'There were misconceptions about civil services'

He is from a remote village in Kupwara district of strife-torn Kashmir and was the first candidate from his area to qualify for the prestigious civil services examination in 1994 at a time when most of the students of his age had no idea about it.

After his cadre was changed from Jharkhand to Jammu and Kashmir in 2006, Abdul Gani Mir, apart from policing, has taken up as a mission to prepare Kashmiri students for civil services examination.In 2008, some bureaucrats from the Valley, headed by Mir, launched a campaign called Initiative for Competition Promotion (ICP).

They contribute from their pockets to run this ambitious project. One of Mir’s protégés Dr Shah Faisal, who was impar­ted training by the ICP, topped the civil services examination in 2010. Mir has reason to cheer as many of his students have made it to the prestigious career in the last four years. In an interview to Zulfikar Majid of Deccan Herald, Mir shares the idea behind starting the initiative, reasons why Kashmiri students were earlier not keen to take the civil services examination.
Excerpts:

What prompted you to take up this initiative?
Basically when I joined this cadre in 2006 (J&K cadre), I was already having this idea as the number of candidates appearing for civil services examination was less and those qualifying was almost negligible. Candidates from Kashmir would have cleared the preliminaries after several attempts. When I joined as the SSP Anantnag in 2006, I did an empirical study to understand why Kashmiris do not make it to civil services. I did this study in a few colleges and on the basis of that wrote a few articles in dailies in Jammu and Kashmir.

What were the findings of the study and why Kashmiris were reluctant to take up civil services examination when there is craze for government jobs here?
What I remember now is that there was lack of awareness. If candidates do not appear for civil services examination how can they be successful. Then there were some misconceptions about the examination. For example, one of the misconceptions was that only urban elite make it to civil services. Because of those misconceptions, people did not appear in the examination at all.

Do you follow any particular model during counselling and coaching civil services aspirants?
Basic goal before us (a group of officers) when we came together was to make candidates aware of the civil services, pattern of examinations, choice of subjects, how to write it, what kind of questions are expected and how they have to write the answers. These are the basic things which we took up. We went to colleges and universities and held workshops making students aware of these things.

Do you want to institutionalise this arrangement?
Our aim is to make people aware and at the same time we are trying to facilitate. It is basically concept of facilitation. It is not only giving them coaching and counselling here. At times, we counsel and tell them that they can go to Delhi for better coaching. We are taking care of the facilitation part.

What is the criterion adopted for selecting students and do the aspirants have to pay any fee for that?
Anybody can approach us (the group of officers). We run free residential counselling and coaching modules. Only those who have cleared the preliminaries are taken for coaching. We do conduct a written test and select them based on their performance.

Who is supporting this initiative?
As I told you earlier, we are a group of officers which has taken up this initiative

Are you satisfied with the results so far?
Yes, it is fantastic. If you see the history of civil service servants from the state, we would find a successful candidate from Kashmir after a gap of few years, say
seven years. From 2009 onwards, there is no break.

Being police chief of a volatile place like Kashmir how do you manage time for such an
exercise?
What we have done in the last four or five years is we give our time during holidays. This is at the expense of family and but we do not attend to it during official work. It is true that after I took over as IGP Kashmir I have no time for the initiative. But the group is carrying on. It is not necessary that I should be present everywhere.

Apart from you, who else is involved in the group?
We have a young state service officer Shahnawaz Bukhari. Then there is 2010 IAS topper Shah Faisal and another officer Abid, who qualified for the IAS in 2011. And there are a few more.

Five years down the line where do you see Kashmiri students in civil services?

I am optimistic. That is all.

Basic goal before us  when we came together was to make candidates aware of the civil services, pattern of examinations, choice of subjects, how to write it, what kind of questions are expected and how they have to write the answers. These are the basic things which we took up. We held workshops to make students aware of these things.

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