The day i differed from views of a Nobel Laureate

Today’s date, 16 years back I differed from the views of a Nobel Laureate. On May 19, 2000, I was giving the UPSC interview for civil services. Though it was 16 years back I still remember every word of those 45 minutes including a tricky question regarding difference between my views and that of Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen.

I had a long wait before I was called in for my interview which was the last interview by the last Board. So mine was the last interview of the year for the UPSC, from the 800 odd candidates for 400 odd posts.

The Chairman asked a few general questions about what I am doing, my hobby etc. Those days I was working in a PSU, and he asked me why I want to join the Government when I was already working in Government. I clarified that PSU is not exactly government and while I was extremely happy and satisfied with my current job, I wanted to join Civil Services as I perceived it to offer a better career with better opportunities of contributing to society.

In a way mine was a stress interview in the sense that almost every answer I gave the Board Members said they did not agree with me. For instance, when asked what my hobby was, I said Cricket. The immediate response was (shaking a finger at me) that “cricket cannot be a hobby, since you are working and must be returning home late at evening with no time for the game”. I said that it has always been my hobby since childhood and whenever I have free time, I read about cricket and watch cricket matches and on Sundays I also play the lovely game.

I was asked whether i know the Korean PM has resigned. I said No. The answer came that i couldn’t have known as he resigned 45 minutes back and i must have been in the waiting room. Then they informed that he resigned as he had income tax problems and will an Indian politician resign for similar reasons. I replied never as the chair is the most important and precious for the Indian politician. I was also asked which important leader of Orissa was facing serious income tax problems and i said that i did not know. They told me it was Biju Patnaik.

I was asked what I felt was the most important problem the country was facing. I said population explosion. I was asked in detail and I responded the best I could. Thereafter I was asked 2nd, 3rd and 4th important problems and I said, Education, Health and Corruption, in that order. I remember I was asked why I had put education before health and not vice versa and I answered with an example of a Tribe of Orissa which believed that quinine is made from dead man’s bones and therefore they refused to eat quinine and consequently many died of malaria. I answered that if they had been educated then their health would have been better.

Thereafter once again i was asked about problems of population increase and i responded again. I said that with population explosion every other gain of development is nullified, our foodgrains production will not match and there will be other social problems like housing, schooling and hospitals. I was asked why not it is seen as a resource and i politely said that while optimum population is a resource, huge population is a hindrance

An interesting related question was “As a district Collector, what is the proportion of funds I would allocate towards reduction of these four problems”?. I answered politely that I would request this answer I am unable to give now as every District has its own peculiarities and that I would have to be posted first and then can decide the proportion after making a reasoned study.

Thereafter I was asked if I have heard of  Amartya Sen. I said yes, he is the pride of India and in fact the pride of the entire world. I was asked if I knew why he won the Nobel Prize. I said that while I was not exactly sure, Amartya Sen as far as I know won Nobel Prize for various works including work on famine and poverty and for his thesis that famine may happen even where there is surplus production.

Then came a dangerous question “Amarty Sen has said that excess population is not a problem as there will be increase in production of foodgrain. Since your views differ from that of a Nobel Laureate, will u like to change/modify your answer”?

My Answer was simple. Amartya Sen is a celebrated person and must have given various reasons. However my simple reasoning is that to keep pace with increase in human population, foodgrain production has to double, and with increase in human population, there will be increase in need for milk and meat. To provide for fodder foodgrain production has to treble, and since land is limited and there is a limit to productivity, i think there is going to be a serious problem.

There were 2 simple follow up questions to these. 1st was that wasn’t there a problem of wastage and i replied that yes , around rs 35000 crores worth of food , fruits and vegetables is wasted which is  criminal and should be stopped. I was asked if i was made the head of food corporation of India what will be my 1st step and i said that i will improve the quality of godowns as they are dark, dingy, have no space and no air and are infested with rats.

