alienation was visualized in a state when production process was overhauled and relations of production modified. It happens in communism where forces of production will be collectively owned. In communism only, being of man is truly realized and he goes for all the creative pursuits that were inhibited in earlier modes of production." (taken directly from the book Essential Sociology)

Q4 (c) Discuss the challenges thrown by religious revivalism to a secular nation-state.
The question is simple and the book covers it directly in two senses - one revivalism in form of growth of fundamentalism and regeneration of orthodox religious beliefs. Secondly, growth of dubious sects and cults (like Dera Schha Sauda) also reflect another form of revivalism and the book covers both these aspects and how they affect secular fabric of a nation-state (or simply saying, of society). Apparently, communalism, fundamentalism and cultic sects have thrown enormous challenges to secular fabric by challenging modern ideals. But there is a flip-side of religious revivalism also and it has also given birth to some sort of personal faith and spiritualism which has also taught the people to accommodate modern idea of secularism in a nation state.

 Part B

Q5(a) Is the theory of cultural lag valid in present times? Discuss.
If you are well versed with the concept of cultural lag, which has been covered clearly in the book, then you should have no difficulty in appreciating the fact that cultural lad is ever present phenomenon despite its criticism. Though degree of its occurrences may vary from society to society and from time to time.

Q5(b) Are social movements primordial in means and progressive in agenda? Explain.
The statement is not true and this can be explained with the help of various models and various types of social movements that the book deals with in detail. For example, Aberle's classification is sufficient to illustrate that all social movements may not be equally progressive. It is also not true that social movements always use primordial means. In fact a category of social movements - New Social Movements (which is covered in the book to a great length) - also amply illustrate this point. Just to substantiate the above points further, the book also uses a small box which we are reproducing it here and it will illustrate that contemporary social movements are not constrained by nature of their means. 
"Globalization and Social Movements – Globalization has made genuine global social movements possible. People are able to join together through networks of human rights organizations, internet, humanitarian group, NGOs, environmental groups and so on. Organization of global level protests against Iraq War in 2003, protests against WTO, organization of ‘World Social Forum’ parallel to World Economic Forum etc are some examples."
Similarly, most of the questions in the 2018 Sociology Mains paper are easily doable with a fair understanding of the basic concepts. Barring one or two questions, all are covered in the book almost directly with ample material for answers. Q7b and Q8a are two such questions in paper-1, while Paper 2 has no such question which is difficult to attempt. Q7b is perhaps about Hawthrone Studies of Elton Mayo (a passing reference to them is in the book also, but since they are not part of the syllabus explicitly, they are not covered in detail, but I am sure a curious reader must have googled them while reading the book). Paper 2 was relatively interesting with a lot of contemporary stuff, but must have been very doable for a well read aspirant. 

We are extremely happy that the book must have helped everyone immensely in tackling 2018 Sociology Mains Exam and we received many positive feedback about the utility of the book in your preparations. If it did so, purpose of writing a single source book for Sociology was definitely fulfilled.

Thanks and best of luck!!
Nitin and Seema

Friday, August 17, 2018

Material for HCS Examination


Many of you have been asking about some material and startegy for HCS Examination as I have cleared this examination in past.

Here are some basic notes regarding them. (However, they may not be sufficient, and one may need to read more in depth).

Indian History

Indian Polity

Indian and World Geography



Basic Definitions Etc


NCERT Polity Summary

Apart form the above, the general strategy is -

1. For Prelims: CSAT & GS
Focus on CSAT Part as it will be decisive. Practice as much as you can as time factor shall decide your selection. Can take any popular books like that of R S Aggarwal for Reasoning

2. For Prelims: Haryana GK
Around 10% questions in prelims are asked, but not in Mains till 2013 Exam (but they may ask). However, GK of Haryana is limited and one can score good marks with little effort. Read 1-2 GK Books on Haryana - Like Arihant, Upkar etc. Apart from these, read local Hindi paper, read summary of Haryana Budget of this year and read 5-6 issues of Haryana Samvaad (Haryana Review in English) Magazine of Haryana Government for schemes etc.

