How challenging has it been for you to become an IAS officer, from a software engineer in beginning?
Mr. Dahal: It’s true that cracking this exam by competing with lakhs of others is a difficult thing. Yet, not all the competition is genuine; 2/3 of the people applying would not have been prepared adequately. Hence, the real competition lies only between thousands. To be very frank, my journey was never all that challenging. I was placed on the campus and joined a software company in 2009 – immediately after graduation. I drew a decent salary and I had a good time. Working for almost 3 years in India and abroad, I felt that I was gradually settling in this job. However, I wasn’t too sure if I have contended with the job. My dad wanted to see me as an IAS officer, but all that seemed too vague. I wasn’t sure how to go about it.
Meanwhile, there was a feeling deep within as to – ‘have I done enough?’ I consider myself to be one of the privileged persons in Sikkim. I had the opportunity to go out of Sikkim and learn many things. I always wondered, ‘am I giving back enough to the place where I belong?’ The job in the software industry didn’t seem to be doing that to a large extent. I thought I have to show Sikkimese youth what I have seen and tell them what I have learned, that we are no less than anyone.
I decided to write the Civil Services Exam. I started preparing for the exam sometime in July 2012. I meanwhile resigned and joined another company that had less work and better salary (but poor career prospects later on) to give myself more time for preparation. I joined weekend coaching classes and was overwhelmed by the amount of information I was discovering and attempting to learn. With these preparations, I felt I was ready to write the exam and appeared in Civil Services Prelims Exam 2013. I didn’t qualify.
I was dejected, but deep within I knew that this wasn’t my 100%. I decided to give one more attempt with 100% of what I could. I quit the job in September 2013 and moved to Delhi for a full-time preparation. I joined coaching and did everything I felt would help me. The support from my family was tremendous. An earning member of the family had suddenly become someone to be spent upon, yet we decided that we can manage. I had in mind that I will get back to software industry if I fail with the satisfaction that I tried.
I was preparing and getting ready for the exam in 2014. Meanwhile, I also wrote the Prelims for Under Secy Exam conducted by SPSC and qualified in it. This was just before Civil Services Prelims (CSP) 2014. I qualified in the US Prelims and it was a huge morale booster. I also qualified in the CSP 2014. I qualified for both Civil Services Mains and Forest Service Mains Exam 2014.
I wrote the mains for both and was qualified to attend an interview for Forest Service, result for Civil Service Mains was awaited. Meanwhile, I wrote the Under Secy – SPSC mains. I didn’t qualify the Forest Service exam and was dejected a little. However, I qualified in the Civil Service Mains and also US Mains. I started preparations for the interview. May 13, 2014, was my interview date. I gave the interview and went home to attend the US interview. While at home, I learned that I qualified US – SPSC. A couple of weeks later even the Civil Services Result were out and I secured 63rd rank in that. I was pretty certain of getting into IAS.
Therefore, in general, it wasn’t too much of a struggle. I enjoyed the process of learning and was happy to learn and discover things, that was hitherto not known to me.
Today, 50%-60% students opt for general degree courses in Sikkim and only 10%-20% go for professional courses. Why do you think this is happening in Sikkim during an era where highly qualified technical professionals are required at most? Can this be one of the reasons for our State falling far behind from rest of the country in producing qualified technical professionals?
I’m not sure if your statistics is correct. Moreover, the quality of professional education is also not so good in India. The overall higher education sector in the country appears to be wanting something. Barring a few, all of them are in poor shape. Also, there are many engineers who remain jobless in the country. I don’t think this is an issue. Also, Sikkim isn’t falling far behind; it is, in fact, a pioneer in so many areas. What is lacking in Sikkim is the spirit of competitiveness, a zeal to try, to explore, and to think beyond Sikkim. This has to come from the society at large.
Talking about the employment in the Government Sector, thousands of graduates comes out of Sikkim Government colleges every year and only a fraction of them go for higher studies. The others run here and there seeking jobs in government offices with a degree in their hands. However, the Government cannot recruit all of them at once. And therefore, a huge number of unemployed people emerge out. Some compromise by opting for small jobs, while some reach the highest level of frustration. What do you have to say on this situation?
This is precisely the problem. We don’t think beyond Sikkim. We need to stop doing this. We are wasting our potential. The parents and the youth equally share this dangerous fantasy of government jobs in Sikkim. This was probably one of the subtle things that motivated me to write this exam – to demonstrate, to show, that we can compete, things can be done differently.
Today, a lot of parents want their children to go for government jobs with a thought that only government jobs can secure one’s future. According to you, is this thinking applicable today, when the private sector is emerging to a great extent?
The government sector, I believe will be the most challenging sector to work in. I think this change will gradually come up. People are now being graded based on performance even in the government sector. Moreover, the government is shrinking; most of the activities like, electricity, housing, etc are outsourced in many states of the country.
In India (or particularly talking about Sikkim), the reservation system is creating a big problem. The trend in Sikkim today is that SC or ST students get 100% scholarship while people from other sections hardly gets any waive in fees. And we know that not all SCs and STs are financially weak. What do you have to say on this?
One can discuss forever about reservation with no meaningful conclusion. Reservation is necessary; maybe a little adjustment in the selection criteria needs to be done. Nevertheless, in Sikkim, even the reservation doesn’t seem to have helped much. How many make it to the IITs, IIMs, Central Services, All India Services and the like?
International terrorism is on the rise today and most of the terrorists are highly educated. Is it the frustration of unemployment that the educated youths are diverted towards this totally negative world?
That could be one reason.
It’s not news that a lot of Sikkimese youth are not left unaffected with drugs. Despite of various government awareness programs on drugs, Sikkim today stands second in drugs intake in the whole country as per NCR. What is the reason for this as per your views?
Unemployment – mostly due to lack of zeal. No competitiveness – there are hardly any names from Sikkim who qualify in competitive exams.