I was once again asked if i will further like to review/modify my differing views with the Nobel Laureate, and i politely said no.

Rest of the interview in part 2 of this blog……….


Rahul Dravid and the resurgence of Delhi Daredevils

Currently the most successful former Delhi Daredevils (hereafter referred to as DD) player has to be Tejashwi Yadav, a Ranji Trophy player who was in the DD team for 4 years even though he did not get a game. He is presently Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar at the young age of 26, maybe the youngest ever to hold such a position.

Tejaswi’s success has however not rubbed off on his former team. DD has always been an underachiever and despite always having awesome potential and terrific allround strength have somehow not done well with only 2 semi final spots in 8 years.

However recently with Rahul Dravid taking over as Mentor, there seems to be a resurgence.

Let us examine what was going wrong earlier and what has changed and looks promising now after the Wall has taken over.

Upheavals and Changes

The only constant in the team was the owner, GMR. Otherwise, the team saw many upheavals including sponsors, players and captains. Sehwag was their first captain, followed by Gambhir then back to Sehwag and later Mahela Jayawardhene and Kevin Pietersen. The team too saw too many changes.

A settled captain and team would surely have helped.

Inability to retain star players

Glen Mcgrath, ABD, Dhawan, Gambhir, Dirk Nannes, David Warner, Nehra, Aaron Finch, Morne Morkel, Glenn Maxwell, KP, Andre Russell , Ross Taylor. All these are star players who were part of the DD team earlier but did not continue with the franchisee.

Surely something is wrong somewhere if so many great players will go on to play for other teams.

Sad case of Glenn Mcgrath

Mcgrath , an all time great had a 3 year contract with DD. The 1st year in IPL he was their most economical bowler but sadly the next year he was on the bench. Dirk Nannes was preferred over him and Mcgrath sat out as Indian bowlers Nehra, Sangwan and Salvi were chosen to complement Nannes. A disappointed Macgrath said that he would not return for the 3rd season. Later the franchisee bought out his 350000$ contract.

A legend surely deserved better?

Overall result was that a team of many superstars always fell woefully short out there in the middle.

However, after Dravid has taken over as team mentor, the team’s performance suddenly seems to have improved and they look like they will make an impression in this tournament and future IPL’s too.

Here is why i think the transformation has taken place.

Belief in youth

Dravid recognised that IPL ultimately needs 7 Indians in the playing 11 and only 4 foreign stars, He therefore has invested in Indian youth. Shreyas Iyer, Sanju Samson, Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair and Rishabh Pant are 5 players who can serve the team well and can continue in future too for the franchisee. Two others Akhil Herwadkar and Mahipal Lomror are waiting too to make a mark.

Combination of youth and experience

Though the team seems like an Indian Under 25 team, Dravid has taken care to ensure some experienced stars as well such as Duminy, Imran Tahir, Amit Mishra, Chris Morris, Mohd Shami and Quentin de Kock.


Dravid as a mentor encourages his players. Shreyas Iyer did not do well but Dravid instead of blaming him in an interview chose to focus on his two successful Ranji seasons. The players are told to enjoy themselves and play their natural game.

Zaheer as Captain

Zaheer as a captain is another Captain Cool. The arguably 2nd best quick bowler in Indian history after Kapil Dev is enjoying the confidence shown in him and he too helps Dravid in nurturing and mentoring the youngsters.

Competent support staff

Zubin Bharucha as technical director has the role of research, planning, identification and talent development. Dravid has chosen him as the ex Mumbai opener had done the same role well in RR. As coach, Paddy Upton has been chosen as apart from being a good physical trainer with terrific credentials he is a leadership coach as well and focuses on mental aspects as well. The team also has competent batting coaches in Praveen Amre and an excellent bowling consultant in TA Shekhar.

Willingness to Experiment, recognition that no man is indispensable

It is clear to all that no one is indispensable and team needs will be more important as regards selection. For instance a matchwinner Braithwaite was on the bench the very match after a match-winning performance as conditions suited spinners better. Sreyas Iyer too was dropped after a couple of poor performances.

