I got 225 out of 300 in this interview.
Academic Qualifications : B.Tech (Mech engg), IIT Kanpur, 2006
Executive Gen. Mgmt. Prog, IIM Bangalore 2007
Job Experience : Areas Sales and Customer Manager, HUL
(July 2006 – May 2011)
(July 2006 – May 2011)
Indian Revenue Services (Dec 2011 to Present)
[not mentioned in Form]
[not mentioned in Form]
Optionals : Sociology and Public Administration
Home City/State : Bokaro, Jharkhand
Hobbies : 1. Member, Shiksha Sopan, NGO in Rural Education
2. Scouting for local delicacies
3. Reading Non-fiction books
Date of Interview : 30-03-2012 Forenoon Session
Interview Board : Shri P. K. Mishra
(After the formalities of the documents, photographs etc, I was escorted to the interview room. I was the first to be interviewed and I asked the official escorting me which board it was. He said “P.K.Mishra”. I had not heard anything strongly positive or negative against him but one of my friends had his board a few days back and his interview went quite smooth. So I tried to tell to myself that it should be okay.
Nevertheless, while waiting on the chair outside the Interview Room, butterflies did flutter in my stomach and weird burps did erupt. There were no watches allowed so I don’t know exactly when the interview began. But my guess is that it must be sometime between 10:00 am and 10:05 am that the bell rang and I was escorted in the room.
To my surprise, there were no lady members. I wished the chairman “good morning, sir” quite loudly and then wished others “good morning Sirs”. Mr. Mishra asked me to take the seat. I sat and said “Thank you Sir.”
There were five members (all male), including the chairman)
PKM (P.K.Mishra): So Chandra Mohan, you have worked with Unilever.
CMT: Yes Sir.
PKM: Hmm… So tell me, why did you leave such a good organization. It is such a nice company!
CMT: Sir, I left the company in May 2011 after qualifying the Civil Services Exam. However, I got a service allocated only in November due to some medical unfitness.
PKM: Oh! So you are already in service?
CMT: Yes Sir. I am in the Revenue Services.
PKM: Nevertheless, why did you leave HUL to come to government? Nothing works in the government and nobody bothers. You had a much better life there. (I had seen this coming !!)
CMT: Sir, it was during my work in HUL that I was sent to work on Corporate Social Responsibility Project in Maharashtra. (PKM starts showing some interest and nodded as if saying,”yeah yeah!! Go ahead”). Sir, it was a Project Bhavishya undertaken by HUL, ICICI bank, Government of Maharashtra and UNICEF. Though, my job was more technical and similar to what I normally did in HUL, that is, work on improving the supply chain efficiencies in ICDS, Public health Centers etc. But the fact that my work impacted the life of a lot of people gave me a unique sense of satisfaction. If two months of that work in social sector was so satisfying, a full time job in that area would be more fulfilling. Also, Sir, I have been associated with an NGO in Kanpur in the field of education and there too, my satisfaction from the work was huge.
So, Sir, I decided to join the government to do full time work in social sector.
PKM: Hmm… but what did you notice in the government setup?
CMT: Sir, I would say that there was not so much a dearth of funds or resources but it was more about the implementation efficiency at the ground level and I thought there is a lot I could contribute to that. Also individuals were more interested in their own careers rather than the larger organizational goal.
PKM: Chandra Mohan, How has your perception about government changed after you have joined the government?
CMT: (I wasn’t sure what he wanted me to say, nevertheless) Sir, I think my perception has remained the same that individuals in the government get a little too engrossed in their own careers and somehow overlook the broader goals of the organization. This was something I had observed earlier also and I see this even after joining the government.
PKM: (he kept looking at the member to his left while asking every question, as if seeking his view on this) But the perception about government is that it doesn’t deliver. How was your perception? Was it positive and is it still positive? (He said with a “the-country-has-gone-to-dogs” expression on his face)
CMT: Sir, my perception has been positive only. I had seen the government system working in Maharashtra and we were sent to Coimbatore to see how ICDS works better there and I saw how government systems can perform well.