3.1 GS Conventional: For both Prelims and Mains
For GS, solve as many previous years papers - almost 200-300 MCQs which have been asked in various exams like - SSC, UPSC, NDA, CDS, Other state PCS etc. Can take practice MCQ books also of publishers like Lucent.
Some basic material like - Khan Academy Videos related to subjects, NCERTs for subjects (the list can be referred in my another post for UPSC), for environment - notes of some popular institute, ancient history and Art and Culture - 11th NCERT, Polity - M Laxmikant, Geography - 11th and 12th NCERT, Science - NCERTs or booklets y NBT, for Economics - notes or booklets of some popular institute which prepares for SSC, etc can be read.

3.2 GS Current: For both Prelims and Mains
For current affairs, read Vision IAS or any other popular institution's Monthly Current Affair booklets of past few months - Say from January 2018, their PDFs are available online. Don't waste too much energy on current affairs as they generally ask 10-15% of it and often very basic and factual stuff.

4. For Mains: Hindi
If you have not written Hindi for long, please start reading a good Vyaakran (grammer). Read previous years' mains papers to understand the kind of questions that they ask, and prepare accordingly. Since language is not learnt in a day, practice shall help. Daily half an hour of reading plus practice can help a lot as Hindi has marks in final score.

5. For Mains: English
Same is true for English also. Start with a good grammer and read 2-3 pages daily and practice examples. Also write down 5-10 word meanings daily for building your vocabulary as questions on antonyms, synonyms etc are asked in Mains and a good vocabulary wll help in reading comprehension passages as well as in essay.

6. For Mains: Optionals
Take those optionals in which you are comfortable in. History, Geography, Sociology, Public Administration are some of easier Optionals if you don't have prior preparation of two optionals.

7. For Mains:Essay
For essay, you can rely on your GS preparations as topics are generally easy or moderately difficult. If you don't have very high confidence, you can read a popular book like the one published by Tata McGraw Hill on essays and can also practice writing a few essays.

Read all past years' papers to get an idea about the type of questions that HPSC asks. Some of them are available on website of HPSC also.

I hope it helps.

Nitin Sangwan

Saturday, November 4, 2017

UPSC Civil Services Mains 2017 Sociology Paper and Essential Sociology

Hi friends,

We thank you so much for the tremendous response for the book. And a testimony for it is that the book has ran out of stock within a few months of its release. However, the book is undergoing reprint and shall be available soon.

Another matter of pride for us is that, almost all the questions of Sociology Mains 2017 Paper were from this book and apparently the book passed its first test of UPSC after its publication.

For example, questions like ― Yogendra Singh's idea of Modernization of Tradition, idea of Gandhi and Ambedkar on caste, various theories of social change, cultural and structural views of caste and change in caste, New Social Movements, development related imbalances (development and dependency), causes of low sex ratio in developed states, Islam in India, distinction between family and household, distinction in kinship and family in North and South India, dominant caste, tribes and religion (or tribes and caste and changes in tribal identity), Marxian Historical Materialism as a critique of Hegelian Idealism and so on ― are explained very clearly in the book. These are some of the questions which have to be often researched from multiple sources or are very difficult to be found in standard text books for a satisfactory grasp on them. Apart from them, all the conventional questions that were asked in 2017 Mains Exam are there in the book.

We are extremely happy that the book must have proved very handy to all of you in the exam and we also hope that it will continue to prove useful in future also.

Seema and Nitin

Monday, June 20, 2016

My Interview Notes - On Hobbies and Intersts - Yoga, Gardening and Jogging

I had the hobby of Yoga, Running, Kitchen Gardening and Cartooning.

I also used to draw some cartoons at my blog

Notes of which are available here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Essay Paper Tips


I never prepared separately for essay because if you are well versed with your GS syllabus, then you can easily attempt an essay on any topic. 

However, your essay should be well structured (in terms of introduction, conclusion, thought flow, exploration of dimensions and original thinking). 

Further, it is estimated that essays are checked by people from literature background, so your grammar and language also matters a bit. 

