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[UPSC Interview Transcript #39] :PK Joshi Board, Bihar Home State, Geography Optional, Basketball Hobby

Duration: 30 mins
Board: PK Joshi
Background: NIT Jamshedpur
Home State: Bihar
Employee: Decision Scientist in Mu Sigma, Bengaluru for almost 2 years
Optional: Geography
Hobby: Basketball

Brief assessment: Extremely cordial board. I have heard negative reviews about the Board but I’d like
to humbly disagree with those reviews. My experience suggests otherwise.

Chairman

You did your schooling in Sainik School, then went to Guru Gobind Singh School, then NIT
Jamshedpur and finally pursued a job in My Sigma in Bengaluru. Is that right?
S: Yes sir
C: so how often do you go to Bihar?
S: sir mostly during annual vacations.
C: so what was your job as a decision scientist?
S: sir it combines the profile of a business analyst and a data scientist. The idea is to solve business problems and take business decisions based on data rather than intuition.
C: Okay. So after 2015, you have been preparing. Where have you been living?
S: Sir I’ve been living in Patel Nagar in Delhi.
C: you’ve lived for a long time in Patel Nagar now. What are the issues in this area?
S: sir from the perspective of a student high rent is one issue. Apart from that, there is increased pressure on local infrastructure including transport infra. Also, bye-laws are flouted frequently by coaching institutes and shops in the area as they run commercial operations in residential buildings.
C: okay. So if you get posted as SDM in this area how will you solve the problem?
S: Sir the first attempt would be at decongesting the area by spreading out the institutes a bit. Second, it is increasingly being realised that urban areas should actually see the coexistence of commercial and residential uses of buildings do as to reduce time spent on travel and reduce pollution. So I’d also like to tweak the bye laws a bit to accommodate that. At the same time I’ll take due care that safety norms are not compromised.
C: You have studied in Sainik School. Then why did you not join armed forces?
S: Sir I have given both NDA and CDS exams. But I suffer from Eosinophilia and the army does not allow entry of people suffering from it.

C: Okay. Pointed towards M2.
M2: So I see that you have lived a lot in eastern India. Born and brought up in Bihar. Then a lot in Jharkhand. Tell me why do you think there is an issue of development in eastern India while western parts like Gujarat and Maharashtra have developed well?
S: sir the reasons are multifarious. Historically while Bombay’s presidency did well Bihar and Odisha suffered during British rule. The second would be political where say my state Bihar has suffered a long duration of poor governance. And third, would be social – caste divide continues to be deep which hampers development. When it becomes easy to garner votes based on caste identities developmental agenda takes a back seat.
M2: but these regions are resources-rich. And there are industries like Tata flourishing. Then why is the issue?
S: sir the industries in this region are capital intensive and not labour intensive. So compared to
Punjab and Haryana where the textile industry has generated a lot of jobs the steel industry haven’t done so in Jharkhand. An example is Jamshedpur itself. If you come to Jamshedpur you’ll see a good standard of life but the same is not reflected in areas around the city. There’s also the issue of what
we can call the quote-unquote resource curse. The region has largely been seen as one that can provide resources. The participation of tribals and their development hasn’t been on agenda equally.

Member 2

I see you’ve lived a lot in Bihar and Jharkhand. Where would you say you’re from?
S: Sir I’d say Bihar.
M2: okay. Tell me despite the separation of Jharkhand why has it not flourished?
S: Sir Jharkhand was separated in the interest of the tribal population. But the population of tribals in the state is still around 30-35% only. This has been coupled with a lot of political instability. In the first 9 years of formation, Jharkhand saw 5 chief ministers. becomes difficult to grow in these conditions.
M2: okay. So you have worked in analytics. Did that involve the behavior of people?
S: yes sir. Though it’s a part of overall data analytics, nonetheless it’s an important one.
M2: then tell me this – using this data when an advertisement company issues a misleading advertisement on TV that you can grow tall or become slim using some product, do you think that should be banned?
S: sir actually tv advertising does not involve analytics much. The profiling is done for cases where targeting can be done. For example, if you open Facebook the advertisement shown to you depends on your age, gender, location, what time of the day you are, etc. Backend profiling is done for it. In the case of tv, such segregation can’t be done. Nonetheless, as far as misleading advertisements are concerned, they amount to cheating people directly and thus should be banned whether on TV, or social media.
M2:okay. (Nodded towards Chairman

Member 3

So you are from Bihar. We see there are so many good officers coming out of poor states like Bihar. And yet the state hasn’t done well. What do you think is the problem? Is public service irrelevant?
S: Ma’am public service is definitely relevant as it provides institutional memory, thus helping in policy formulation and execution. However, it’s not sufficient. For example in my district, there is a vacancy of 52 doctors in the district hospital but only 8 doctors are working. This is because the salary given to them is Rs 44,000 only – which is not attractive for them at all. In these situations a District Magistrate becomes helpless. So whole of the government will have to be improved.
M3: Okay. There was a recent policy in Bihar on prohibition. What is the status? Has it succeeded?
S: Ma’am initially the law has done well and people’s, particularly women’s, the response was
spectacular. But lately, there have been many implementation issues. First, bootlegging is becoming common, second, trafficking of both liquor and drugs has increased lately, and third in the recent raids by Bihar police in their own police stations many policemen were caught using alcohol. There have been increasing reports of women complaining that now they’re losing out even more as the liquor available in the black market is more costly. So no income is left with the household.
M3: And what about the impact on Scheduled castes and tribes? There is an increasing number of them in the jails?
S: yes ma’am. They were employed in the alcohol industry in large numbers and have been rendered jobless due to the ban. Due to this many have been pushed into illegal manufacture and bootlegging. We actually need to liberalize the bail norms for them. (I realize I should have also talked about jobs for them, but I didn’t)

