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Backstage chat with Himanshu Khatri: An interview by Sreyans Mohapatra

Updated: Jan 19

Good afternoon, Sir, I am Sreyans. Welcome to Satyawati College. Today I will be taking your interview on behalf of Saksham, the placement cell of Satyawati College. Without any further ado, let's start with the interview. 


Sreyans --Today's topic for the Seminar was "How to Start with the Journey as a Civil Service Aspirant". So, regarding that, could you share a pivotal moment or influential figure that ignited your passion for civil service, inspiring your journey to the IRS?  

Mr. Himashu --So first of all, A very good Afternoon. I am very humbled by your Invite. I enjoyed interacting with the students, that was brilliant. Answering your question, a pivotal moment was basically "a search for meaning for life". The point is that in my life I have worked a lot hard, especially when you are not a very good student to begin with. You have to work a little harder. You have to work very hard to get into an IIT and after that in a private sector job. But still, I didn’t feel like I had achieved what I wanted, that is, a satisfied career life. Usually, what happens after graduation, people search for an upgrade either in the form of an MBA or GRE. Most of the people go for an upgradation of their present qualification, after 1-2 years of work experience. Therefore, that moment came after working for one and a half years. At that point in time, one of my college seniors had qualified CSE and had gotten into IAS, Mr Avinash Lavania, and I was lucky to have a word with him. He was a very down-to-earth man. He had successfully passed the UPSC examination and was set to commence his role as an IAS officer. He had generously allocated 2 hours for me on a phone call, the way he spoke and explained things, really inspired me, so you could say he is the one who inspired me. 



Sreyans-- Speaking of experience, you have had extensive experience working in services. What’s something about the day-to-day life of an officer would you say that the civil services aspirant does not know? 

Mr. Himanshu-- The law is very important. The life of a bureaucrat is surrounded by law, particularly rules. In newspapers, we read about laws, but the rules determine whether the decision is right or wrong. The whole functioning depends on these rules. So, your studies do not end once you become a civil servant as you still have to learn and become familiar with all the rules because they play a major role in influencing decisions that you make in your personal and professional life. You also learn how to work on files, which is something totally new. So, for all these reasons it's necessary to have a ready awareness of different kinds of rules. It is something that you will have to take care of in your day-to-day life because bureaucracy works as per the law. 



Sreyans-- So you have to continue learning even after you have cracked your exam? 

Mr. Himanshu-- Obviously, it’s a total scam when people say that once you score well in your 10th and 12th or when you are completed with IIT or once you get a job, get married or have kids, then you will be free. A person will never be free; they will always have something that will keep them busy or occupied. That’s why I say college is one of the happiest times of your life. But you have to maintain a very healthy balance between your career aspirations and also having fun. It’s very important to have fun, like I had a ton of fun during my college time. Although I leaned a little extra towards having fun because I thought that I didn’t enjoy properly in 11th and 12th class, so now’s the time to do so. I would say that try to have productive fun, like participating in dance, and dramatics. So, when you reminisce later on, you are going to remember this time and not the time which you spent lazily on your bed. I never sit and think that I used to wake up at noon, but rather I think about the night outs and the screenplays I participated in, I think of the activities in which I was actively involved and for which I had to do the hard work. Also, try to be academically productive along with participating in extracurricular activities. 



Sreyans-- The next question is an optional one, it’s up to you if you would like to answer or not. It’s related to the IRS. Has there been an unusual tax deduction request that you have come across?  

Mr. Himanshu--It's always happening, I would not say that it’s unusual but a normal procedure because whenever we put up a tax demand on anyone, like a penalty or something, then they either themselves or through their lawyers request to lower the tax amount. This is not weird, but a very normal phenomenon. 



Sreyans--Isn’t there a specific instance that pops up in your mind, like something different that happened? 

Mr. Himashu– Yes there was this one time, that there was this non-existing factory, it used to manufacture tobacco or something. The rules were such that when calculations were done for this factory, the demand and penalty came out to be ₹ 200 cr. On a non-existing factory, the penalty was coming out to be ₹200 crore and the tax amount that they had evaded was relatively much less. We then demanded the amount and obviously, no one was ready to pay that sum. So yeah, unusual instances like these have also happened where you are following the rules, but the rules sometimes aren’t in sync with reality. 