Finally, since most of the people select the same topics for essay (and may even write the same stuff as well), you may need to differentiate your essay and make it attractive. You may do it with the help of relevant quotes, suitable facts and figures, some anecdotes, diagrams and illustrations and so on. There are no fixed rules of writing UPSC essays. Try to be as innovative as possible.

Best of Luck!
Nitin Sangwan

Reading Newspapers and Making Current Notes (plus some of my Current Notes)


Civil Services papers have two broad areas - static and dynamic (mainly current events related).

When you read the newspaper, always keep in mind that - GS papers are of 'General Knowledge', i.e. something which a well read mature person should know. So, my advice is that - while you should read the newspaper thoroughly and try to understand the issue and concepts at hand, never do a deep research as it may be very time consuming and may not be significant from the point of view of the exam.

Secondly, the question may arise - Which newspaper(s) and magazines? How many newspapers should I read? I would suggest that you pick only one newspaper as you have limited number of hours in your day and all the papers cover more or less same stories (especially the significant ones). The Hindu and Indian Express are two good newspapers primarily because they are limited and concise in their content and don't have many distractions and 'extra' news as in case of other tabloid styled newspapers like ToI and HT. My favorite was The Indian Express as content wise it is generally richer than The Hindu (It carries a readable Op-Ed page also apart from a page called 'I.E. Explained' which covers contemporary issues of importance in depth). Also try to read the readers' comment daily. They often give interesting insights and give you an alternative perspective than the column writers. You may also start thinking critically and may send a comment once in a while. It can be a sort of answer writing practice for you (and since in this case you will be read by millions of other readers, you will automatically more careful in writing your thoughts :) ).

Thirdly, the question may arise - What to read in the newspaper(s) and magazines? To get an idea, read last years question papers again and again to enter into the psyche of the paper setters. You will slowly realize that often conceptual things are asked and you need to learn only basic facts. Further, you will also realize that development of critical thinking is an integral part of answer writing. So, whenever you read, give a critical thought to the item you read.

Fourthly, I would also suggest that you also try to search the issue on internet or Wikipedia. Often, there are Wiki pages on all the major issues (you will find wiki pages on every possible topic - say for example, try searching Indo-China relations) which give background, causes, consequences and so on of a particular event. 

Finally, never keep cuttings of newspapers or magazines (and similarly, save the raw articles from internet) as over the time they become so bulky that you will never be able to even skim through them during exam time. make your own notes topic wise and try to find every dimension of it (background, players involved, significance for India/society/World, future possibilities and so on). By doing so, you will be kinda writing a comprehensive answer on a particular topic and you will save time on separate answer writing practice.

Here are some of my notes on current events and other topics -
  1. Current Events Notes
  2. International Organisations and Events Notes (Static Part)
These notes will give you an idea that you should organised your notes so that you don't have to save the same article many a times. You may simply make new addition to the topics already covered in such notes. 

Leave a comment if you notice some discrepancy in these notes or have some suggestion or query.

Best of luck!
Nitin Sangwan

Sociology Optional Preparation Guide


Many of you asked about my approach for my optional subject of sociology. So, I am writing this post.

Most of us are generally familiar with the topics which are part of syllabus (except the thinkers part), so this subject is relatively familiar to every aspirant with this optional. However, due to very this fact, some people become complacent and take many topics taken for granted. You should try to read thoroughly, but should never overlook the core concepts (for example, while studying caste - you should not overlook the very basic definition and perspectives on caste. You should ask yourself - What is caste? How it has changed historically? What is the theoretical framework lying beneath it? Is that framework accepted as it is by various social thinkers? If not, how and why?)

