Friday, 31 October 2014

Celebrating a Divided Unity : Ekta Divas

The day is here, 31st Oct 2014. The government has decided to celebrate the Rashtriya Ekta Diwas i.e. National Unity Day. But looking at the various historical and contemporary happenings, I somewhere doubt about whether we will remain a nation of nations or will ever be converged on a common theme of nationalist identity that is above the primordial identities such as religion, caste, political vendetta, race, ethnicity.
India share a distinctive cultural consciousness, its population is divided on the basis of language, religion, culture, ethnicity or regionalism. Except the common history of colonial exploitation, there is hardly any other thing on which we have common consciousness of belonging to a nation. The date is the same day on which our former PM was shot dead. It is the same day on which mass killings happened in the by-lanes of New Delhi, which was marked by blood, violence, rapes etc. It is the same day on which enmity on basis of religion was manifested and Still, we are a Rashtra without Rashtrahit. Do we really care about still other coming from diverse background. Gandhiji once said to British "Leave India in God's hands or in modern parlance to anarchy. Then all parties will fight like dogs or will, when responsibility faces them, come to a reasonable agreement". Though the context was different, timing was different and idea was different, but that Utopian agreement has taken new turns post-independence. We are still fighting like cat and dogs but not against other but our own people.
When you look around in different directions and newspaper, we find not Ekta but Anekta and that too a violent one. This does not need a substantiate argument as it can be gauged from the fact that there is rise of regionalism and demand of new states which are ethnic in origin, rise of son of the soils theory, mass exodus of north-east people or their exploitation and racial attacks on them in New Delhi. We are facing various caste based violence in various states, communal violence has been institutionalized in various states and their has been rise in suspicion. Ideology of "Love Jihad " is profoundly found everywhere which is exaggerated. North-east itself has become a hot-spot for boundary dispute between states, killings which are ethnic and political. But still we celebrate the Unity day without we as a United Nation. We tend to give it political colours but do not want to provide a colorful life to people which is not marked by colour of blood. We advocate for different kinds of structure, memorials but we do not have space for people and thus there has been rise of slums. We tend to collect metal for creating structure, create parks for ideologue but do not have money to compensate those who have suffered from communal violence and provide justice.

“Our tradition teaches tolerance; our philosophy preaches tolerance; our Constitution practices tolerance; let us not dilute it.” -                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                                    Justice Chinnappa Reddy

It is time that we, as a person practice tolerance . I think it is time for we, not as a collective being but as an individual pledge not to indulge, promote, incite such activities,  but also act as beavers to stop this injustice. There is much more in a nation which not only stands united when we win world cup, medals or any kind of disaster strikes. A nation is one where we are driven by a humanistic approach towards our fellow beings and not by his/her caste or religion or the colour of skin. Only then we will be able to celebrate a Truely Ekta Diwas 

Friday, 24 October 2014

Urban-Gender Definition Paradox

Sometimes in life you get to realize things only when you tend to see them minutely. This minute study of demographic profile of India brought my focus to gender equality. We talk about gender equality, gender empowerment, and gender security among other things to substantiate our claim of a society where women are respected and treated with equality with their male counterparts. We organise protest for reservation of women in political sphere, call for breakdown of Glass Ceiling in economic sphere but one thing that we overlook is Urban-Gender dichotomy.
This is because of biasness which is not psychological but has been institutionalized, legalized, overused and sometimes abused. One thing that raised my eye-brows very recently – the definition of urban areas. The census report indicates that an urban area is defined as a place where at least 75% of “male” working population is engaged in non-agricultural pursuits. Will that tantamount to absence of women or I must say working women in urban areas. There can be other interpretations like female economic empowerment is not necessary, or they are engaged in household pursuits or only as a body for male chauvinist patriarchs.
Women economic independence and urban definition cannot be based on a flawed concept that has been used for years without inter-alia proper working conditions for women, job opportunities, and equal pay. The definition undermines the concept of an egalitarian society without gender inequality. Studies pointed out that only 20% of “urban” educated working age women actually work further, nearly half of those drops out in mid-career. What is happening today is not feminisation of work but rise of pink collar jobs in the form of receptionists, nurses, call centre operatives etc.
Going by new definition where whole workforce is included, will there be any urban India ever achieved? Will there be a paradigm shift where females are given the equal participation in work and more emphasis is laid down on employment of women? Will the so called “urban spaces” will consider women as a workforce to rely upon? Apple CEO calls for freezing down of women eggs in order to have a better work culture and efficiency. So what we call, freezing down the institutionalized paranoia in favour of women so that urban areas are as open for women employers and employees as they are for men. Hope someday, that will not remain a utopian goal

