I had my interview on April 18, 2016. I had never been nervous. The reason being that it was an angel story of me making into the interview. After being unwell for two months, I oddly had fifteen days for the mains. Then chennai floods came and I just rushed through my optional and gave my mains. I got selected for the interview. So, I was confident that I will make it into the list. I was the last candidate in the afternoon batch to enter the board. It was 4.45 pm when I was called in. I am producing whatever I remember and it is more than one month since I took the interview.
Graduation: Agricultural and Irrigation Engineering
Optional: Tamil Literature
Board: Mr. Aravind Saxena
PKS: Good evening sirs
Chairman: Good evening Saravanan. Take your seat. (He smiled
at me )
PKS: Thank you sir.
Chairman: College of engineering guindy. It’s a very old college right?
PKS: Yes sir. It was the first engineering institution in India started as a survey school in 1794.
(He was hearing me and turning the DAF. Now he suddenly found something and looked at me)
Chairman: You have served as programme narrator? What is that. What did you do exactly?
Pks: It was an educational show run by vikatan which is a famous magazine in Tamil nadu. I reached thousands of students through that audio show for 365 days. The content, research all carried out by me and I narrate it to the students.
Chairman: So, whether its funded by government? How do you reach students? Being from engineering background do you only speak to them about science or about our culture,past?
Pks: It was entirely funded by the magazine and the show reached people through youtube and voice call. The show dealt with various aspects apart from Sciene like our forgotten culture, glorious past, our remarkable leaders. For example today is the birthday of D.K.Karve who created the first women’s university it India and was awarded Bharat ratna. I did a show on him. We also did a show on Sikadar Radhanath the great mathematician who originally scaled Mt.everest.
Chairman: So, do you get any feedback and how do you process
PKS: The feedbacks are mostly encouraging and we have a time limit of three mins. So, if we do a show on Dravid for three minutes, his fans would ask us to do a show for five minutes which we do address through special shows.
Chairman: Did you get any negative feedbacks?
PKS: (was about to say that my voice received negative feedbacks) Some of the viewers used to ask for a female narrator
Chairman: (He smiled a bit) That normally happens. Now saravanan as you are so active across various platforms now tell me how to use social media positively. I am not asking this without reason. Recently Burmese Leader Aung san suu kyi commented that youths are wasting a lot of time in social media.
PKS: Social media has created a negative impact in inter personal relationships. Many families had the habit of eating together and discussing various things. Now people seek solace in social media and they live in a virtual world with scant respect for relationships. They find it easy to unfriend or block someone and they find it hard to face realities or stressful situations. We can use popular personalities to spread positive message in social media. Tn election commission is campaigning for 100% voting using various stars and it is getting amazing response. Recently, a famous actor named Prithiviraj came out with a short film in youtube to request youngsters not to take their life due to failures in life. It struck an emotional chord with many.
Chairman: Your graduation is from agricultural and irrigation engineering.Now tell me, why food processing industry didn’t progress in India?
PKS: Ours is a marginalized country
Chairman: Do u mean it?
PKS: Sorry sir! I meant to say that we have marginalized farmers in our country and the farms are fragmented. so, its hard to integrate and develop infrastructure.
Chairman: We have created good roads, even then food processing industry is not taking off. Why?
PKS: By infrastructure I meant cold storage facilities, better supply chain systems. The sterilization at the procurement point as done by AMUL, E-choupal by ITC are few such examples. The lack of better investment too causes the underdevelopment.
Chairman: Did you meant to say that government didn’t make proper investments?
PKS: No sir. Government has opened up 93 food parks and it is a right step forward.
Chairman: Then why the food processing industry has not progressed much?
PKS: (I was about to give up) Agriculture is a state subject sir. Central government tries to bring state government on board. Many times state government look at the centre’s steps with suspicion and as an encroachment on federalism. Yesterday governemnt announced national e market and though, it has great ambitions to empower farmers very few states have agreed to be part of it. The centre should take the state governments into confidence.
(He gave a satisfying look)
Chairman: You said that agriculture needs more investment, so, do we need bullet trains for our nation?
PKS: Yes sir. For faster connectivity and better augumentation of economic growth we do need them. The credit is also soft credit paid over a long time.
Chairman: Even though the interest is less, it is 90,000 crore loan and we have to repay it. Now tell me. Do we need bullet train?
PKS: With various other crucial sectors in the pipeline I would say that we can do better investments in other fields instead of spending 90,000 crores in bullet train.
Chairman: Then what is the logic for government to spend so much money?
PKS: Better and faster connectivity, augumentation of economic growth (I said the same points already, was searching for a convincing answer to escape the trap I got into). Science inspires millions of youths. When chandrayan was launched, a sixth standard student wrote to ISRO that he got inspired and he will land in moon someday. A bullet train also ignites imagination of many engineers and drives them to do great and innovative things.
M1: So why did you chose tamil literature
PKS: Tamil was close to my heart sir.
PKS: ,My mom was a tamil teacher and I was a kambaramayana and periyapurana orator. And I was a translator too. So, I felt it comfortable to choose tamil literature sir.