Then, the question comes - What to read? To this question, I would suggest following material - 
  1. New NCERTs on sociology - According to me, new NCERTs are much well designed than the older ones. They have less factual errors and have a better flow. They also take a lot of examples from the day to day life which can be put in the answers. Try to read them again and again during various phases of your optional preparation. (Old NCERTs were more suitable for the older syllabus and hence may not be as useful, but if you have a hell lot of time, you may read them as well).
  2. Sociology: (Haralambos and Heald) (the one with reddish cover and not so thick) - For the beginners it is a good book as you get familiar with the core concepts and some landmark studies in the field of sociology. It is a bit outdated in terms of the data it uses as it has not been revised since long. But the case studies it has used are classical ones and are still referred by the social scientists and students alike. Try to match the topics of syllabus and read selectively. Its writing style is extremely lucid and most of the concepts are explained very well.
  3. Sociology (Anthony Giddens) - While Haralambos gives you a conceptual framework, Giddens Sociology is more about the contemporary perspectives in sociology. It gives a fresh and novel perspectives through novel examples and illustrations. It helps you in developing a unique sociological perspective.
  4. Sociology: Themes and Perspectives (Haralambos an Holborn) (Blue Cover) - This is a very useful and comprehensive book for paper 1. But it is about heavier one with more than 1000 pages. However, it is a very updated one and covers almost all aspects of syllabus. Following topics: Basic Theoritical Perspectives, Aging, Research Methods, Stratification and Inequality, Gender, Poverty and Exclusion, Religion, Family, Power and Politics, Education etc are covered very well. If you have patience too read, it is an extremely useful book. If you are not reading Giddens, you may read this one. Either will do.
  5. Sociology Dictionary (Penguin) - Dictionaries are helpful because, they provide the fundamental definitions of the topics of syllabus. They also carry reference to the works of important social thinkers and their works also. This dictionary is relatively simple in its language than the Oxford one. You should read the dictionary thoroughly from first to last page and note down those terms and topics which are either part of syllabus (directly or indirectly) or have appeared in previous years' exams. Some case studies may also be found here. 
  6. IGNOU Notes (only graduation level, not post graduation) - They carry more or less the whole syllabus. They are especially useful for the Paper Two as one generally doesn't find the topics anywhere else and that too compiled in one source. 
  7. Other supplementary sources - Apart from these, for specific topics, you may refer to some other books as well. For example, for Mead (you may refer the Sociology book by Ritzer), for Indian thinkers, you may refer a book by B K Nagala and so on, but this book has its own issues.
Finally, as I always say, the exam is not only about reading books, but also about managing what you have read. Try to consolidate what you have read at a single place as it is easier to revise that during exam. Making your own notes also serves as a kind of writing practice and boosts your confidence as well.

From the day one, you should keep in mind that since the subject is about society and its relationship with individuals, so, you should be very keen observer of it. Whether there is some news article (say on marital trends, caste, family, demography, tribes, polity, socio-economic indicators of development and so on), some development in your neighborhood or even a personal observation, you should try to think over these and note down a thing or two. Such illustrations about society and its working will come handy in form of examples while attempting the questions in the mains paper and will definitely fetch you some extra marks.

If you have any suggestions or queries regarding sociology optional, please comment beneath this post.

Best of luck!
Nitin Sangwan

Monday, June 13, 2016

My Notes for Civil Services GS Papers


Here are some of my notes -

10. Ethics - I never read too much on this paper. I referred only a case study book by Donald Menzel. Whatever definitions etc appeared in this book, I tried to cover them. I never referred to any other source (including various school of philosophies) as to me this paper is more about your logical thinking and problem solving approach rather than you knowing some theoretical frameworks. Just think on your own feet in this paper.

11. Polity - For it, Laxmikant is more than sufficient. Apart from it, read newspapers and note down the current developments. Past years' papers can also be helpful.

I hope they will be helpful.

They also include a tentative study plan and strategy for these topics in the beginning of the notes.

If you notice a discrepancy, or have some suggestion or feedback, please leave a comment here. 

Best of luck!
Nitin Sangwan

Monday, June 6, 2016

Suggested Book List for UPSC Civil Services Exam (Pre and Mains)


If you are an absolute beginner, you may refer to the following booklist and material sources (for both pre and mains as I think the preparation of the two cannot be separated) -

1. Indian Polity - by M Laxmikanth, Tata McGraw Hill Publication

2. Geography - NCERT Old 11th and 12th class (Photocopy available in bookshops in Delhi and other places in other cities at popular preparation destinations etc). Also available on internet, search on google. You may also go through new NCERTs for 11th and 12th, they are also good.

