Topper’s Interview: C M Saikanth Varma (AIR-18/ CSE 2014) Cracked IAS (UPSC CSE) in First Attempt

Updated On -

Mar 1, 2021

In this article, the interview questions and responses given by Saikanth Varma will be discussed. His interview was conducted by Dr. P Kilemsungla. The interview lasted within 25-30 minutes. The board members were very cordial. Saikanth was asked most of the questions from his academic background. He aimed to reply to the questions not more than 2-3 sentences and targeted answers to the point.

Once he entered the room and took his seat, the chairman went through his DAF prompting several keywords.

Ques (Chairman): As per your record, you have come from an IT background. May I know why we don’t have a Silicon Valley? Bangalore is known to be the Silicon Valley of India, nonetheless, the city has been saturated and moreover, facing difficulties of its own.

Ans. Ma’am, I don’t feel the statement is true since India does not have a Silicon Valley yet. In fact, we have a well -developed IT infrastructure across the nation and I believe that our country is moving in that direction only. For instance, IT infrastructure is not only developing in Bangalore, but also the sector is growing across Chennai, Pune, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Gurgaon, Mumbai etc. Apart from that, there is some certain untapped potential across the north eastern states.

Ques (Member 3 of Interview Board): So you mean to say that the Silicon Valley of the USA is a wrong model?

Ans. No sir, I wanted to point out that the particular model of the USA does not suit our context. The USA is a developed country and the country has already reached a position, so that it can support such a localised development model. On the other hand, a diverse country like India, where extreme inequalities sustain, such a model will not work.

Ques (Chairman). You were talking about the North Eastern States? What potential do you find for the IT sector in North Eastern States?

Ans. Ma’am, the major potential of North Eastern States is the number of Youth. Additionally, the IT section requires little investment compared to the manufacturing sector. Hence, if we could provide the adequate educational and skill development opportunities, the IT firms will get attracted to utilise the potential of these states.

Ques (Chairman): What is your opinion on Bitcoins?

Ans. Ma’am, since the Bitcoin currency is not granted by any of the monetary authorities across the world, hence, it’s valuation cannot be guaranteed. In addition, the Bitcoins are prone to cyber theft. For instance, Since the bitcoins of Mt. Gox in Japan and Flexicon in Canada were stolen from e-vault, hence, they were filed for bankruptcy. This is the prime reason why RBI issued a note of caution.

Ques (Chairman). Hence, you don’t find any scope for it in the future?

Ans. No Ma’am, I found a lot of scope. If the virtual currency will be backed by any of the global institutions like the World Bank or IMF, and if adequate security protocols will be established for preventing cyber theft, then it will be significantly acknowledged in the global trade.

Ques (Chairman). Though IT is a booming industry in India, however, we do not have adequate fabrication units in the nation. What do you want to add in this segment?

Ans. Ma’am, I believe that Chip manufacturing capabilities should be improved. It is assumed that the electronic imports will take over the energy imports by 2020. Hence, electronics and chip manufacturing will need to be given a special focus under the India Campaign and we should proactively engage the countries like Japan, China and South Korea for grabbing the attraction of the investors in these regions of our nation.

Ques (Chairman). What makes your mind diverted to be an administrator?

(This was an unexpected question to me)

Ans. Ma’am, I think being a technical background student, it will be helpful for me to recognise the areas, where I can easily identify areas where to plug in the technology for improving the system. (Once I answer this, I feel that this is not what she was looking for).

Ques (Chairman). That’s fine, but using technology is one thing, whereas an administrator should look after many more things. You seem to be more a technical person, what makes you feel that you will be a good administrator?

(I had taken a few moments to think. Honestly, I was freaking scared and got tense, since I was not at all ready for such a question, although it is a predictable question).

Ans. Ma’am, I have patience and am always ready to listen to what others want to say. Though I am a slow learner, I think it will be an added advantage for me. (This was a complete blunder. I blabbered and whatever came to my mind just spoke out. There was relation to the question and what was being said. Felt extremely low and depressed after the question, nevertheless, tried to keep myself cool with a smiling face).

Ques (Member 1 of Interview Board): You have said that reading about ethical hacking is your hobby. So what is ethical hacking?

Ans. (Before I answer the question, I felt excited to answer this particular question, since I had thoroughly prepared the question and hence, I immediately asked sir that Sir, should I explain why it is called ethical hacking?)

(Member 1): Getting my excitement, he replied, “NO” and switched to the next question.

Ques (Member 1): What do you feel the government’s performance in protecting the environment?

Ans. Sir, though the government has taken multiple initiatives, however, the performance of protecting the environment is not up to the mark. On the contrary, I think the current government’s activity is quite evident. For instance, the recent government targeted to reach renewable energy of 175 GW and nuclear energy of 63 GW by the year 2022 and 2032 respectively. In addition, the FFC had a monetary angle to the forests in deriving the horizontal devolution formula and it is a significant approach. On the other hand, the government can move towards the decentralisation and can engage the local communities to the maximum possible extent.

Ques (Member 1): The government has started to ban the NGOs in receiving the foreign funds of Rockefeller foundation, which had a strong contribution in the green contribution in our country. Actually, previously the economic state of India was not so strong that it could raise funds to these NGOs. Hence, the country was bound to rely on the foreign funds. Nevertheless, currently we can witness multiple NGOs like Prajwala, Bachpan Bachao Andolon, which have been raising significant funds across the country.

Ques (Member 2): What can you do (since you are an employee of Google) for our country?