PKM: So, if you reach a high position in the government, what would you change, improve efficiency, leadership, what?
CMT: Sir, I think I would focus on aligning individuals to the organization’s goal and ensuring that the ground officials had measurable deliverables which are linked to the organization’s goal, on which they could measure their performance on a daily or a weekly basis.
PKM: (Not very happy with what he heard) That you said already, what else you would focus on. Say, you are responsible for providing services. What would you change, in terms of deliveries etc?
CMT: Sir, I would focus on transparency and…
PKM: hmm… Transparency, ok good. What else?
CMT: Also sir, I would ensure that something like a Citizen’s Charter is there, where we are forthcoming in outlining what services we shall offer to our customers or clients or citizens and mentioning timelines against them. Also sir, there should be a redressal mechanism, in case, someone is not satisfied with the services rendered.
PKM: But Chandra Mohan, this Citizen Charter, Redressal Mechanism etc are already there. Right?
(I give him the “what-else-should-I-say” look with my typical vulnerability on face)
PKM: No no. You are right. All this should be there. You are quite right. (Vulnerable looks work!) But what would you do in particular?
CMT: Sir, as a leader, I would focus on bringing about a motivation in the field officials about how their job is not a mere job but is related to a larger goal. That would ensure that they do their work more efficiently. Sir, during my job in HUL as a sales manager, I used to emphasize to my salesmen and the sales officers how their job was not mundane and contributed to the organization as a whole.
Also sir, if I may narrate an incident (PKM gives the “go-ahead” look). During my work in Nasik in ICDS, I asked the Child Development Project Officer, Mr. Gaekwad what was his motivation to take so much pain in his job. He asked me what motivated me in my job. I told him that it gives me immense pleasure to see that people are using our brands, the brands that I work for. (PKM nodded affirmatively.) He said that he also finds the pleasure when he moves around in his district and sees healthier kids around.
Sir, by connecting his normal job with this larger goal, his motivation levels were very high and I think that the senior leadership should focus on emphasizing that field officials see the larger picture and feel similar motivation.
PKM: Hmm… tell me what is the concept of Disaster? (at this point he peeked into a piece of paper and I guess it was a list of general questions that he had written down to be asked to candidates)
CMT: (I had read about Disaster Management during mains and didn’t remember exact details. In fact, in the mains too, I had chosen not to attempt the Disaster Management question in Public administration. But here I had to attempt) Sir, umm… disasters could be of two types, natural and man-made, natural disasters being earthquake, fire etc…
PKM: (cutting me in between and looking at his fellow members) oh ho!! You started giving examples bhai! I am asking what is disaster.
(Oh god!! He wants me to say the definition! But I don’t remember any. Why not take a pause and construct some definition. I paused a little too long and probably appeared clueless, so PKM said again)
PKM: Arre. I am not asking you to define it. The examples you cited can only be used to explain what disaster is.
CMT: Yes sir. I would say disaster is an unprecedented event that occurs suddenly and causes unforeseen damages..umm
PKM: Damage to life and property?
CMT: Yes sir, damage to life and property.
PKM: (looking back into his sheet on the side and virtually reading from it) In disaster management the emphasis has shifted from a relief-centered approach to proactive approach. Your comments on this?
CMT: (this was more like a GS mains question) Sir, earlier the focus of disaster management used to be on providing relief to the ones affected, but now having witnessed many disasters, we can learn from our experiences (suddenly loud coughing began by the member to the right of PKM i.e, M1, however I still continued) and can devise systems…
(the coughing became too loud and PKM couldn’t hear what I said. He made the face of “Pardon-can-you-come-again”. I tried speaking but then he showed me the hand gesture of “wait-till-he-is-done-coughing”. The member coughed at ease, and then apologized. I don’t know why I also said “Sorry Sir” to the coughing member as if my answers made him feel so bad )
Sir I was saying that we have learnt from our experiences and can now devise ways in which we can proactively prepare for various disasters.