3. History - Bipan Chandra, "History of Modern India" Orient Black Swan Publication

4. "Indian Culture and Heritage" - National Institute of Open Schooling. Also available on internet on website of NIOS, search on google. Also refer to the Art & Culture :NCERT Class XI – An Introduction to Indian Art; Art & Culture

5. Economy - Ramesh Singh, Tata McGraw Hill Publication or any other standard book like Dutt and Sundaram of S Chand publications.

6. Environment and Ecology - any popular coaching institute notes - (Photocopy available in bookshops in Delhi and other places in other cities at popular preparation destinations etc)

7. Science and Technology - any popular coaching institute notes - (Photocopy available in bookshops in Delhi and other places in other cities at popular preparation destinations etc)

8. Magazine - Frontline (if you have time, else skip it)

9. Newspaper - The Hindu or Indian Express (read only one, it would be sufficient)

10. World History - Old NCERT Books of History 9th and 10th class, new NCERTs are more illustrative and colorful, you may also go through them as well. (for Mains paper only)

11. Ethics Paper - try to note down from newspapers, books etc examples of ethical conducts etc. Try to think on your own. It is more of a paper of reasoned thought and rational arguments. Don't read too much of material, just practice a few case studies. Use your original thoughts.

12. India - An annual book published by Publication Division of Govt of India for overview about government scheme and working of government of India

13. CSAT - Take notes of any popular institute or some standard book on reasoning and aptitude.

14. India After Independence - Bipan Chandra, Penguin Publication (for post -independence history, for Mains paper only)

15. Past years solved papers of both GS Preliminary and Mains. Read them again and again so that you have an idea about the type of questions they ask.

16. Download syllabus of both pre and mains and read it many times so that whenever you read newspaper, you know that what has to be read and what has to be left. Don't read multiple books on same subject, but read single book or notes multiple times. Material with you should be only so much only that it is manageable at the time of exam.

It is advised that limited books and material is refereed as the exam is not only about reading so many books, but about managing what you have read. It is not so important that how many books on a topic that you read, but how well you read them.

Any suggestions or queries can be sent in form of comments for the benefit of all.

Best of luck!
Nitin Sangwan

Friday, March 11, 2016

UPSC Civil Services Interview 2016

My interview was in the forenoon session on the very 2nd Day of the interviews on 9th March 2016 and my board was of Shri D K Diwan there was no female member in the board.

Since I was already in the service (IRS) and interview was also early on, I used to get very little time for preparation. However, whatever little time I got, I tried to fully utilize that because I always felt that there is no substitute for 'being well prepared and well informed'. I had thoroughly brushed up the current events and even my notes of Mains exam. I covered all areas of my DAF comprehensively, especially the hobbies part. It gave me a confidence that only a sound preparation can give. To refine some behavioural aspects, I underwent a few mocks with my colleagues.

Another thing that I felt in my earlier interviews and also from the interview experience of successful candidates was that apart from having knowledge - a right attitude, behaviour and outlook is also necessary for a good interview. So, I worked a little bit on that also. I tried to improve delivery of my answers, adopted a cheerful stance and softened my tone a bit. I tried to look confident during my interview and also tried to balance all my answers. I tried to be a patient listener and it avoided unnecessary repetition of questions by the board members.

I was the first candidate to go and was not very nervous as I had to wait only a little. I became comfortable once the interview started and was able to handle all questions quite well. I had some interesting hobbies and interests (cartooning, yoga) and had somewhat over prepared these areas. However, not even a single question was asked (unlike last two interviews), so I was a bit disappointed.

There were also some unique points about my interview. First of all, when I entered the room, the chair was tucked totally inside the table (it has never been the case in the earlier two interview and in one of them I was the first candidate as well). Since I was facing a Chairperson with military background, some mannerism (and their compliance) was expected also. I handled the chair very carefully and tucked it back at its original place when the interview got over. Secondly, another unusual question - and one of the very first questions of the interview - was a situational question in which the Chairperson asked me to deliver a few minutes speech vouching a case for permanent membership for India in UNGA (assuming myself as an Indian envoy there). I think I managed that well. I stood up in my chair and I delivered a proper speech with adequate loudness and passion in my voice.

