Not many would have the courage and confidence to opt for a better career by leaving their already well paying and secure job. Even if they begin preparing for the highly competitive exam, they wouldn’t be ready to quit their existing jobs. The Indian job scene has become so highly competitive and complex that changing careers is as important and challenging as landing a job. However, Kerala cadre IPS officer and Kannur district police chief Prateesh Kumar has a different story to tell. Confidence and a willing heart to work harder were all Prateesh had when he decided to give the Indian Police Service a shot, while working in the Indian Military Service after cracking the Service Selection Board examination. Pratheesh Kumar talks about what motivated him to aim for the IPS which is as difficult and competitive as the SSB exam and also his secrets to success.
Family is inspiration
Prateesh Kumar had completed his BTech degree from the Technical University in Uttar Pradesh. As most of his family members were in the government service, he too had dreamed to land a decent job in the government sector. He had realized the great scope and opportunities of such jobs and how closely connected they are to the society. He never thought about landing any high paying jobs in the private sector even while studying for BTech. Prateesh had always aimed to crack the competitive exams conducted by the UPSC. He initially had a particular inclination to the Combined Defense Services. As he had already begun coaching for the exam while doing BTech, he could crack the exam pretty effortlessly. Soon, Patheesh joined the Indian army. But, he started dreaming about clearing the civil services, one of the highly competitive exams in the country, when he was working in the army. “I decided to quit my job and study for civil services as I strongly believed that civil services would suit me better,” says Prateesh.
“Everyone around me tried to dissuade me from quitting the job that I had got by working hard for so many years, that too after clearing a difficult exam. They said I was taking a wrong decision and asked me to rethink. But I was sure that my decision was right. When everything looked uncertain around me, I trusted myself more and that was all I had. My parents supported me when they saw that I was confident and determined. I didn’t waste a second more after that and began training hard,” says the officer.
Focus is everything
Prateesh Kumar says that intense focus is what a candidate needs to clear the civil service exam, in the first place. The successful police chief emphatically says that one could easily crack the civil service exam if the energy and focus on studies are persistently maintained. “Countless factors including many myths about the exam, stories of unsuccessful candidates and speculations about possible questions try to pressurize us. However, if we persist with confidence, focus and energy all these factors would back off,” Prateesh says from his own experiences.
Prateesh Kumar cleared the civil service exam in his second attempt by securing an impressive 214th rank. His advice to all the aspirants is to begin studying their favorite subject from the general studies paper. A proper time table, that is practical and suits one’s individual schedules, could help them achieve their goals. Prateesh says that there is no point in keeping unrealistic goals when it comes to covering topics. He adds that he began by setting smaller goals like studying India’s first freedom struggle of 1857 in three days. The officer says that achieving such smaller goals would actually excite and motivate them to aim for the harder ones.
“I used to study for at least 10 hours a day. It is always great to follow a timetable so that each topic could be completed in a proper order. Such vast and extensive syllabus may put us into pressure; so in my opinion, following a time table helps ease this tension and make us more relaxed. Besides, following smaller timetables can help us realize our goals seamlessly. It makes us happy and inspires us to go forward with confidence and optimism. I honestly believe that civil service is something that anyone who is confident and has the willingness to work hard can easily succeed,” notes Prateesh.
Where to start
Prateesh feels that choosing the two subjects for the main stage is quite a task. He had chosen public administration and sociology as his core subjects. Wise choices may play significant factors in determining the candidate’s success. There is no point in following someone else’s choices when it comes to these core subjects. The candidate can choose two or three preferred subjects from the list of subjects prescribed by the UPSC. It is important to study the syllabus before delving into the topics. This would give the candidate a clear idea about the extent of the topics that he/she could cover. Practicing question papers from previous years is as important as studying the topics. This would give more clarity about the chosen subjects. The next step is to start studying by preparing short notes. These short notes would come in handy during the time of revision. Besides, these improve the writing skills as well.
The Kerala cadre officer insists that the candidates should strictly read two or three newspapers daily to clear the current affairs section. The Hindu, Times of India and The Business Standard were the newspapers that he had read to know the current affairs and also the economic news which is equally important. He advises young civil aspirants to note down the important information, so that they can refer to those notes later. He used to regularly read journals like the civil service chronicle, yojana and the News and Events as well. He would even study the selected articles that are published in the Front Line, World Focus and EPW. The Week and India Today were referred only if significant articles appeared in them. The aspirants should rely on internet as well to collect information and knowledge. The internet would be helpful in learning the current affairs and large chunks of portions. Prateesh, however, says that there is an explosion of information in the internet and that the candidates should be careful not to lose too much time surfing. He adds that he had used the internet cautiously while preparing for the civil service exam.