Ans. Sir, today Google has made a collaboration with the government and planned to initiate some important ventures such as AP Fibre Corporation for providing the internet connectivity, and to promote budding businesses for enhancing their reach by bringing them onto the digital market. Apart from that, Google has announced to invest Rs. 1000 crores in Hyderabad for building the largest campus outside the USA. It will in turn create job opportunities for India.

Ques (Member 2): Where have you visited for trekking?

Ans. Sir, I went to Tada falls, Dandeli in Karnataka and Vaishnodevi temple near Jammu.

Then the same person questioned me a few actual questions on the deity there, what form of She is in etc.

Ques (Member 2): What improvements do you like to bring in these places?

Ans. Sir, I feel transportation is the major challenge here. To make the transportation more accessible, it will be helpful to build the wired cabs.

Ques (Member 2): That’s all? Looking at the Chairman, the same person added, what is about security? (Looking at me), the above mentioned places are threatened by terrorists. Don’t you think that the places are lacking security?

Ans. Sir, I think there was enough security and I did not find anything uncanny, which would lead to feeling that the places are lacking security.

Ques (Member 2): What is your perception behind the poor global ranking of IITs?

Ans. Sir, I believe that there are two reasons behind such poor ranking of IITs. Firstly, there are some flaws in the mechanism of global ranking. For instance, an IIT graduate, who goes to Stanford for higher studies, is considered as the alumni of Stanford instead of considering as an IITian. Apart from that, we cannot expect that the froeign students will come to study in India (an emerging economy across the globe).

The second reason is, there is a huge gap in the area of research. It can be improved if we start to witness a significant brain drain.

Ques (Member 2): Your earning was a bit high in your previous organisation. So how will you adjust your lifestyle with the pay cut if you will select for the designation?

Ans. Sir, since college days I have been inclined towards the civil service. I joined my previous organisation as a software engineer since the pay was good and at that point, I felt right to pick up the job. Nonetheless, after getting into the software industry, I felt that money cannot be the only motivation to fetch me to work for the next 30-35 years regularly. Job satisfaction is something over money to me, which can uplift my mind towards a job. I believe civil service can give me such job satisfaction. In addition, if we consider the other allowances, which is received by a civil servant, then pay cut is not a major challenge.

Ques (Member 3): I have only one question to ask. Hence, suggesting you to take time and answer properly. Today civil servants are being selected through an exam and by a bunch of 5 people interrogating the candidates for 30 minutes. Even though UPSC is fair in every point of view, don’t you think this is incorrect? Hence, I think many engineers and doctors like you, are stepping towards civil services and wasting all the money on making you doctors and engineers. Instead, I feel civil servants should be chosen immediately after class 12 and then they should be trained accordingly. For eg, they will get training in Polity, technology, economy etc and should train them suitable for administration. How far do you agree with my statement?

Ans. (Silent for a few seconds), Sorry sir, I strongly oppose your statement. This is something I want to tell from my personal experience. I feel that the maturity level of a 12th standard aspirant will be matched with a civil servant. Their maturity level might find the civil service job as a monotonous one.

We all know that a civil servant has to take a decision very wisely and unless one has such maturity level, he/she cannot take the decision effectively. Additionally, as per my personal knowledge, Civil Service is one of the diversified careers, which needs doctors, engineers, lawyers, economists, MBA grads etc. Hence, diversification is the biggest and largest strength of Indian Bureaucracy, which must be sustained.

Ques (Member 4): I find the reason for going to China and South Korea by PM Narendra Modi, but what is the point of visiting Mongolia? (Just one day before the interview, the PM visited Mongolia). Just give the answer in one sentence.

Ans. SIr, I think when China tries to enhance her presence in India’s neighbour, at that time, it would be a strategic move of PM Modi to enhance the presence of India to China's neighbour.

(Bad time starts)

Ques (Member 4): Do you think we should move from FPTP to the Proportional Representation System?

Ans. No Sir, I don’t agree so (I could not gather much points to represent here). We all know that the literacy rate of India is very low and in such case, implementing such a complex voting system will not be a wise decision.

Ques (Member 4): I do not get your point since there are uncountable farmers, who have shown their success in implementing the green revolution. If they understand that, then they can catch the point of implementing a Proportional Representation System. Ain’t it?

Ans. (I was completely blank out) Sorry Sir, I can’t conclude this now unless I get more time for further thinking.

Ques (Member 4): Should we move towards the Presidential governmental form as in reality, that’s what we are experiencing in our nation?

Ans. (Again I cannot accumulate many points here). Sir, I don’t think we have to as the executive is held accountable for the actions by the Parliamentary form of Government.

Ques (Member 4): So is in the government Parliamentary form. More precisely, the US President is more responsible to the US congress than the Indian PM to the Parliament.

Ans. Sorry Sir, I will need more time to think on this matter.

Ques (Member 4): Tell me just 3 to 4 points on what strategies we should rely on, so that India can achieve 8%-9% growth rate.

Ans. Sir, including the development…..

(Member 4) Cut the line and tell, This is objective more than a strategy.

Ans. Sorry Sir. Skill development (he was nodding his head), women empowerment (again a blank face. When I was thinking more he said ‘tax’), tax reforms (then went on a silent mode).

(I feel that the answer is again a disaster. Hence, I got worried and couldn’t reply properly. The correct answer should be- infrastructure development, tax reforms, skill development, labour reforms etc).

Member 4 looked at the Chairman and told he was done. Then the Chairman told me, okay it is done. I stood up and said “Thank you Sirs, Thank you madam along with a greeting” and then walked out.

Obtained Score: 208 out of 275, which was more than my expectation.

*The article might have information for the previous academic years, please refer the official website of the exam.