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Dr Shah Faisal

Interview Date : 6/10/2010

Confidence doesn’t come out of nowhere. It’s a result of something... hours and days and weeks and years of constant work and dedication… said Roger Staubach. In case you didn’t know, these people have mastered the skill which brought them where they are today, and that is patience. Take a closer look at these diligent, intellectual and humane thinkers who ‘live’ in the ‘journey more than the goal’. IAS, the abbreviation itself sounds awesome! It is not the mere prestige that is attached to the term; it isn’t a white collar job that holds the charm, but a feeling of empowerment that enwraps when one takes a look at these young trainees.

There is a ‘fire’ in all the toppers, fire of wanting to be of some use to the society, intense urge to lead a meaningful life and above all make the country and parents proud. To crack the Civil Services is no mean thing and all these youngsters who seem to be seething with raging desire to ‘make it’ say so. They defy all the so called norms of the society, the gender bias, the economic divide, and surpass all hurdles to achieve what they believe makes sense and meaning. 2009 IAS topper Dr Shah Faisal, a Kashmiri doctor, the first Kashmiri ever to top the civil services exam. Describing himself as a victim of conflict, he says, “I have watched the bloodshed in Kashmir very closely. I was devastated when my father Ghulam Rasool Shah was gunned down. It is him that I miss the most today. He used to dote on me and taught me English and math when I studied in school,” he says. 

Faisal, who did his MBBS from Srinagar’s Sher-i-Kashmir Medical College, says he was confident of qualifying but never imagined he would be right on top. His mission now is to serve his people in the strife torn area of Kashmir. “I wanted to serve my people and in the role of an IAS officer I would like to reduce the communication gap between the people and the administration. I will give audience to them to hear their problems, cares and worries. I want to bring a change, especially for women and the youth,”

he says, insisting that he never received any formal training for the UPSC exam. Among his inspirations, Faisal counts an IPS officer from his state. “I was inspired by one Abdul Gani Mir of my area in Kupwara, who passed his IPS in 1994. I have been in touch with him since 2007, when I thought of sitting for the civil services exams,” he says. Gani is currently DIG, CID in Jammu and Kashmir Police.
Congratulating Faisal on his achievement Minister of State for Revenue, H&UDD, Tourism, and PHE, Nasir Aslam Wani, said that Faisal has also proved intellectual potential of the youth of Jammu and Kashmir and his success would give inspiration to the other youth of the State.

Another inspirational sucees story is that of Sandeep Kaur, the daughter of a peon from Morinda in Punjab has made it to the IAS. Sandeep is the eldest of her three siblings and attributes her success to her father employed in Morinda sub-tehsil. Citing her father as her immense source of inspiration behind her success, Sandeep, a civil engineer from Punjab Engineering College, had the sole goal of making it to the IAS.

“I dedicated myself to preparing for the civil services and failure at earlier attempts made me stronger to prepare for the examinations,” she says.

Her dream is to work against female foeticide which is a big problem in Punjab.

When you carefully observe the source of this tedious path called IAS, you can see, it first needs an ambition followed by an aspiration as well as inspiration and the never-say-die attitude that will surmount any obstacle. Sounds almost impossible isn’t it? But they have set an example already.

If you wish to take up this you need to know all about the Indian Administrative Services and the route map to make it happen. It needs brains and brawns. A brief look at how to go about it--

How should I prepare for the IAS? I want to know about the IAS [Indian Administrative Service] exam.

The essential ingredient of succeeding on an exam is the knowledge of the contents and structure of the exam and the process. The UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) of India conducts the IAS exam. The three-step process is: Preliminary Exam (Prelims), Main Exam (Mains), and Interview.

The Prelims are composed of two tests of two hours each. The General Studies (GS) test contains 150 objective, multiple-choice questions. It primarily covers six topics: the constitution of India, history, geography, economics, science, and current affairs. The second test is on a subject chosen, from among the 23 subjects, by the candidate. This objective, multiple-choice test contains 120 questions. The GS and second test are worth 150 and 300 points, respectively.

The Prelims are used as a screening mechanism for reaching the next phase of the Mains. Approximately 200,000 candidates appear for the Prelims and less than 20,000 qualify for the Mains. The number of candidates for the Prelims is about 10 times larger than the number of vacancies available. Obviously, getting an IAS job in India is extremely competitive and thus highly regarded.

The Mains consists of 9 tests. The first two are language tests: first is the English Test and the second is the Language Test in any one of the languages included in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian constitution. Each test is worth 300 points. These tests are at the high school level. The candidates are expected to only qualify; the score from these tests is not included in the aggregate. The Language Test is not required for candidates from the North-East.

 The third test is an Essay Test, worth 200 points. The candidate can write the essay in English or in any other language included in the Eighth Schedule of the constitution. The next two tests, each worth 300 points, are on General Studies. The syllabus for each test is different. These tests aim to judge your awareness and well as your understanding and analysis of contemporary events. The remaining four tests, each worth 300 points, are on two of the optional subjects chosen by the candidate. The subject matter is consistent with the college level education.

The interview, worth 300 points, is the last stage of the selection process. Nearly twice as many candidates are invited for Interview as the number of vacancies.

As you can see, the process consists of mandatory and optional subject matter. For optional subjects, you should choose those subjects in which you have the most knowledge and greatest interest. Obviously, you need to master the constitution, history, geography, economic, science, and current affairs. Another critical dimension is the thought process, analytical skills, ability to articulate thoughts coherently and strong writing skills, both in English and in the language of your choice.

 Given a particular emphasis on the general knowledge, you must become an avid reader of newspapers and magazine that deal with Indian and international affairs, political, economic and business issues, and other current events.
Remembering the facts is necessary but not sufficient. You must develop a good understanding of the facts and their implications in the larger context of India and the world. You should start preparing now. Of course there is the subject matter at the college level for which you do not have knowledge. But there are plenty of other subjects for which you can start preparing now.
You should buy guide-books on the IAS exams to practice and prepare. May services are also available that offer interactive online preparation service. Approximately one year before taking the test, you can consider taking coaching classes. Your strategy for success must include: early, continuous, and serious preparation, starting right now.

While Faisal Shah and Sandeep kaur made the entire nation proud, our very own Bharat Gupta and Amrapali have stood as inspirational icons to the youth of Andhra Pradesh.