Vishnu V. had taken up the task of nation-building even before he emerged 34 on the rank list of the Civil Services Examination 2011.
The engineering graduate was a member of the first batch of 156 youngsters selected for the Prime Minister's Rural Development Fellows Scheme.
“I was undergoing training in Hyderabad when the Civil Services Examination results were declared. Our mandate was to spend the entire two-year tenure of fellowship in the tough environs of 78 districts affected by Maoists,” Mr. Vishnu, who lives at Rail Nagar, near Vyttila, in Kochi, told The Hindu-EducationPlus in an interview.
The young talent had left a high-paying job with a multinational company in Chicago to return to India and take up the fellowship. Mr. Vishnu, an engineer (Production Engineering) from the National Institute of Technology, Trichy, said the nagging feeling that his corporate job was in no way contributing to the nation-building process, along with the realisation that development was not just economic growth, motivated him to join the Indian Administrative Service.
“Civil services offered a platform where I could play an active role in the national development process,” he said.
Perseverance, hard work and a steely resolve helped the youngster to clear the Civil Services Examination in the first attempt. He never joined a coaching institute, but believed that self-study could take him to the final destination.
“Self-study is advisable only if you can scan through a big chunk of information at a good pace and assimilate it. One should have an interest to read diverse topics and link them. Aspirants can approach experts individually for clearing the doubts. I had joined the government-run Kerala State Civil Services Academy to utilise the library resources,” he said.
Geography and Public Administration were his optional subjects. Asked about the criterion for selecting them, Mr. Vishnu said that he had interest in Geography and it was relatively easy for engineers. “I selected Public Administration as it could be of use later in the services. I also came across some quality journals and books,” he said.
For the compulsory papers, Mr. Vishnu read newspapers such as The Hindu and used the resources available on the websites of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, the Centre for Policy Research, and PRS Legislative Research; government policy briefs and documents. “A daily glance at these resources without fail is a must while preparing for the exam. Aspirants have to identify issues and themes that recur in these resources,” he said. Elaborating on the preparation for the main examination, Mr. Vishnu said that it would be ideal to adopt a jack-of-all-trades approach with an interest to know something about everything. “Develop adequate depth and understanding in some core areas. In my case International Relations, Politics and Constitution were strong points. Barring a few thought-provoking ones, most questions require only a good short-term memory but the catch here is to look at it from every dimension possible. A good writing style and command over language is an added advantage,” he said.
Mr. Vishnu's advice for the future aspirants is not to jump into Civil Services without understanding its nuances. “Do a self-evaluation and see if you are fit to adjust with bureaucratic challenges and frustrations. This exam is not one that checks intelligence or IQ but requires a different set of skill sets. Look at the exam as a learning curve to understand society, nation and the world and enjoy the process. Don't get bogged down too much thinking of the final results. That should merely be a by-product,” he said.