Some questions were asked about my previous job as a Tehsildar in Haryana and I answered them quite well as I had prepared that area quite well and it further boosted my confidence.

I also remained a bit forthcoming, direct and vocal in my opinion on certain issues. On the issue of Jat reservation (being a Jat myself) and failure of administration and state in handling it, I was quite forthright and this was perhaps appreciated by the board and the Chairperson. I think, being balanced in your approach is one thing, but at times you are required to take stands and in those situations, one should not shy of taking the appropriate stand.

This is my full interview transcript -

Date of Interview - 9th March 2016, Forenoon (2nd day of interview).
It was Shri D K Dewan's Board and I was the first one to get in. It lasted around 35-40 minutes

I wished the members good morning and was asked to sit down. The Chair was tucked inside the table and I had to pull it out. It was a heavier wooden chair and as I tried to lift it, it hit the table above. 

CH: What is your roll number?
Me: 0055401 (Instead of saying fifty five thousand four hundred and one I told every single digit loudly and clearly)

CH: Where are you posted right now?
Me: Sir, currently I am a probationer at National Academy of Customs Excise and Narcotics, Faridabad (Here I avoided the abbreviated name of the academy).

CH: So, you have worked as a Tehsildar in Haryana. How long you were there?
Me: Sir, around one and half year.

CH: In which areas did you work there?
Me: Sir, I was still in training and for some time I got field experience as a Patwari and a Quanungo.

CH: So, you have not worked in actual capacity as a Tehsildar?
Me: No Sir, probation period was actually 2 years old and I had left before it was over.

CH: Nitin, India has been aspiring for a permanent seat in the UNSC for a long time and has been struggling for that. Assuming this is the platform of the UN and you are the Indian ambassador to the UN. You will get one minute to think or write and 2.5 minutes for presenting your case assuming that this is the gathering at the UN.
(I scribbled a few points on a piece of paper and was soon asked to stop and deliver)
Me: (with a little louder voice) - Good, Morning all, India is the largest democracy in the world and yet the irony is that India is not a permanent member of the UNSC. We are the third largest economy as well in terms of PPP. We are one of the largest contributors of the peacekeeping forces in the world. Historically, India has an excellent record of upholding peace and other noble ideals. We have also supported all the major progressive resolution in UN like - on women, rights of the underprivileged and so on. So, being the largest democracy of the world, we deserve this seat. (My conclusion was a bit awkward hinging on the word 'democracy'. Idea of nuclear weapon state, NAM etc was in my mind, but I deliberately avoided them for some reasons).

CH: You mentioned democracy twice, what so big thing about that. And It is a fact that we are still behind 5th on GDP. 
Me: (almost interrupted) Sir, GDP is measured in various terms, India is 3rd not in real terms, but on PPP.

CH: Who said that (with a wry dismissive face)? What is the difference? There must be some various other areas where India has excelled and which you might have added. Can you think of more?
Me: (It suddenly dawned upon me that Dewan is an ex-navy personnel) Sir, in terms of military strength also we are a leading country.

CH: Yes, we are fifth biggest military power. What else?
Me: In terms of population also we represent almost 1/6th of the world.

CH: What population (almost as if population is a kind of burden on India and is of no consequence). Give me some other points.
Me: Sir, nothing comes to my mind at this time.

CH: India has done so well in terms of technology, services. We are also a leading space power. We are also a nuclear power as well.
(I nodded at each utterance and at this he passed it to other members)

M1: What is the difference between Engineering and Technology?
Me: Sir, I would like to explain it with the help of an illustration. For example, in a lighter, how we make the lighter and its parts is about engineering and how it actually works is technology. (I had read similar definition and example earlier somewhere and I blurted it out).
(At this Chairman interrupted)

CH: Can you give another example?
Me: Sir, If we take another simpler example of say a wheel, then the process of making the wheel i.e. chipping wood off it, turning it etc will be engineering part and how the wheel functions is the technology.

M1: What is Panchsheel?
Me: Sir, it was a doctrine of foreign policy that was propounded in the early 1950s by India, especially keeping in mind our neighbours like China. It is said that its core philosophy was taken from Buddhism and it included 5 principles like - non-interference, peaceful coexistence and so on. Basically, it was a peace doctrine of India.