Elevating Pant to open the innings, including Sam Billings in the squad and most importantly picking the best young Indian talent are small but extremely significant steps taken by Dravid. So also taking a daring step to rest Zak and best batsman De Kock. An occasional loss may happen, but key players will be fit in business end of the tournament.

Finally, one important thought comes to mind.

Will Dravid be around for a long time

No idea. When asked how long his contract was, the Wall just smiled. However the CEO Mr Hemant Dua took the mike and said that it is known Dravid likes to play a long innings and they hoped he does so.

DD Fans will hope so too.

The maverick Biju Patnaik; An immortal, loved Leader

India has probably never seen such a maverick leader as Biju Patnaik. I have tried to find out some rare and little known anecdotes about him- which reflect how maverick he was. These are sourced from the Internet and i hope you will like it.


He loved cycling. At the age of 14, with 2 friends named Amar and Bhrambhar he cycled from Cuttack to Peshawar, a distance of 4500 km. Please reflect that this was 1930 and there were dreaded jungles along the route which were much feared. However our hero was not bothered and completed his visit India Mission. In later life he was often seen cycling to the State Secretariat.

His Love Marriage

Biju Babu  saw Gyanwati Sethi when she was playing tennis at Lahore and fell in love with her. The marriage was epic and the marriage party arrived with a fleet of tiger moth planes which flew in formation over the train in which the couple travelled for their honeymoon. Wow, what style .

His winter wife

Gyan Devi used to stay in Delhi and visited Orissa only in winter and hence Biju Babu called her his winter wife. He did not like his family in politics and kept them away from it. Gyan Devi was one of the 1st woman in the country to get a commercial pilots license. Reportedly She accompanied Biju Babu on his daring flight trip to rescue Indonesian leaders, leaving behing her 14 day son Naveen (Present CM)

His Tailor

Biju Babu did not differentiate between rich and poor. He had a bond with a poor tailor named Subhas Padhi who between 1972 and 1996 stiched as many as 600 kurta pyjamas for him. All 600 were white with a round neck. The tailor master cherishes his bond with his angry yet kind VIP customer.

The slap and the slap back.

An unemployed young man slapped Biju Patnaik when he was CM. Undeterred, the huge 6 feet 2 inches Biju Babu gave him 3 slaps in return. Later he called the youth and gave him Rs 300/-

Donation versus Bribes

There was a controversy and vigilance action about Rs 18 crore in his Party’s bank account. Instead of denying it he said what is wrong with it and that unlike other leaders who took bribes he took donations and that others took in cash while he took it in his party’s bank account. He said everyone does it and “ why are you bothered about one little chief minister fiddling with some money ” and “what is 18 crore to Biju Patnaik”

Biju Babu went on to say that every political party fund should be accounted for and Parliament should make necessary laws. The bitter truth according to him was that all political parties are neck deep in making money and all are equally involved.

Source of donations

Biju Babu said that the source was ordinary people and you had no idea how ordinary people loved him. He said that his transparency of putting in the bank was being questioned and instead if , like Congress leaders he would have put in in his drawer, then you wouldn’t have known about it.

He then gave his inimitable dialogue “So whats your bloody problem”

On corrupt officials

Biju Babu as Chief Minister gave a public call to beat up corrupt officials “But first give me a telegram for my permission”. Lo and behold. The CMO was flooded with telegrams and many officers were manhandled. There was a public uproar but he was unpurturbed and said “We should not only beat up corrupt officials but guillotine them”

On Punishment for Rapists

Biju Babu said that the apt punishment for rapists was castration and that if was the sole arbitrer then every rapist would be castrated. Incidentally, during his tenure as CM, there was a rumour that the police had allegedly castrated a 60 year rapist.

What a personality. There are many more such anecdotes about this much loved leader. He is immortal.