For example, sir, in an earthquake, we now know which are the earthquake prone regions and accordingly we could prepare. We can have buildings which are earthquake sensitive (oops!! I should have said ‘resistant’) and do less damage. Also we can involve the local authorities to coordinate evacuations. We can also have a Warning system where we could inform people about a disaster beforehand so that people could be moved out in time and damages could be minimized.
Sir, such measures would not only reduce the damage but also save the costs that we today incur on the relief measures.
PKM: Hmm… Is there a law or act also for this purpose?
CMT: (This is not good. I don’t remember NDMA details, how would I sail through it?) Yes sir. I think there is a National Disaster Management Act (PKM nodding his head affirmatively) and an authority too.
PKM: Yes. Yes. So tell me about the National Disaster Management Authority.
CMT: (GOD!! I should have ducked earlier. Now What?) Sir, I don’t remember the exact details of the act.
PKM: It’s ok. You just tell me what it does. Who is the Chairman of this authority?
CMT: Sorry Sir, I don’t remember that exactly.
PKM: Doesn’t matter. You know something about how it works?
CMT: Sir, the National Disaster Management Authority works in coordination with the local authorities and at a district level, I think, it is headed by the District Collector.
PKM: National se seedhe District par aa gaye? There is a State level also?
CMT: Yes Sir. There is a Regional Disaster Management Authority at the state level. And at the local level the authority works in coordination with local authorities. Also, I think, there are designated forces for relief work, including members from different security forces. I don’t remember much details of it sir.
PKM: What is Vulnerability at Last/Loss (I am not sure whether he said last or loss)
CMT: Pardon Sir. Is it a term that you asked?
PKM: Have you not heard of the concept of Vulnerability at Last/Loss (couldn’t make out this time too). It is such an important document.
CMT: Sorry Sir. I haven’t heard about it.
(Passes on the first member to his right, the “coughing” guy)
(M1 starts flipping pages of my summary sheet and appeared that he had not yet thought a question. There was an awkward silence for about 5-6 seconds. I noticed that PKM was staring me. I looked at him, smiled and started looking at M1 again.)
M1: Chandra Mohan, You come from Bokaro. The steel city. So what do you know about steel and various types of steel?
CMT: (I remembered only as much as my dad had narrated to me last night and I wanted to vomit it totally before I forgot any details) Sir, I haven’t worked in the steel sector myself but I am aware of the basics of steel making. (He gave me the “go-ahead” look). Sir, steel is made from iron, after mixing it with carbon, nickel, chromium etc. Depending on the quantity of carbon used, we get different types of steel. Steel is more strong and durable than iron, especially stainless steel.
(And then as if my dad’s entire conversation came in a flash) Sir, first the iron-ore is mixed with limestone etc and melted in a blast furnace. From there we get Pig Iron which is then mixed with carbon, nickel etc. and it is called Ingot. Then it is moved to the Slabbing Mill whereafter the steel moves through the Hot Rolling Mill and the Cold Rolling Mill at the end of which steel sheets are made which are then sent to market (SIGH!!! Finally, I had made my dad proud !!!)
PKM: He is asking about other steel plants. Tell him about them.
CMT: Sir, within the SAIL itself, there are other plants. Like there is one in Bhilai, and in Rourkela and in Burnpur.
CMT: And sir, there’s also one in Salem which makes the finished products like utensils etc. Outside SAIL, there’s Tata Steel in Jamshedpur. Also sir, there’s a SAIL Plant in Durgapur. (Now I gave a blank look, the “what-exactly-do-you-want-to-hear” blank look.)
M1: What about other Private Steel Plants?
CMT: (I just couldn’t think of any) Sorry Sir, can’t remember.
M1: JSW? (I heard it GSW)
CMT: Sorry sir. Haven’t heard about it.
M1: Jindal Steel!! You haven’t heard about it?
CMT: Oh Yes Sir. I know about Jindal Steel but I am not sure if it has a plant in Jharkhand, so didn’t recall its name.
PKM: Yeah yeah, it doesn’t have a plant in Jharkhand may be.