M1: Why did our first PM, Nehru, decided to go ahead with PSUs after the independence?
Me: Sir, at the time of independence, level of industrial development was very poor. Private enterprise was also very weak as the British followed a policy of imports and it had virtually killed our domestic private enterprise. Hence, to give industrial development a push in India, state had to invest in certain basic and heavy industries.

M1: Government invests more in engineering as compared to other social sciences. And when they go somewhere else, this money is wasted. Do you think so?
Me: Sir, education is not just about... (at this point, I was interrupted by M1). 

M1: I think you are not clear with the question. Let me repeat it again (and he repeated, saying that government suffers loss actually when this happens as engineers are not doing engineering work).
Me: Sir, there may be a notional loss in terms of say money when an engineer enters into other fields like Management, Civil Services and even entrepreneurship. The contribution that one make there cannot be always quantified in measurable terms and in terms of value addition, there may be even more in these fields.
(At this point, M2 takes over)

M2: In Lakshadweep, what kind of Administrative challenges do you face? (I was in DANICS earlier, so he probably asked this one for that reason)
Me: Sir, first of all, it is the communication and transportation. There are only two way to connect there - by sea or by air. And very few airlines operate on that route. So, essential supplies are one issue. Secondly, the island is a coral island and hence fragile one and hence tourism can also not be promoted to great extent. Islands are small and not well connected and hence this is also an issue.

M2: Any other issues?
Me: Sir, actually, I haven't been there so I not aware much about that.

M2: (smiling), So, what if you have not been there. From where do you get electricity there?
Me: Sir, I am not aware about that.

M2: Ok, what is the economic mainstay of Lakshadweep?
Me: Sir, Tourism is one source. Secondly, since education and literacy is high there, service industry is also another source. As the predominant Malyali community lives there, fishing is also important source of income.

M2: What else?
Me: Sir, I am not aware about that much.

M2: Coconut?
Me: (With a bigger smile and nodding, as if I knew it and had just forgotten to say it).

M2: You told that you have not worked much as Tehsildar, but you must be having a fair idea about land records. In some countries, land record system is managed very well and there are hardly any disputes, while in India, it is not so. Do you know about any such countries?
Me: Sir, I am not aware about any such countries but in India the problem is due to poor land records. First of all, the land is not consolidated in many states except a few states like Haryana. Some land holdings are still of irregular shapes and this creates problems. Further, 'intakaals' or mutations are also not timely and sometimes, revenue officials also connive with parties to deform the records. So, this creates issues in India.

M2: What is this 'Record of Rights' called in Haryana?
Me: Sir it is called 'Jamabandi'.

M2: How this system of land records can be improved?
Me: Sir, first of all, the consolidation of the land-holdings has to be carried out. Secondly, technology has to be used so that human interface is minimized. For example, in Haryana, to pay the stamp duty, there is now ‘e-Stamping’ in which money is paid in the banks and one need not bring cash. Similarly, there are also plans of digitization of all the records through Online Registration etc. This will ensure that all records are online and anyone can access these from any place. It will bring more transparency in the whole system.

M2: What is the name of the program of the Government of India regarding this?
Me: Sir, It is National Land Record Modernization Program. (at this he nodded and seemed a bit satisfied)

M2:  You have worked in both the private and public fields. How did you find them?
Me: Sir, both the places had their own advantages and specialties. In private, things are more streamlined, there are fewer rules and paperwork is lesser. As compared to that, in government, diversity of work is more though paperwork is also more as e-Governance has still to catch up in government. In some areas like work-life balance, some companies like Infosys – they are actively promoting work-life balance – as you find everything you need within campus itself. On the other hand, public sector has still to catch on these terms. (I had mugged up so many points, but only these came out).

M3: Have you heard of this term ‘Work Ethics’? (I said ‘Yes’). What is it?
Me: (I struggled a bit as I didn’t have a clear definition in my mind and tried to fabricate one) Sir, work ethics is doing your work with full honesty, dedication and sincerity. It is aligning your goals with organizational objectives and pursuing them. (And I almost repeated the same things again, but as a different sentence).