M1: Why not some science subjects like maths, physics. You scored good marks in them
PKS: UPSC requires honors level knowledge for the optionals and hence, I decided to stick with tamil literature.
M1: Then why not Agriculture?
PKS: The upsc syllabus is different from what I learnt in undergraduation in Agricultural and irrigation engineering sir.
(Now comes the googly)
M1: You are good in tamil and you are good in english too, You are a master of words. I could see that. Now assume I am a layman and describe me types of tie and how to tie a tie?
PKS: (I literally got fumbled) I don’t know the types of tie sir.
M1: You have tied your tie well and so, tell me what is a tie and how to tie a tie.
PKS: Tie is tied around the head.
Pks: Sorry sir. Neck. It makes one person to look better and it gives a gentleman look. The tie is tied around the neck, then we wrap it in the right, insert and pull it. (I did make actions) and It is rhombus shaped, it looks like a pole star, if one wears it he will look like a super star. (My voice had rose a bit)
M2: Tell me what is the contribution of agriculture to the GDP of nation?
PKS: 14% Sir
M2: Exactly. With very little contribution to agriculture why should we focus much on it?
PKS: with 60% working population involved in agriculture we need to focus on it. A 1% increase in agricultural GDP pulls 4% of indian population out of poverty according to worldbank.
M2: It is said that 1 dollar spent in health sector gives 6 dollar return in health sector. Leave it. Tell me of the total area in agriculture how much is irrigated in India?
PKS: 40% Sir
M2: So how we can improve irrigation?
PKS: The construction of big dams is feasible till the exploitable surface water is economical. (Explained what it is) We can construct area specific irrigation structures. Water shed management needed to be encouraged. We can construct johads in rajasthan, dugwells in bundelkhand, check dams, bunds depending on the region.
M2: How we can improve agriculture?
PKS: Investing more in research and development, concentrating on irrigation, moving more farmers out of agriculture to non-farm sector through skill development and rationalizing subsidies.
M2: What is DBT?
PKS: DIRECT BENEFIT TRANSFER. In this we link the bank account of the benefiter and deliver the subsidy directly in his account without any intermediaries.
M2: who are those intermediaries?
PKS: Middle men, arhityas, postman and so on. (I was about to say government officials and stopped from saying)
M2: How we can rationalise fertiliser subsidy?
PKS: We should decanalise urea subsidy and we should disperse urea based on biometric at the Point of sale. (Verbatim from economic survey)
M2: We are already doing something with respect of urea. Can u tell me what is that?
PKS: We are neem coating urea to prevent it from using it for non-agricultural purposes.
M3: Have you heard of migration crisis? Elaborate it with respect to europe.
PKS: In syria a the internal conflict ended up in a civil war and millions of people are escaping from their country to seek asylum in european countries. There are grave human rights violations and continuous bombings, European union is unable to stop the inflow of refugees so It has now signed an agreement with Turkey to accept refugees and also assured it will consider Turkey for membership in european union.
M3: See the migration crisis is happening in Libya, Yemen too. Now provide solution in case by case approach.
PKS: All the conflicts have their own features and its hard to comment on solutions for each and every case sir. We can try to bring all the stake holders into table, negotiate and arrive at a solution. If its not possible to bring them to table as in the case of ISIS, we have to neutralise them using force.
M3: We voiced our concern against apartheid in south africa Human rights violations in Israel. Why we are silent when it comes to Myanmar when US has imposed sanctions?
PKS: Myanmar is our neighbouring country and in the present geopolitical situation if India raises any voice against human rights violations in Myanmar China would step in and capitalise upon it. We also never claimed ourselves to be global policemen and we are empathising with common people of Myanmar. The sanctions affects common people.
M3: Still why should we do that? If its fine with Israel, why not with Myanmar.
PKS: India in the case of Israel condemns human right violations and at the same time, cooperates with it on defence, agricultural sectors. It is realist rather than idealist foreign policy.
M3: Why only Myanmar?
PKS: If south africa, Israel had been our neighbouring nation India would not have condemned the human rights violations. Having a powerful neighbour in the gates is always a point of worry. So, we have to engage with myanmar to keep china off the gate.
M4: World bank says it wont give loan to India if environmental norms are not strictly adhered to. So which do you prefer, development or environment
PKS: It’s the combination of both. We can’t sacrifice our development with complete emphasis on environment. The over use of fertilizers to increase the yield during green revolution has spoiled the soil health drastically. We are losing around 6% of GDP due to environmental degradation. So, it’s the middle path where both environmental concerns and developmental goals meet. Sustainable development is the ultimate destination.
M4: India is not successful in enforcing water sharing between its states itself, Indus water treaty signed between India and Pakistan is so successful and works till date. Now tell me what it is?
PKS: Indus water treaty was signed between India and Pakistan under the mediation of World bank in 1960. According to the treaty six rivers namely Indus, ravi, beas, chenab, sutlej, jhelum were shared between the two countries. Rivers in the west Indus, Chenab, Jhelum went to Pakistan, Rivers in the east Ravi, Beas, Sutlej stayed with India.
Chairman: Thank you. You may go.
PKS: Thank you sir.
Duration: 40 minutes