Relevance of Public administration as an optional subject

  • by Ashutosh Pandey

Friends, I want to share my experience with the public administration optional subject, a subject which has made me fall in love with this entire UPSC preparation. Had this subject not been there with me, neither I would have enjoyed this preparation to such a great extent, nor I would have cleared UPSC in my first attempt in just a span of 8 months of preparation.

By: Ashish Pal, IRTS 2013
Pub ad Marks: 221

Friends, I want to share my experience with the public administration optional subject, a subject which has made me fall in love with this entire UPSC preparation. Had this subject not been there with me, neither I would have enjoyed this preparation to such a great extent, nor I would have cleared UPSC in my first attempt in just a span of 8 months of preparation.

Before I started preparing for UPSC in March 2013, I had a diverse work experience of 6+ years in various areas such as software development, investment banking, marketing and entrepreneurship. Just like most other aspirants, I myself was very confused about which optional to take up. I talked to many fellow aspirants and seniors around and all had their own views regarding which subject can fetch you maximum marks. Almost, everyone was saying no to public administration since this subject was not given good marks.

But, my way of seeing things and selecting optional was *fortunately* very different from others. The factors that I considered were these –
1.    I wanted to take up a subject which will be entirely new to me, which gives me new things to learn (rather than taking up my own engineering subjects in which I had already done my bachelors). Reason was very simple, 8-10 months down the line, I didn’t want myself to feel that I have wasted 8 months studying/revising something which I had been doing something for last 6 years.
2.    I wanted to extend my knowledge specifically in public administration for the only reason that this is not one of the subjects, but this is the only subject, which has relevance in whichever service you go in after clearing UPSC,  and has relevance in almost the entire private sector world as well.
3.    The linkages of this subject with psychology, sociology, political science, and other arts subjects gave me practical understanding of whatever I see around in the society. For every action you take in your day to day life, be it in your family life, social life, or official life, you learn enormously from this subject . (This one factor made me really fall in love with this subject during my preparation of 8 months)
Today, when I see myself coming from an engineering background, a person who was never used to seeing various shades of grey in your life, this one subject has made me come such a long way in just a span of 8 months that in most practical aspects this subject has changed me as a person.

Now, coming to the marks-scoring aspect – When I was deciding the optional, in spite of everyone saying me that this subject won’t give you higher score, I had a very strong feeling about two things –
1.    If I am in love with my subject, the answers will come out from my heart, and if I have understood the basics properly, the examiner will be bound to give me marks (irrespective of the fact whether others are getting good or bad marks). And, this is what happened, my first tryst with this subject (for just about 8 months) fetched me 221 marks in this optional in Mains-2013 (which I heard was among top 10 all india). So, my conclusion is – pick up any subject, but make sure that you actually fall in love with the subject and you are bound to be a topper. Don’t take subjects like Pali, literature, geography, public administration, etc. just for the sake of the reason that others get good marks in some subject or vice versa.
2.    I was very clear in one aspect that if I don’t clear UPSC in my first attempt, only thing I don’t want is to feel guilty after not clearing Mains that I have wasted my 1 crucial year of my life. This thought came very clear to me after meeting fellow aspirants, among whom 9 out of 10 aspirants I found were always feeling guilty after studying subjects like Pali, History, Literature, or Geography – which they never liked at the first place, and later when they don’t clear UPSC they get very depressed thinking that last 1 or 2 years of their life they have simply wasted and haven’t added any value whatsoever in their own life or their personality). So, conclusion is that pick up a subject which is really intellectually stimulating and which opens your horizon to as much extent as possible. Don’t treat UPSC prepartion period as something where you have to waste your crucial years of life. These preparation years can be the most productive ones for you (just like I had).

Some tips about how to go about studying this subject
•    First thing first – Get the basics absolutely right. For example, studying constitution, parliament from the best of basic books like Subhash Kashyap, DD Basu, etc. Don’t pick up Laxmikant of Polity just because it is simple or just because it will make you clear your prelims. Pick the best book which will make you clear UPSC and not Prelims.
•    Second, get in touch with the right mentor. I was so very fortunate that I cleared my UPSC in 8 months of time, just because I had got in touch with a mentor, friend and guide (Ashutosh Sir). This is so very important because, I didn’t want to spend 4 years of mine figuring out myself that what are the right steps to take during the preparation. Ashutosh Sir had 6-7 years of relevant experience under his belt not just as a teacher but also as a student of UPSC (which was the most wonderful thing I could have got), that helped me make all the right moves at right times and I could crack this exam in 8 months and that too with Public Administration Optional.
•    Third, don’t be afraid to go deep into the subject. This is the best advice that I got from my mentor. Seeing my mentor’s knowledge and effort, I got so motivated that when all other pub ad students were studying the traditional books, I finished 3 books by mohit bhattacharya, I finished all 15 ARC reports, all 7 Punchhi commission reports, around 25 awesome World Bank case studies on Indian Public Administration …. And eventually this is what paid off (I got 121 in Paper-2).
•    Have a mentor, who keeps updating his knowledge as these are the areas which are still evolving.
•    Last but not the least, have belief in yourself and your mentor. There were innumerous times when I blindly followed my mentor and my own hunches (forget about what other aspirants are doing or following). Remember – If you follow the rat race, then your result will also be like a rat race.

Winners don’t do different things but they do things differently.