CMT: Yes Sir. But I know that Jindal Steel exists.
M1: Ok. (Starts flipping my summary sheet again) So you have Public Administration as one of your subjects. So tell me about District Administration.
CMT: Sir, the District Administration is one of the most important components of the entire governmental setup (Yeah. Is that new?) and Sir it encompasses various areas like revenue administration, law and order and implementation of social sector development projects. The lynchpin of the District Administration is the District Collector who is also know by different names in different parts of the country. With Panchayati Raj coming in, he is also the key coordinator between the Zila Parishad and the district administrative officials.
M1: What is another name that the Collector is called by?
CMT: Sir, he is also called as Deputy Commissioner.
M1: (He didn’t hear what he wanted to hear) The name that shows his job about law and order?
CMT: Sir, District Magistrate?
M1: (BINGO!!!) So tell me about the magisterial powers of the DM. (PKM also starts showing interest. Before this he was scribbling something)
CMT: Sir, earlier the DM had judicial magisterial powers as well and could hear cases, but now it is only restricted to executive magisterial powers. He can invoke the provisions of IPC in situations of law and order problem like Section 144.
CMT: (What? Who said that? I turned to PKM) Yes sir, also CrPC
PKM: Not ALSO, only CrPC!!
CMT: Oh Yes Sir. The DM can invoke provisions of CrPC and not IPC. Sorry Sir.
M1: So tell me, which are the provisions of CrPC that he can invoke (He had this smug look in his face, the “ab-batao-bachhu” look)
CMT: Sorry Sir, I wouldn’t know the exact provisions.
PKM: Yes. It’s ok. You are not supposed to remember. It’s fine.
M1: (flipping through my form again) Oh!!! So you have the hobby of Scouting…for local delicacies. (Everyone smiles as if they just heard a joke). So what do you do?
CMT: (I smiled too. This was my moment to show my lighter side..or maybe the ‘heavier’ side J) Sir, my job involved a lot of travel and wherever I went I asked the local retailers about the famous street food in that city and then went on to have it myself. Sir, today I can say I am a proud owner of a list of about 70-80 food items of the country.
Sir, during my stay in Nagpur in the last few months, I found out about a special style of cooking in Nagpur called ‘Saoji’. It uses a lot of red spices and lots of oil and makes very delicious non-vegetarian dishes. (Me eyes had started lightening up with this conversation and I didn’t want to stop. The board was smiling,g looking at each other and giving me the “Aww-sho-cute-sho-shweet” look).
I also write about these dishes, at times, on my blogs and people also seek my opinion when they visit these cities.
M1: So you blog also?
CMT: Yes Sir. Once in a while.
M1: And people ask for your suggestions?
CMT: Sir, at least my close circle of friends seek my suggestion. For example, one of my friends was travelling from Amritsar to Jallandhar and called me to ask where he could get good food. I told him that right off the highway near Jallandhar, there is Haveli where he could get Poori Sabji which has authentic Punjabi Taste. (I could have gone on and on but then everybody was already feeling heavy of such ‘greasy’ talks)
(M1 passed the baton to M2. He was a dude. In a French grey beard, heavy and chubby like me. Also with a cute intellectual look.)
M2: So Chandra Mohan. (without looking into my forms) Have you heard about NAM?
CMT: Yes Sir. The Non-Alignment Movement
M2: Don’t you think that it has lost its relevance today. Also there are many regional groups coming up now. There is this BRICS becoming active. Do you know what BRICS is?
CMT: Yes Sir. It is a consortium of five nations. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
M2: Hmm… so don’t you think that the NAM has lost its significance and regional groupings have gained prominence?
CMT: (I again see PKM looking at me, so I try to look at everybody while answering) Sir, I don’t think NAM has lost its significance. It is true that the basis of its foundation no longer exists as the Cold War is over and there are no longer two rival blocs. Yet, Sir, I would say that NAM is an important forum where developing nations can come together and voice their concerns on various global issues. For example, NAM could be used to air the concerns of developing nations with relations to WTO etc.