M3: Different countries have different work ethics. Some are known for good work ethics. Can you name a few.
Me: Japan is one such country sir. I have heard that employees work there diligently even if employer is not watching them. This is the reason that even the notions of ‘quality’ comes from… (At this I was interrupted).

M3: Ok, leave Japan and Germany, which other countries?
Me: Sir, there are many other European countries. In Asia we have Singapore, and for that reason, it is also at the top of Ease of Doing Business Index as well.

M3: Do you agree that India has inferior work ethics?
Me: No sir, we don’t have 'inferior' work ethics, but ‘different’ work ethics. Different would be actually the right word. The notions of ‘work’ in modern history arrived with industrialisation which incidentally happened first in the West and some Asian countries like Japan and South Korea and hence the idea of work ethics. We have a different historical context and have a complex society. So, sometimes there are some extraneous factors that affect workplace as well.

M3: What are those extraneous factors?
Me: Sir, caste is one. Religion is also there. We have pictures of gods and deities even in our government offices. Apart from it, we are a very closed knit society and sometimes relatives and friends ask for some favours as well.

M3: Why sex ratio is poor in Haryana?
Me: Sir, Haryana is a patriarchal society and for that reason, people attach different notions and values to male and female child. Secondly, some sociologists also suggest that as land prices went up and property became costly, due to a patriarchal and patrilineal system, preference for male child also became higher. Thirdly, Haryana is closer to Delhi and hence there was early access to sex detection techniques in the region. (again, this was another much expected question and I had prepared it well. But only these things came out of me)

M3: Can you name a few Indian Sociologists?
Me: Sir, starting from G S Ghurye, M N Srinivas, Yogendra Singh (and then I suddenly went blank, though I know names of a lot of them, and seeing my this situation, M3 came to my rescue).

M3: Ok, tell me the contribution of any one of them.
Me: Sir, Mr M N Srinivas is considered as to be belonging to the structural functionalist tradition in Indian sociology. He gave various theories on village, caste and religion. He gave idea of ‘Dominant Caste’ and ‘Sanskritisation’ which explains the phenomenon of social change via cultural change.
(Now the Chairman took over)

CH: Recently, there was some issue in Haryana. How do you feel about that? Why they were doing so and how things played out? (He was actually referring to the stir by Jats for reservation and the consequent violence)
Me: Sir, regarding how I feel about it, I feel very bad about it… (at this I was interrupted and I also realized that perhaps I had made a wrong selection of words).

CH: I am not asking about your emotions. You are a future administrator, you have to take decisions. Tell me how it played out and where administration failed.
Me: Sir, the protests started as a particular community (I deliberately avoided putting a name) felt that their main economic mainstay ‘land’ is no longer a viable option as land holdings become very small. They also found themselves with no other options like other castes have. Adding to that, employment opportunities also shrunk in both public and private sector. Public jobs declined from 21 million in 1990s to 17 million today. Similarly, private sector also failed to provide meaningful jobs. In this situation, the particular community felt that they are no longer the so called ‘dominant caste’ that others used to call them and hence suffer from economic handicaps. Regarding how it played out, I would say that it was an ‘error of judgment’ on the behalf of administration. While the protests were growing, adequate preventive and enforcement measures were not taken and intelligence also apparently failed. Government and higher officials also failed to establish dialogue and bring the parties on the table for talks to alleviate their apprehensions. So, there was a communication gap as well. In this situation, technology played its role and mis-information and rumors spread like a wild-fire through social media, Whatsapp etc and situation turned very volatile. As a result, communities turned against each others as well.

CH: What do you think that they should be given reservation or not?
Me: No Sir.

CH: Thanks, your interview is over.
Me: Thank you sir. (I said thank you to other members as well).

Suddenly, it came to my mind that chair was inside the table when I entered the room (and keeping in mind that I was sitting in front of an armed forces personnel) and to show my etiquette) I picked up the chair very gently and tucked it again inside the table – where it was earlier – and left.

I don’t remember what the 4th member had asked (not even sure that whether he had asked any Qs at all), or whether some of these Qs were by the 4th member. So I have totally skipped him.