Friday, 17 October 2014

SBI PO Interview 2014

So, the day was there. My interview was in the morning slot and I was asked to be there at 8 o’clock. The morning air was quite cold as it the month of October and sun has shifted its insolation to southern hemisphere. I reached LHO at Patel Chowk Metro station 15 minutes before the schedule. Only 1-2 guys were present. I sat down in the waiting hall and more candidates arrived in meantime. At around 8:15, we all started with document verification. It took them 2 hours to verify the documents of 13 candidates (3 candidates were verified separately at a time). I wondered with the range of paper work they do in any financial institution. I somehow feel that it is time for the much conceived idea of our PM to have our documents in a cloud which can be assessed. It will be more eco-friendly then the no. of pages we use and Photostat.
Around 10:30, the panel arrived with 5 members (4 men and 1 woman, all from SBI in different retired cadres). There were two parts: Group Discussion and Interview

Group Discussion Topic: Do you think that private colleges are mainly responsible for lower standards of Higher Education in India.
The topic was quite easy and there has been a lot of debate and discussion which was lively, vibrant and energetic with much enthusiasm in the candidates. Everyone put their viewpoints forward about lack of infrastructure, low teaching standards, less industry collaboration, profit maximization, capitation fees and all. Initially everyone was allowed to speak for 2 minutes and then there has to be a discussion. However, in discussion, most of the candidates were confined to technical education only rather than focussing on all-inclusiveness of Higher education. The GD went for about 45-50 minutes and then we were asked to get ready for the interview. I was on the second number and was asked to wait outside.
My number came at 11:20 and interview went till 11:40 (around 20 minutes). I was mainly based on what I mentioned in my Bio-data form as well as my work experience. Here I am putting my interview experience. I opened the door.