 Sreyans--Could you share a memorable moment when you realized the tangible, positive impact of your work on the lives of ordinary citizens?  

Mr. Himanshu-- Yeah of course, even outside of work. For example, I used to be very friendly with the staff. So, there was this very poor person who worked in my office, and he requested me if I could help his child get into a school as he wasn’t able to get admission. So, I wrote an official letter and even requested verbally that this person is someone who’s in need. His kids got admission, and this made him so happy. He even brought sweets later. Like this, I have helped quite a lot of people. Even outside your work, you can make a positive impact with your influence. Similarly, you can be helpful officially by staying within the line doing only what’s correct and not misusing the power or influence to cause harm to anyone. 


Sreyans-- Reflecting on your journey, can you share a specific challenge or setback that stands out as a turning point, ultimately contributing to your success?  

Mr. Himanshu--How I enjoyed too much, became non-serious too much. As I mentioned before also. In college, I became a bit more non-serious. So, then I got many Fs. And then I realized that the degree would extend. So, I realized that, if you are not disciplined, then there is no limit. You know, then there is no limit to how much you can get distracted from your goals. Then I realized that in life, discipline is very very important. That was also a good lesson.  



Sreyans-- How do you think educational institutions can better support students in terms of providing comprehensive career guidance and opportunities, based on your own experiences and observations? 

Mr. Himanshu--What is lacking in colleges is that the students don't know anything about their careers properly. I mean, even after going to IIT, I didn't know exactly what the opportunities were, what financial opportunities would be like, and what exactly is career planning or career guidance or what an alternate career can be. So, there was no such institutional capacity. It was not like institutionally, our teachers are telling us, or institutionally, some seniors are conducting sessions with us, where they will give some career guidance. For example, for civil engineering, if you want to do civil engineering, then what are the opportunities inside and outside of India, or what type of companies are there, and what are you focusing on? By helping students with things like these, colleges can help students make better career choices. 


Sreyans-- As you said, there are many things. So, most of the time people get lost. In finding what to do, and what not to do. What are some often-overlooked topics/things by civil service aspirants during their preparation for the UPSC exam and how to address them?  

Mr. Himanshu--They overlook the “WHY”. To prepare for UPSC is very, very simple. Pick up any topic and try to think of 10 questions, logical questions, that your friends and your elders can ask. Right? This I call the FAQ approach. Right? These are the questions that will be asked,  

For example, if you are a secretary in the PMO, the Prime Minister will ask you what kind of questions on Chandrayaan. The Prime Minister would like to know that what is this Chandrayaan. Why should we launch the Chandrayaan? What are the benefits of Chandrayaan for different sections of the society? Right? Why the United States is not launching Chandrayaan, whereas India is focusing on launching the Chandrayaan? That very same amount of money can be used in the MGNREGA scheme or any other scheme, you know, why are other poor countries not sending Chandrayaan? So why should we send them? Just because we will get pride? So, pride is more important, or the lives and education of the poor is more important? So why should we do this?  

These questions can be asked by the Prime Minister, or any other elected official for that matter of fact. We never prepare like this. Most of our preparation is rote learning based. We have a shortcut to see previous questions and copy and paste them and if you want to know the facts, then write the facts. We don't think about such questions. If we make several FAQs on any topic whether it is the Russia or Ukraine war or the economic crisis of Sri Lanka, if we study with such reasoning and FAQ-based approach, it will be much more beneficial. That is the answer. Rather than rote learning facts, try to look at the bigger picture, this doesn't happen, it's very tough because when you see that everyone, wherever you look whether it's the teachers or YouTube channels, everyone is pushing you for rote learning by default. Right? So basically, our education system. I mean, I have personally experienced this from the beginning, it discourages us from alternate thinking. But real life does not need road learners. They require problem solvers. Hence, logical and dynamic thinking should be encouraged more. 

It's been a pleasure sharing my experiences and insights with Saksham and the students of Satyawati College. If there are any more questions or if the students have further inquiries in the future, feel free to reach out. I appreciate the opportunity to connect with the students and share my journey in the civil services. Have a great day!

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