About the regional groupings Sir, I think we have learned from the ASEAN experience that when countries sideline their political differences and come together to cooperate for an economic goal, all countries benefit. On this ground only, various regions are forming their groups for economic advantage.
BRICS, in that sense, Sir, is a group consisting of nations of different continents, each of them being an emerging economy. It is a relatively new idea where all the emerging nations can get together to present a unified face in front of the global polity on various issues.
M2: Hmm… But don’t you think that earlier India had a leadership role in institutions like NAM etc but it is no longer the leader of the small nations. It appears that India is more focused on its relationship with the USA.
CMT: (looking at PKM for an approval) No Sir. I don’t agree (PKM giving me “jiyo-mere-laal” look) I think India is well aware of its responsibility as a leader of the smaller nations and it has ensured that no nation is ignored in its foreign policy. It has continued to interact with the smaller nations both on a bilateral as well as a multilateral manner.
Also, Sir, our friendly relations with the US are more driven by our own self interest needs (M2 nods affirmatively) for example the economic and the defense needs. Moreover, India still professes an independent foreign policy and makes sure that its warm bilateral relations with one nation doesn’t affect its relations with other nations. (Somewhere during this, mobile phone of M3 or M4 rang. But I didn’t bother. The mobile was quickly switched off and the member apologized to PKM)
(M2 passes then to M3, who is sitting to my immediate right, that is, second to the left of PKM)
M3: (looking into my forms) Chandra Mohan, you have taken Sociology as one of your optionals. So tell me, how has reading sociology helped you?
CMT: Sir, I had read some sociology in college as part of our B.Tech Programme. Sir, reading a subject like Sociology helped me understand the society around me. I understood that all societies have their norms and values and that no values are right or wrong, it is just different for different societies, depending on the evolution of that particular society.
(M3 wanted me to go on) Also sir, I understood how various institutions of the society perform different functions for society and how each institution has both functions as well as dysfucntions for society. (PKM gave me the “Get-to-specifics” look) Sir, like the institutions of Family (“OK” nod by M3), Marriage, Poverty, Crime, Economy, Politics and various such institutions have different functions for society.
(M3 still wanted more, so I went on) Sociology also exposed me to various ideologies. For example the Marxist philosophy, the Functionalist way of looking at institutions. Also some new ideologies like post-modernism etc helped me realize how same situation can be seen and interpretated in various ways.
Sir, I would say, that sociology widened my perspective and helped me appreciate that various views on a single thing are possible. While my education in science made me aware of the technical aspects, the reading of sociology helped me understand the broader aspects of society.
M4: You talked about dysfunctions. What institutions do you think are dysfunctional to society?
CMT: Sir, I don’t think we can categorize any institution as completely dysfunctional to society. When Robert K. Merton also talks about functions, non-functions and dysfunctions, he mentions that an institution can have all of them.
Sir, I would say that it is a matter of degree and some institutions could be more dysfunctional than the other. For example, if I may call Crime as an institution, while it is functional to the few who benefit from it, it is largely dysfunctional to the society at large.
Similarly, Sir, the Caste system is dysfunctional to the people placed at the lowest strata while it may be functional to the ones placed at the top strata. So sir, I think each institution is dysfunctional or functional to the society, up to different extents.
M4: Ok. You were talking about perception about Coimbatore and how it was different from perception about Jharkhand. Why such difference in perception?
CMT: Sir, the times in which I grew up, when Jharkhand was still part of Bihar, we grew up with the perception that nothing works in the government. We would hear jokes about how nothing moves in Bihar Sarkaar while things would work under the Bokaro Steel Limited. So I never questioned this perception that governments don’t deliver.
But, Sir, when I was sent to Coimbatore to see how ICDS and Aanganwadi system works there quite well, I saw that even in a tribal village, there were tap water connections in each house and also electricity. My first reaction was that it’s a bluff and it is actually not a tribal village. May be we are visitors, so the officials are showing us a developed village. I asked the residents what did they do for livelihood. Most of them were labourers in nearby tea fields and earned hardly 1500 to 2000 rupees every month.