Me: May I Come in Sir. (Yes, Please). Good morning to all of you Mam and Sirs (With a broad smile.)
Chairman: Ah, Good morning Sahil. Take your seat.
Me: Thank You Sir. (Meanwhile he scanned through my form with curiosity).
Chairman: You have worked in LIC for 8 months. (Yes Sir). Then why did you left? You have written reason which is…..ahh…
Me: Sir, lack of diversity. Actually there were multiple reasons for that Sir. First of all, promotions were really slow. It takes around 7 years to go to next level. Then there was more monotonous job as I was feeling that it is confined to office and I cannot use my skills in other areas or learn from other areas.
Chairman: What kind of Job was that?
Me: Sir, I was still in the training. I was appointed Assistant Administrative Officer. He is the HOD of a particular department and looked after its modalities like policy underwriting, claim settlement, accounts etc. (Is this lack of diversity, asked Chairman). Sir actually, there was not much except this. I am not talking in departmental aspect but several other areas. For example, banking offers different aspects in later stages like credit, investment, as well as banc-assurance etc.
Chairman: ok, So Sahil, have you heard of this term, inflation?
Me: Yes, Sir. (What is it?). Sir, it is the general increase in the prices of goods and services over a period of time. It is of different types and measured in a two broad perspectives, WPI and CPI. Sir, …(Stopped, ok tell me what inflation signifies?)
Me: Sir, it means that the economy is undergoing growth mostly or we can say that there is demand. Further, inflation leads to growth (I was talking about inflation which is within the ambit of normal inflation and not concentrating on hyper or galloping inflation). This means that there is employment generation as well as increase in purchasing power of a person.
Chairman: Is there any condition when there is decrease in prices. I mean complete negative inflation?
Me: Yes Sir, it is called as deflation (He nodded and said very right). Sir, it happens mainly in period of slowdown, when there is no demand but excess supply.
Chairman: ok, right. If you have to choose between a -3% deflation, 0% inflation and 5% inflation, what will you choose?
Me: Sir, I will choose 5% inflation. (Why? When there is decrease in prices, people will have more purchasing power). Sir, because it provides an incentive to the producers as well. They will be encouraged to invest more due to the profit arising out of this. Further, deflation may increase the purchasing power of a person but in long term, it will decrease investment and thus decrease employment and consequences follows. (He understood that I knew the intricacies of economics).
Chairman: Ok, tell me something about Indian space program.
Me: Sir, Indian space programs are mainly conceived by ISRO in 1962. They are used for both civilian and military purposes. (Stopped. Ok, tell me the two types of satellites launched by India). Sir, Polar and Geo-synchronous. (No, they are payload, tell me that names. I was numb. Ok, like one is IRN types. What is the other one). I said communication satellites like 1A, 2A etc. (Tell me the specific name). I am sorry Sir. (He said, it is INSAT). I thought (What is difference between communication satellites and INSAT. Anyways I thanked him).
Chairman: Can you tell a recent telecom initiative launched to be achieved by 2015? (I read it while we were sitting in waiting hall).
Me: Sir, I think it is MNP. (Chairman: It is mobile number portability. I was about to say). Yes, Sir. He smiled and passed the baton to other member.
M1: Sahil, what is mis-selling in financial sector?
Me: Sir, mis-selling is selling a particular financial product to the prospective customer against his needs and using flawed means like extending some kind of monetary incentive to the customer to sell the product.
M1: Give me an example.
Me: Sir, like if I am an agent and I have to sell one of my insurance policies. Therefore, I may indulge in practices like giving a share of my incentive to customer to buy from me or charging amount without giving any slip for that. (Ok, but tell me an example which is not like duping the customer). Sir, for example I am giving the same kind of policy to all my customers in order to achieve target. This is not illegal but against the needs of the person like saving, investment, future education needs etc. (Satisfied)
M1: What are the steps to control this menace?
Me: Sir, it is an illegal activity under Section 41 of Insurance Act. (Who enforces it?). Sir, the regulator, IRDA etc.
M1: Ok, there has been decrease in the premium of various policies after liberalisation. Can you tell me the reasons?
Me: Sir, it is because of increase in the total life of a person. I mean life expectancy. This has made the “life fund” more competitive. (Tell me other reason) Sir, it may be because of better return from the investment of life fund in market due to capital market boom and later more competiveness by introduction of new players who are giving more choices to the customers and decrease in premium price.
M1: So, do you think that FDI shall be allowed in insurance sector? (Yes Sir).  Do you think that FDI will decrease the share of LIC?
Me: I think that LIC is here to stay sir. Various reasons are responsible for that. (Tell me the reasons) Sir, it is because it is having various products for rural population like micro-insurance which are sold through NGOs etc. Further, it is more magnanimous with regard to claim settlement etc.
M1: What about privatisation of LIC. Is it needed? Will it impact anything?
Me: Yes Sir, privatisation can be done but looking into the overall macro-economic situation as well as prudent decision making. More efficiency will be there and LIC large life fund will help but that must be supplemented by its inclusive programs like Micro-insurance which is not provided by private players to large extent.
Asked madam to question.
M2: You said that you did not find LIC that diversified. But in every job, in initial few years, the job is bound to be same. So, do you think that you had given LIC proper time? Have you discussed with any of colleagues?
Me: You are right mam. But in case of LIC, first promotion is after 7 years. And when I discussed with my seniors and managers, it is like a minimum period of 20-25 years that I would be able to rise to a managerial post.{I don’t want to spent by youthful years in the same cabin} (Ok, understood)
M2: You know LIC is the largest market investor in the country and has a large share in capital market. How do you take it? What people say about investment of LIC?
Me: Yes mam, LIC is one of largest investor in capital market. It is generally said that the prices of stock of a company increases if LIC invest in them. But when we see from a larger perspective, certain large investments have been diverted to disinvestment target achievement. So there is more government interference in LIC investment decisions.
M2: What is market to market share?
Me: I don’t know mam.
She called the other member to question.
M3: Sahil, You talked about micro-insurance for inclusion. Tell me about financial inclusion?
Me: Sir, it is the process of extending various kinds of products and services which are related to finance and saving as well as investment to cater to needs of the people and provide maximum return to them in order to empower them
M3: How micro-insurance works to empower people.
Sir, in rural areas, they may be prone to money-lenders or unscrupulous traders. Thus micro-insurance provides them the avenue to investment in a financial product according to their needs. They can have that money for their day to day needs as well. They can use that investment to start new setups like entrepreneurship etc.
Last member turn
M4: Sahil, you like basketball? (Yes, Sir). So in which field do you want me to question? Engineering or Basketball?
Me: Sir, it is up to you to decide (with a broad smiled, he smiled back).
M4: Ok, tell me a basketball player, who has made his own identity and changed his name as well for the given sport.
Me: (I thought for a while) Sir, I think it is Jordan (Guess). (And what was his school name?) (I thought again) I am sorry Sir, I don’t know.
M4: You are absolutely right that it is Jordan, (He smiled, and I nodded) He told some name, A. Jordan which I was not able to comprehend.
Chairman and Mam: Thank you Sahil.
Me: Thank you all of You mam and Sirs.(with a very smiling face). Then I turned back and came out of the room.

P.S.: The interview in indicative and only a personal experience. I am totally apologetic to candidates who want this job by hook or crook as I had no interest in joining the institution and still appearing for interview. There may be some questions that are not mentioned here. Thank you.

