‘We instil confidence in the aspirants’: Ved Prakash Gupta

The chairman of Rau’s IAS Study Circle says young people repay society by sharing their experiences with the next generation.

Published : May 07, 2024 18:36 IST - 6 MINS READ

Ved Prakash Gupta, chairman of Rau’s IAS Study Circle. 

Ved Prakash Gupta, chairman of Rau’s IAS Study Circle.  | Photo Credit: By Special Arrangement

On April 16, the latest Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) examination results were published. It was a reason to celebrate for Rau’s IAS Study Circle, which found 281 of its students clearing the examination, with nine of the top 20 students, as well as the topper, Aditya Srivastava, being its alumni. Rau’s IAS Study Circle has a long, fruitful history. Founded in 1953 by Dr S. Rau, it soon established itself as one of the best programmes for candidates wanting to clear the UPSC exam, which is easily one of the toughest competitive exams in the country. Ved Prakash Gupta, chairman of Rau’s IAS Study Circle, is not only a mentor to Indian Administrative Service (IAS) aspirants, but also a music aficionado and his goal is to tell people about the therapeutic powers of music. Besides the academic work he pursues, he has teamed up with many legendary musicians to present them on a digital platform called Bazm-e-Khas. Excerpts from an interview with Frontline.

Rau’s Study Circle is a reputed name for civil services aspirants. Tell us about your journey with the institution and how you built its reputation among students.

A lot of our former students, who have joined the administrative services, come back to us to narrate their experiences. They tell us stories from wherever they are posted. Their stories help us to understand the administrative services better. Often, we guide them to help the poor and the elderly even if it means going out of their way. We tell them to be kind and empathetic as well as practical; the administration should never get too hardline. When young people get the right guidance, they repay society by sharing their experience with the next generation.

You must be very happy about the recent results of the 2023 exam. Tell us a bit about the process of study.

Yes, the performance was above average. We celebrated and we are very happy. There is no one success story, every student who has cleared the exam this time has their own success story. The process at our institute creates toppers and success stories are of importance. The material we give them is very concise. We don’t cast the net too wide, we give them manageable and concise material to study. We use the question papers of previous years to strategically build a manageable pool of resources for our students.

We also have a monthly magazine called Focus, which is around 100 pages, and not too heavy or lengthy. Earlier, the idea of preparing for IAS meant studying everything under the sun, as much as one could. Now, it is about limited but focused knowledge. While it is true that an IAS officer can be asked to deal with different kinds of things, what we do is instil a basic sense and confidence in them.

Our quality improvement programme, developed from our internal research, happens routinely, in which students are asked to write as many words as they can on a subject. Then, from those we ask them to derive 20 words. This helps the students develop a sense of critical focus, which is important for this profession. The students love this exercise. Besides this, we also have additional lectures along with the main lectures. We have multiple tests every week, which a teacher evaluates and explains before handing back the answer sheet.

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What is your advice for students preparing for next year’s exam?

They should first get the habit of reading a bit of everything under the sun. If you are in a waiting room, read a magazine. Learn something. Learn to quickly access the knowledge you have gained, but never say anything until you are sure about it. It is not necessary to remember everything verbatim. If you have a doubt, go back and clear it.

Secondly, they must develop time management skills; it should be very strong. Psychologically, you should never feel that you are facing a sea of knowledge. It can get overwhelming at times. The sea looks huge, yes, but with the right ship, you can cross it too. We are the ship that can help you cross the sea.

The brain should not be forced to memorise blindly, to do ratification. Instead, the brain should be allowed to function freely, with freedom of flight. Don’t force it to memorise things. There should be no coercion. Nature has given us enough learning capabilities—to follow a method. The most important advice would be to enjoy what you are studying. I have been guiding students for many decades, and it is only because I enjoy being a knowledge worker as I deal in knowledge distribution.

UPSC Civil Services exam topper Aditya Srivastava poses for group photos on his return to his hometown, at the Airport in Lucknow, on April 22, 2024.

UPSC Civil Services exam topper Aditya Srivastava poses for group photos on his return to his hometown, at the Airport in Lucknow, on April 22, 2024. | Photo Credit: PTI

How should one pick the optional subject for the UPSC examination?

These days, when students come to us, they have already selected their optional subjects. But if someone needs to pick a subject, they should look at the themes around subjects that they have already studied either in Class XII or in college. Sometimes, when a student of the science stream takes art in college, or when a student pursues a different course after Class XII, it becomes tough to decide which subject to pick. For example, for MBA students, we recommend commerce as an optional subject. The administrative examinations are getting tougher by the year, earlier the toppers would get 60 per cent or more but now the toppers are getting 53 per cent. We are not saying that we want to outsmart the UPSC, but we are part of making youngsters fit enough to be an IAS or Indian Police Service (IPS) officer. We are a link in the chain.

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You have said that the institute bridges the gap between school and college education. Please explain.

School education is general in nature and does not give real-life linkages or applications. What we want to do at the institute is bridge this gap; we want to help students understand education as the things happening around us. This becomes useful to the officers later. In our mock interviews, we ask questions that are highly pointed. We get retired government IAS and IPS officers with a good record to come and speak to our students. Each question asked to the candidate is later reviewed by these experts. Hearing from the experts really helps. Even those who are unable to clear the exams, even for them, this education and learning comes in handy if they choose to get into the private sector.

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