M3: but then isn’t it like creating a monster first and then trying to liberalize that? We are also spending a lot on policing to enforce it.
S: ma’am the legislation continues to be for people’s welfare. And that’s what the state is for. So yes there have been losses. The state has lost Rs 4000 crore per annum in revenue too. But such expenses have to be taken up if the welfare of people is involved.
M3: but don’t you think it should be left to people to decide what they or should not do? We are in a society that is increasingly becoming educated. It should be people’s choice.
S: Ma’am ideally, yes. The prohibition law is definitely like Victorian moral legislation imposed on people. However, we need to see the social context within which the law came. The biggest stakeholders – women – came out to vote for the incumbent CM in large numbers because he had announced prohibition. They continue to be the biggest stakeholders and they support the move.
M3: but the mentality of men hasn’t changed. Gender issue remains.
S: ma’am it’s like looking at means and ends. If I could take another analogy to explain. If one argues that guns shouldn’t be banned in the US to curb violence but the reliance should solely be on social cohesion, it doesn’t make sense. Both the things have to be pursued in l.
M3: big smile. Passes the buck.

Member 4

You have lived in Bihar, Bengaluru and now Delhi. How have you seen these places change in the last 5 years? Maybe you have not visited Bengaluru lately. But you can talk about Bihar and Delhi.
S: Sir I’ll start from Bihar. There are small to large changes. For example, in my own district, there was a long-standing demand for a flyover as a railway gate disrupted the traffic heavily on a daily basis. Now that has been constructed by the railway ministry. There have been other infrastructural developments as well. Some cities of Bihar have progressed really well. Patna has seen large infrastructural improvements. TCS has recently opened an office in Patna. This will be helpful for students from Bihar who go out in large numbers to other states to study. Many of them want to come back but the lack of jobs in the IT sector hampers that. This can improve in the future. Coming to Bengaluru, I have not been there recently but I do have friends there with whom I talk. Sadly I have heard more negative news about the city. There is some positive work in the expansion of the metro. But multiple issues have cropped up. Traffic congestion, water stress, and haphazard peri-urban
development are some of them. I lived in Whitefield which is at one edge of the city. And already a lot of construction was taking place beyond it which was not planned well. Also, Bengaluru has one of the best weather in the country. But slowly that is also getting compromised. Coming to Delhi, my surrounding does look the same as it was. But I can vouch for one thing. My cook has two sons. And she tells me that while earlier she was embarrassed by the fact that they studied in a government school now she feels proud that they study in government schools.

M4: So you mean to say that the quality of life has gone up. Why do you think so?
S: Sir the focus on health and education by the govt has been extensive. There are the two most fundamental pillars on which quality of life is based. There are some other debatable schemes too which are populist in nature. Free water, electricity, bus rides, etc for which people should actually pay. Yet they have also helped in bringing down the cost of living for the people.
M4: Okay. You also talked about water stress. What should be done about that?
S: Sir water is increasingly becoming scarce in the country. Even a state like Bihar that has large rivers flowing through it has become water-stressed. To counter this we need both local dispersed as well as large projects. Small water harvesting structures can help a lot. This can improve local resource augmentation. Take Delhi for example. It’s dependent on rivers from other states. But as their own needs increase the chances of conflict for water between states will increase. So Delhi needs to augment its resources but water harvesting is yet to become common here. At the same time for large areas like Bundelkhand, we need canals and dams too. We cannot make this region green only through water harvesting. Also, we will have to change our lifestyle to make it less water-intensive. For example in the USA hand sanitizers are quite common. But rely on water for everything. Such reliance has to reduce.
M4: Okay. Passed the buck. [he had kept smiling throughout the conversation with him]

M1 (probably from NE, I found it a bit difficult to understand him): So how far is Khagaria from Motihari?
S: Sir Motihari is in North West Bihar while Khagaria is Southeast relative to the center. So there is a good distance.

Member 1

Are you aware of a famous writer born in Motihari?
S: No sir (I am not aware of any writer anyway, so)
M1: He has written some famous books like…[names]..have you read any of them?
S: No sir I have not.
M1: His name is George (I’m not sure if this is the name he took). Okay, so you have written basketball. Recently a famous basketball personality died. He also had a blot on his career regarding issues related to women. Can you tell me something about him?
S: Yes sir. Kobe Bryant has died recently in a helicopter crash. As far as basketball is concerned he is one of the undisputed legends. However, he does carry a blot of alleged sexual harassment in his career.
M1: Okay. You have lived in Whitefield. There are issues of land grabbing thereby powerful politicians of the state. If you are posted there as an administrator what will you do to tackle this?
S: Sir between political and permanent executives political executives hold an edge when it comes to power. But their accountability lies with people and they are afraid of people only. So I will try to bring it to the notice of the people who are grabbing land illegally. This can put pressure on them. Apart from that law also has to be enforced (I started thinking about how to do that)…if I could take a moment to think…
M1: Sure, take your time.
S: Long pause
M1: It’s okay. In my experience of 40 years as an administrator, I have not found an answer to this question. I just thought you might have one.
[M4 started laughing, the whole Board started laughing and I laughed along]
Chairman Thank you. Your interview is over.

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