Books referred
1. Kiran Publication (Click to Buy)
2. Ramesh Singh. Indian Economy (Click here to buy)

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Electoral Reforms : A Brief

In the recent times, there has been a lot of debate and discussions on electoral reforms. When the executive itself is shying away from its responsibility for decriminalization of politics and politicisation of criminals, Supreme Court and Election Commission has taken that stand for providing some reforms. However, most of the judgements of Supreme Court are prescriptive which make it difficult to enforce. Further, legislature has always power to nullify the pronouncements of judiciary through various amendments. Further, election commission has come out with various recommendations and provisions under its Model code of Conduct, but due to paucity of legality of these recommendations, it became merely a futile exercise open to political manipulation.

Supreme Court has interpreted many provisions of RPA 1951 and stuck down others in some of its recent judgments which are:

1. Section 8(4) of RPA allows a Member of Parliament or legislative assembly to file an appeal before higher court within 3 months of conviction to get a stay on sentence and continue with their membership of the house. SC stuck down the section as ultra vires the constitution and held it as unconstitutional. It held that charge sheeted and convicted MPs and MLAs will stand to be disqualified prospectively (though for charge sheeted one’s , it has sought opinion of centre and state).

2. Section 62(5) states that no person has the right to vote, who is convicted under any law and thus cannot contest election to parliament and state legislature. It held that from now onwards any person standing in elections must have a clean criminal record unless he/she will not be allowed to contest elections. Though it is a novel idea, but most of the politicians are using loopholes of trial exemption or extension in lower courts itself. There are a lot of delays in giving justice and high corruption in lower rungs of justice delivery mechanism as well as high vacancy.

3. Section 123 talks about the provision of corrupt practices in elections. Supreme Court held that freebies in the form of grinders, laptops, fans will not be considered as election malpractices and are obligation on the part of government under DPSP. However it directed Election Commission to frame guidelines in consultation with all parties. It is right to distribute these freebies, but one must think whether these are necessary for sustenance of an individual. When a large portion of population does not have food to eat despite introduction of NFSA, they do not have the electricity to run their laptops and grinders, it is not prudent to distribute and show magnanimity but use that money for self-dependency. Further, I have seen people having access to these things have a conspicuous presence of the party affiliation stickers and other things. Will that not be amounted to advertisements of the political ideologues?

4. Recently Supreme Court asked the state and central government’s not to use political figures except constitutional posts for advertisement of government scheme which is mostly at public cost. This undermines the political neutrality in publication of news as well. There is a recommendation by EC to ban all political advertisements by incumbent government six months ahead of elections.

5. Informed credentials about candidates: The SC in Association of democratic rights v/s UOI 2002 case held that the contesting candidates shall disclose their assets and liabilities, criminal convictions etc on their forms. But the measure did not enjoy legal sanction and thus misrepresentation and under-representation by concealing information is quite visible and thus more needs to be done so as to bring or barring these candidates from contesting


1.EC Introduced NOTA :

None of the above option was introduced by Election Commission by much fanfare on the advice of Supreme Court. But looking at the modalities of this reform brings out a new form of paradox. While the provision provides for a new form of option under Rule 49(O) that provides for rejecting all the candidates in the election fray as well as maintaining the privacy of the individual, it will hardly create a sea change. This is because even if most of the people choose NOTA and reject all candidates, the candidate scoring the highest votes (even 1%) will be elected from the constituency {the first past the post system of election}. Thus NOTA option is nothing but a farce.

2. EC introduces VVPAT :

The decision to introduce VVPAT is a good move. It will definitely create a more trust towards the use of EVM (Electronic Voting Machine). Now, any individual can check and verify whether his vote went to the desired candidate. Further, in case of allegations of rigging and suspicion of results, these can be used to come out with fair result. However, EC has not come out with modalities of the move. There shall be a particular difference among the top candidates on the basis of which protest can be made, unless it may amount to frequent resort to this provision. For ex, a candidate must not lag behind the other for, say 10% of difference of valid votes.

3. Measures to curb use of black money

The excess use of money power in elections has led ECI to use various pre-emptive methods for free and fair elections. The commission has increased the expenditure limit to discourage black money spending in the elections though money has been flowing unabated in the market. There has been provision for opening separate bank account for incurring election expenses which shall be done in form of DD/ Cheques. However, various other men and material are used like party workers to disguise commission.

