Earlier this month the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) declared the results of UPSC examination 2020 wherein 761 candidates who appeared for the exams, cleared it. One of the names that made the headlines in Karnataka was that of Haris Sumair, a young engineering graduate hailing from Bidar city who secured the All India Rank of 270 bringing laurels to his city and the State.

What is more interesting in Haris’ story is that he has not received any professional or paid coaching for clearing, which is touted to be one of the toughest exams in the country. Although he was helped by his brother who cracked the UPSC exams last year and is an IPS Officer, Haris believe there are enough content and topper strategies on the internet to help anyone crack the exams without any professional coaching.

Less than a week after the UPSC declared the results, Haris says he was elated when he saw his name in the list adding that he was expecting a positive result but felt on cloud nine when he came to know that he had secured All India Rank of 270.

Vartha Bharati spoke to Haris in an interview and spoke to him about different aspects of clearing the UPSC and his personal life. Below are the excerpts from the interview:

Q: Did you expect this result?  What was your reaction to the result?

A: I was very hopeful of a positive result however since the examination of UPSC has cutting edge competition. There is always doubt in mind that doubt was still there but I was very hopeful and very positive about the result. When I saw my name on the list, I was on cloud nine and I was feeling very elated. 

Q: Please tell us about your family, education, and childhood.

A: I have done my schooling from grade 1 to grade 10 in Kendria Vidyalaya A-4 station Bidar. To pursue my intermediate, I went to Shri Chaitanya College in Hyderabad, and later I pursued my Engineering from Ramaiya College in Computer Science and Engineering. Most of my childhood was spent in Bidar city itself in the Northernmost part of Karnataka. I was a very playful kid I used to play sports as a kid and I encourage students even now to play sports along with their studies.

My father is a retired lecturer, my mother is a housewife and my brother also cleared UPSC last year and he is an IPS officer.

Q: Was cracking UPSC and becoming a civil servant your first ambition? If not, what was it?

A: Since childhood, I would play with computers, I used to play computer games while growing up I was very fond of them. In 12th std, I decided that enough with playing computer games now I will create new computer games and do software programming so I pursued computer Science engineering with that dream in my mind and did well in it as well and I got a job at Intel.

But as I went through the journey I learned more about civil services and the power and responsibilities that come with it. With the platform which civil services provide using which we can change the face of society. The role played by IAS officers like Shri Harsh Gupta ji he was the District Collector in my area he made a master plan of the city and revamped the entire city so this was very inspirational for me. This also motivated me to aspire for civil services. I am hopeful that the knowledge that I have learned in CS Engineering about artificial Intelligence, blockchains, and newer technologies I will implement this knowledge as a civil servant when I enter bureaucracy.

Q: Please tell us about your first inspiration that prompted you to take up UPSC exams?

A: There isn’t a particular incident as such, however, my friend Abdul used to stay in a rural village called chidri it is very near to my city. I used to see him and his condition that he had to walk for around 2 km just to be able to attend school. I was sad about his situation only because of a lack of good road his studies were getting affected. He has to spend most of the time completing the trek to be able to attend school.  So, this was one of the reasons that motivated me that if only a single road connecting from village to town can empower so many students so what a DC can do if he can connect all the villages and make them smart villages, so this inspiration also was there in me.

Q: How old were you when you first thought about clearing UPSC and how did you shape yourself accordingly? What were the major changes in your life that you brought in to prepare for UPSC?

A: I was 21, I was in the final year of my engineering where I decided that I need to do this and I want to be able to do civil services. I had to change my schedule because in my Engineering final year it was supposed to be interactive, if I could use the word, it was not so hard. When it comes to civil services it is tough, cracking civil services examination requires consistency and hard work. I had to make some changes for instance we have to inculcate the habit of being able to read for long hours. What I did was even besides the studies I ensured that I played some sports like football and badminton because physical health and mental health are as much important along with your studies.

Q: Please tell us about how you prepared for UPSC exams? How did you select your subjects etc.?

A: For my optional, I took political science and international relations, there was a multitude of reasons why I took political science one of the reasons was this particular optional had converged with other subjects as well. If you study political science in international relations as optional it helps you cover your general studies paper almost entirely you do not have to do much effort for other papers and it also helps you in ethics as well as essays. So, I took political science in international relations as an optional. It is a dynamic subject you are supposed to be aware of current happenings around the world, so this was also a reason because it is an interesting subject it’s not just like history where some events are recorded. In political science in international relations, you are supposed to be up to date about how India’s foreign policies work Vis a Vis another country. So, it was very interesting it helped me and today I think the choice was right that’s why I have been able to clear the exams.