Significance of coaching
Delhi is often touted as the major hub for civil service coaching. But, Prateesh had gone to a coaching center at his hometown in Lucknow itself. He says that coaching isn’t imperative to crack the civil service. “You could learn yourself if you are confident enough. Success depends on how much work we put into it, no matter whether we go for coaching or not. At the coaching centers, they would cover the entire syllabus. Besides, coaching classes could be helpful in deciding which topics to study or which to avoid and also in selecting the best learning materials. These are the only advantages of going for coaching; and the rest is the same. Hard work is the only secret to success in civil service,” says Prateesh.
When to begin
“The sooner the better,” says Prateesh about when to start preparing for the civil service. “However, in my personal opinion the time when we do our graduation is the right time to begin preparing. I had studied for the Combined Defense Service exam while doing my graduation. Those lessons had greatly helped me while preparing for civil service as well.”
For Prateesh, the 15 to 20 minutes long interview was a positive experience, which didn’t involve any funny or lighter questions. He had faced questions that were related to some serious issues in the society. He recalls that one of the questions was about the social backwards of Uttar Pradesh. He was able to explain his answer in one or two reasonable points. A small discussion too had followed. “No matter what, we need to be honest while facing the interview board. That is the most important factor. If you don’t know the answer to a question, then you should openly say that. There is no point is lying to the interview panel or arguing with them. You should train for the interview as well, while studying for the exams. You should make a list of the possible questions and also the ones that were asked to the successful candidates in the previous years. You could also practice answering those questions. I later realized that the SSB interview was more difficult than the civil service. That must be the reason why I thought my interview was simple and hassle free,” observes Prateesh.
From UP to Kerala
Prateesh reveals that he had opted for the Kerala cadre despite being far away from home or having different language and culture. However, the young officer feels that Kerala offers comfortable working conditions. “The people here are well educated. They would respect us and give us love if we do our jobs properly. The people of Kerala have always given me love and respect. More than everything else, Kerala too is a part of India. You should be mentally prepared to work anywhere in the country when you choose an All India service,” notes Prateesh.
“Malayalam indeed is a difficult language. But if you have an open mind and genuine interest to learn, you could easily learn the language. After learning how to read Malayalam, I tried speaking in it. When I showed interest to learn Malayalam, my colleagues too were willing to help me. That is how I became comfortable in using Malayalam,” reveals the officer.
Social media and police
Prateesh is someone who doesn’t like to be active on the social media or announce his every action through it. He firmly believes that the people would respect him if his deeds are good and there is no need to use the social media for that.
However, he also believes that it indeed is a good thing that the people and the police can share a friendly space, especially during a time when the social media has great influence. He thinks the various social media pages handled by the police share positive messages and helps them connect with the public in a better way. “The police cannot stay completely away from the media. The media, in fact acts as the eyes and ears in a democratic society. So, the police can effectively use media as a means to come closer to the people and pass on significant information. The police actually do that quite amazingly,” says Prateesh.
He recalls Kannur as a politically volatile space when he was working as an ASP there. However, he assures that the situation has changed a lot. “The common people and the politicians have realized that political violence can create only helplessness and insecurities. So, they are now making conscious and deliberate efforts to not to return to that phase. They have offered their wholehearted support for the police’s efforts to maintain peace and order. Even the people in Malappuram and Palakkad, where I had worked as SP, too had displayed such exemplary mentality. I could help the police force in these larger districts as I got the support and cooperation of the public. The same thing happened in Kannur as well,” notes the Kannur district police chief.
Love for books
Prateesh is a self confessed lover of books, who reads voraciously. He is always curious to know about the latest technologies and gadgets. He likes taking care of health and fitness as he believes that everyone should be as fit as possible in both career and life. Prateesh loves to be active to forget about the fatigue and the busy schedules of his job. Though he enjoys going out with his friends, Prateesh has been missing it for a while as he is away from his hometown.
Cases and career
Prateesh, who has been in the service for eight years, has earned repute for solving most of the cases that he had investigated. The notorious Premam piracy case had emerged when Prateesh was the head of the anti piracy cell. Though it was quite difficult identifying the real culprits, he finally managed to make arrests in that high profile case. He was the SP at Palakkad when tribal youth Madhu was killed. All the accused in that case too had been arrested. He made significant interventions in the Maoist issue as well.
“Handling the cyber crimes has proved to be valuable experiences. I got the opportunity to create awareness among thousands of students and teachers about security in the cyber space. I too am a member of the state level team that is formed to stop sexual exploitation of children and to nab the assaulters. The fact that I could work towards stopping such crimes and ensure justice for those children, gives me immense satisfaction. Though cases like these sadden us, it gives me solace that I too am part of the operation that fights it,” concludes Prateesh.