Flying squads, static surveillance teams have been established to track illegal cash transactions. Various confiscation of money has taken place in this regard. Election commission has also come out with its flagship SVEEP program to education voters and give them a sense of politicization which is not based on money and inducements. Media certification and media expenditure monitoring committee (MCMC) were constituted to track down the problem of paid news. However due to lack of availability of legal mechanisms, most of the candidates go scot free and use money to influence media and news. There shall be a legal provision to deal with cases of surrogate advertisements in print media by amending section 127A of RPA

Others Reforms Recommended by EC
  .     As a precaution against motivated cases by ruling party, only those cases which were filed prior to six months before an election alone would lead  to disqualification

2.      A person cannot contest from more than one constituency at a time. If parliament or state legislatures do not endorse this, there should be an express provision in law requiring a person who contests and wins elections from two seats, resulting in by election from one of two seats, to deposit suitable money for holding the by-election (Rs 10 lakh for LS seat and Rs 5 lakh for assembly).

3.      Raise the security deposit to discourage non-serious candidates from contesting

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Strategy (Is It a Sina Qua Non)

“There is no single recipe for success in Civil Service Examination, just some common ingredients”

After clearing civil service examination, my email and comment box was thronged with a lot of requests about sharing the strategy for how to proceed for the exam. From the time I started preparing for this exam, I never followed any strategy as such, as well as never relied on the strategy of others’. There were many reasons for that. First of all, I was not on Facebook, so never sent friend request to people who had cleared the exam. So, any conversation was hardly possible. Secondly, I was not staying in those streets of Rajendera Nagar which we used to call mecca of UPSC preparation and was hardly in contact with anyone. Further I was not as much active on any other online platforms (before finding Insights)

In addition to that I always wondered whether it would be possible to clear the exam based on the strategy of other person. Well, every person has his own mental framework and design rather than a copycat. For example, once I was taking sociology classes in Vajiram and Mahapatra Sir called a girl who recently cleared her CSE 2012. When people asked her about her strategy and her way of studying newspaper and all the stuff in the given time frame, she replied that she could read around 400 words in a minute with better understanding and comprehensibility. I and my friend Shreyas (he was more of feeling sleepy) were quite shocked to hear that. I used to read at quite a slow pace and take quite hours to complete one topic. That day I decided neither to follow any strategy nor to attend any seminar of candidate who had cleared this exam – because as I said earlier, there are some common things that must be there and all depends on your understanding and passion towards the subject.

Whatever came to me, I read it, comprehended it and came out of those downgraded silly suggestions of which I used to feel uncomfortable and felt quite low when I used to see answers of others. Further, initially I used to take 30 minutes for one answer on insights (for first few days) which was subsequently reduced to 20 and consequently to 10 minutes and finally to 6-7 minutes. So, remember that you may make mistakes, you may take prolonged time in covering topics, and you may come out with layman answers, but a time will come when you will realise that it brought more fruits that what you reaped.

You cannot follow the strategy of other person as such. This is because UPSC today asks about questions which are opinion based. Any person who cleared the exam may tell you what to study and how to study, but he/she cannot make you think the way UPSC wants you to in the examination. He cannot make you write with the way he wrote in examination

“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”

You are a unique personality and you know your own strong and weak points. You have to search for them and then chart out your strategy. There is no point is asking about strategy but you can ask about the books and some common things that you can refer. Don’t ask about how you studied or how you used to write except the general structure of answer. Further, there are some common books each and every aspirant needs to study and these are recommended by insights and every topper as well.

These books shall be read to the core and must be supplemented by your opinion, correlation with day to day news articles and related sites and issues.

Further, one thing that is necessary for UPSC is not to waste your time on social networking sites. I know people wasting time in asking multiple aspirants about the strategy of exam and end up at square one. You can be on these websites but only for recreational purposes at times. (Though Android and smart phones have made it an Utopian Goal). Further, do not think much about whether syllabus will change or not (I have seen people more concerned about change in syllabus as if they are going to complete the new one more religiously); what would be the result (some people even start preparing once results are out- Remember that there is no difference between mains and prelims with regard to general studies syllabus) etc etc.

Reading and studying is not the only thing in UPSC but your thinking matters the most because in real action situation you won’t be asking your fellow mates about what they would have done if put in similar situation. Therefore, think as much as you can and this cannot be inculcated into you by anyone. Write on insights, take time to read answers of others piously and try to evaluate your answer with others and improve on it yourself.

So I would request you all to be what you are and not a photo copy of others. Approach exam with the way you like to, on the premise you want to and success will automatically be yours. Stick to your goals during ups and downs. It may be protracted but when you come out of it, you will be a warrior who has all the self-capability to stand face to face in any difficult situation and you would be more proud of that and it will have more genuineness.

Believe in Yourself and Your Sui-generis (ness).

All the Best to fellow aspirants..!!!!