Q: If you have to put the struggle of clearing UPSC in one word, what would it be?

A: I would use the word consistency. It is the single most important thing when it comes to cracking any competitive examination you need consistency. Because of your little efforts each day, even an atom’s worth of efforts, even if it is as small as an atom together cumulatively, they add up to create a mountain so consistency is the key.

Q: Did COVID and lockdown hamper your preparations in any way?

A: Certainly, being humans, civil service aspirants are not robots they are also humans they also have emotions they see things around them and get depressed. So, when the covid pandemic happened then the lockdown started it was very depressing to see the number of casualties everywhere. I was looking for hope and positivity which I found in my friends and family. They supported me and motivated me to study during the covid 19 period. Some of my friends lost their relatives and parents, negative news was there around that, but the other aspect was because of the covid 19 pandemic the exams were delayed and there were three months to prepare more, I became resilient and studied despite the covid 19 pandemic.

Q: If you had to choose one, what would you choose as your biggest challenge throughout the process of clearing UPSC?

A: The biggest challenge if I were to choose one would be the lack of motivation sometimes people get demotivated and they are not motivated enough to study. It is hard work; it is smart hard work you need some motivation at times people do tend to be demotivated that is certainly a challenge continuing that momentum being motivated throughout the year because the examination process is long and all the three stages of the examination take around nine months so, being motivated thoroughly and consistently is the single biggest challenge I faced. I was very positive and I kept a positive attitude and because of this, I could ace through this challenge.

Q: Did you take any coaching for these exams? Do you think it's necessary?

A: I did not take any coaching at all; I did not take any paid coaching or any professional coaching. However, I stayed at different study circles if you could say Hamdard study circle in New Delhi and Jamia Milia’s residential academy. So, I stayed at these places but I have not taken any coaching my brother helped me because he is an IPS officer so he knew how the examination procedure works, so he helped me a lot, and apart from this internet is available. So my advice to the students is they do not need paid coaching at all because all the resources and toppers strategies are free of cost available on YouTube. So, you can use the medium of YouTube for a good purpose and listen to the toppers on how they are reading and how they are doing and using this strategy you can make the best use of the internet and without any coaching, you can clear this examination.

Q: Apart from the actual preparation, what should be the mindset of a UPSC aspirant?

A: I will tell you, there is a quote in Telegu language, very small phrase that goes like Vishwasam, Prayatnam, Vijayam so the three words mean you should first have trust in yourself, then Prayatnam, efforts, and consistency should be there then Vijayam or success will come. So, our attitude should be like this, we should first trust ourselves if there is a lack of trust then obviously the result may not be positive.  So, first, you need to trust yourself that I can do this. Read with a very positive mindset and open mindset so that is the important key apart from this examination is not about studying in a closed room alone it is not like that you are supposed to interact with people and that builds up your personality as well and learning from other peers helps you a lot. Apart from studying you should take care of playing some sports and taking care of your health. Overall these things are required for UPSC or any competitive examination for that matter. You should have a positive attitude and the right guidance is required. The right guidance can be sought from the toppers. On YouTube toppers strategies are available. So be positive, seek toppers guidance, and do Prayatnam then Vijayam or victory will automatically come. 

Q: Tell us something about your UPSC interview?

A: As I previously told you that my background is in computer science engineering, so after you clear the main examination, you are supposed to fill a detailed application form. So, in that detailed application form, I had filled out various things I did academically in computer science and engineering like reading about AI, interest in blockchain technology so I had filled those things. Most of my interviews went talking about these technologies. I was asked how AI or machine learning can impact society, our economy, and what is my vision of how I will implement this when I come into a bureaucracy?. My advice to you students would be doing not to prepare for the interview after passing the mains examination have that vision in mind and preparation for the interview before you write prelims. Have a vision in your mind as a bureaucrat what aspirations you have after you become a bureaucrat. So, that vision you can share with the interview panel and they will ask you questions on that and that would ace you through and build up confidence in you.

Q: Now that you have achieved one of your most important ambitions in life, of clearing UPSC, what is your ambition as an IAS officer?