I asked them how they could have tap water and electricity in their home. They told me that government ensured all that. There was no malnourished child in the village and every child got a healthy nutrition at the Aanganwadi.
This made my perception that governments can deliver if projects are implemented well.
(M3 then passed to M4 who seemed not too ready with questions)
M4: Hmm… Chandra Mohan, continuing from the discussion, you would agree that corruption is at both places, in Tamil Nadu as well as in Jharkhand. Then why do you think things work in Tamil Nadu while they don’t work in Jharkhand?
CMT: Sir, I think, that in places like Bihar and Jharkhand, people see the government as something very big and they see themselves as mere beneficiaries. While in Tamil Nadu I saw people being more assertive about their rights and demanding a lot from the government. Also I found that the local bodies like the Panchayats were much more proactive.
M4: But why do you think that is so?
CMT: Sir, It could be because Tamil Nadu has more literacy and better education which makes the people there more aware about their rights. Also it makes the Panchayati Raj institutions more powerful. I saw how there were Mother’s Committees in villages which made surprise checks on schools to see if the kids got good education and also on aanganwadis to see if the kids got good food. (M4 nods affirmatively)
M4: So you were working at Hindustan Unilever. Is it there that you did the EGMP? (He was talking about the Executive General Management Programme at IIM Bangalore in my form) Was it sponsored by HUL?
CMT: Yes sir, it was a part of the Business Leadership Training Programme.
M4: Was it a full one year course? (I just realized that he was fully aware of the EGMP thing)
CMT: No sir. It was a condensed course of about 6 weeks where classes were held daily and stuff more related to our job were taught.
M4: So don’t you think that you made a loss to HUL when they invested so much in you and you left. I can see that after the training they even nearly doubled your package from 8 lakh to 15 lakh.
CMT: (I smiled) Sir, in fact when I was resigning the package had become 22 lakh. (On hearing this PKM made a weird face. Either he was stunned or he found me boasting and rude.) But sir, I worked in Hindustan Unilever for four and a half years and I did quite well there. In fact, in the two years that I was appraised, I was rated the best Area Sales Manager and was also awarded in one of the years. (It was really difficult to sound modest at this moment, though I tried my best). However, my work there only made the shareholders happy, while my work in government would make the common people happy. That was the motivation in working with the government.
M4: Hmm… So what non-fiction do you read? (Referring to my hobby)
CMT: Sir, I generally read books on Indian History from independence onwards. But I also read biographies and recently I have read the Biography of Gandhiji by Jad Adams
M4: So what’s there in the book?
CMT: Sir, the book “Gandhi: Naked Ambition” by Jad Adams talks about various contradictions in Gandhiji’s life. For example, how he was very upright in his public life but as a father he was very strict to his children. I found this interesting and hence picked up the book to read, though I have read other biographies of Gandhi as well.
M4: (smilingly, as if finding me trapped) So how has the book changed your perception about him?
CMT: Sir, first of all, I would like to mention that the book has been a little biased. While it has praised the European, British and Christian values of Gandhiji, it has criticized the values which were a little earthy and Indian.
M4: But has it changed your perception about Gandhiji?
CMT: Sir, whatever contradictions the book talks about were things that Gandhiji was himself aware of and also has written about them. If Gandhiji was alive today he would have taken these criticisms very happily and that is what inspires me in him, that he was always ready to accept his shortcomings. I think he was his best critic and that humility in Gandhiji has kept inspiring me. After reading this book too, my praise for Gandhiji has only grown.
(M4 passes back the baton the PKM. He pauses for a second and then says, “OK. Chandra Mohan, your interview is over. You can go now.” I was a little perplexed at the sudden end. I was expecting some final questions from the Chairman. Nevertheless, I walked out thanking the board. I had thought that I will look back at the board before exiting the door, but just didn’t. I just walked out. I asked an official sitting outside what time it was. He said 10:35 am.)