A: First of all I would like to say that becoming an IAS officer was an important ambition but it was not the only goal, my goal is to serve society and contribute to national integration and Rashtra Nirman. So even when I wanted to become IAS I had that in mind, for instance, the full form of IAS is Indian Administrative Service, in the end, we use the word service so it is a service to the society and the nation. So my ambition is I will serve in key areas that would take my nation forward, key areas like education, rural development and poverty, and women empowerment as well. These are the key areas in which I want to work using my technical abilities and the responsibility that is given to me. So, this is the actual ambition that I want to serve and change the society in these key areas to take my state Karnataka forward and take my nation forward.

Q: There is a lot of hue and cry about the alleged side-lining of minority candidates in government services. What do you have to say about this?

A: I think this is a myth that people have created, article 16 of the Indian constitution gives equal opportunities to everyone so there is no discrimination in UPSC or any government services. If some communities are there whose educational factors or poverty or these things are there so, what they need to do is work on these areas and through education, any community and section of society can develop themselves. So, my message is to all the vulnerable communities and all the disadvantaged sections of societies, work on education because Nelson Mandela the former president of South Africa said that education is the most powerful tool to change society and change the world. So, if you want to change yourself, your family or the society or your section of the society then pursue educational excellence in education can change and improve the socio-economic indicators we can be active drivers of Rashtra Nirman or contribution to national integration.

Q: What is your advice to youngsters?

A:  In general my advise my advice to the youngsters is this is the best phase of your life and this phase of your life will determine the growth trajectory of our nation, family and society so make it productive, make it count pursue various fields of education be it law, journalism for that matter this is an important field it could be defence services, civil services or any service or any job whenever you are doing any work or anything think besides me and my family how can I contribute to society and the nation. So keep that vision in your mind and enjoy this productive phase of life and also learn in this productive phase of life. Because learning and education are key things that can change you as a person can change society can improve the development factors of the nation as well.

Q: Your advice to those preparing for UPSC.

A: One important piece of advice I would like to share with the UPSC aspirants or any competitive exam aspirants is some people do the error of counting the number of hours they have studied. They keep a count on saying I have studied 12 hours or 13 hours this is not the right way is instead of counting the number of hours count the number of chapters you have read. Make some weekly targets and daily targets and stick to them consistency and honesty to yourself and those targets are required sometimes it may be that you might take 8 hours or sometimes only 4 hours to complete a target so the study should be of quality, qualitative and not quantitative, so, this is the main thing that could make your hard work smart work so please pay attention to this.

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New Delhi, Jun 12: Sixty-three cases of students using unfair means were reported in NEET-UG out of whom 23 have been debarred for varying periods, NTA officials said Wednesday, but reiterated the sanctity of the medical entrance exam hasn't been compromised and there has been no paper leak.

The result of the remaining 40 candidates who were found using unfair means have been withheld, NTA DG Subodh Kumar Singh told PTI.

"A committee was constituted consisting of three eminent experts in field of examination and academics to put forward different types of cases reported such as impersonation, cheating and tampering with OMR sheet," NTA DG Subodh Kumar Singh told PTI.

"On recommendations of the panel, 12 candidates were debarred from taking the exam for three years, nine candidates debarred for two years and two candidate for one year each. The result of remaining candidates has been withheld. The panel had given recommendations for each case," Singh added.

The total number of cases of usage of unfair means was 63, he said.

The agency is under criticism amid allegations of irregularities and inflation of marks in the crucial medical entrance exam.

The matter has also reached the top court which said on Tuesday the sanctity of the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test-Undergraduate (NEET-UG), 2024 has been affected and sought responses from the Centre and the National Testing Agency (NTA) on another plea seeking holding of the examination afresh on grounds of alleged question paper leak and other malpractices.

Amid fire from protesting students and opposition parties, the Education Ministry had last week set up a four-member panel to review the grace marks awarded to 1,563 students to compensate them for loss of time due to delay in starting examination at certain centres.

"The panel is yet to submit its report. Depending upon the panel's recommendations, either a retest will be conducted for nearly 1,600 students or an alternate mechanism may be devised to ensure no candidate faces any disadvantage," he said.

Asked about allegations of marks inflation due to which 67 candidates have bagged top rank, Singh said, out of 67 candidates who got 720 out of 720 marks, 44 candidates received marks on account of revision of answer key of physics and 6 on account of loss of time.

"Only two candidates who got grace marks have received 718 and 719 marks," he clarified.