Last 25 Years Topic-wise Essay Questions From UPSC Mains (1994 - 2018)

Paper I of the UPSC Civil Services mains exam is the Essay. Here, prelims-qualified IAS aspirants have to write two essays out of a few given topics. The paper is for a total of 250 marks and its marks are taken into consideration for the Final Merit List. In this article, we have listed all the essay topics asked in the UPSC mains exam from 1994 to 2018. We have also classified the last 25 years essay questions into topics to make your preparation easier.

Latest – See the UPSC Essay Topics in the IAS Mains 2020 Essay Paper. Download UPSC Mains 2020 Essay Paper from the linked article.

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UPSC Essay Topics


  1. Politics, bureaucracy and business – fatal triangle. (1994)
  2. Politics without ethics is a disaster. (1995)
  3. The VIP cult is a bane of Indian democracy. (1996)
  4. Need for transparency in public administration. (1996)
  5. The country’s need for a better disaster management system. (2000)
  6. How should a civil servant conduct himself? (2003)

Democracy/India since independence

  1. Whither Indian democracy? (1995)
  2. What we have not learnt during fifty years of independence. (1997)
  3. Why should we be proud of being Indians? (2000)
  4. What have we gained from our democratic set-up? (2001)
  5. How far has democracy in India delivered the goods? (2003)
  6. National identity and patriotism. (2008)
  7. In the context of Gandhiji’s views on the matter, explore, on an evolutionary scale, the terms ‘Swadhinata’, ‘Swaraj’ and ‘Dharmarajya’. Critically comment on their contemporary relevance to Indian democracy. (2012)
  8. Is the colonial mentality hindering India’s success? (2013)
  9. Dreams which should not let India sleep. (2015)
  10. Management of Indian border disputes – a complex task. (2018)

Economic growth and development

  1. Resource management in the Indian context. (1999)
  2. GDP (Gross Domestic Product) along with GDH (Gross Domestic Happiness) would be the right indices for judging the wellbeing of a country. (2013)
  3. Was it the policy paralysis or the paralysis of implementation which slowed the growth of our country? (2014)
  4. Crisis faced in India – moral or economic. (2015)
  5. Near jobless growth in India: An anomaly or an outcome of economic reforms. (2016)
  6. Digital economy: A leveller or a source of economic inequality. (2016)
  7. Innovation is the key determinant of economic growth and social welfare. (2016)
  8. Impact of the new economic measures on fiscal ties between the union and states in India. (2017)

Federalism, Decentralisation

  1. The language problem in India: its past, present and prospects. (1998)
  2. Water resources should be under the control of the central government. (2004)
  3. Evaluation of panchayati raj system in India from the point of view of eradication of power to people. (2007)
  4. Is autonomy the best answer to combat balkanization? (2007)
  5. Creation of smaller states and the consequent administrative, economic and developmental implication. (2011)
  6. Cooperative federalism: Myth or reality. (2016)
  7. Water disputes between States in federal India. (2016)

Indian Culture & Society

  1. The Indian society at the crossroads. (1994)
  2. New cults and godmen: a threat to traditional religion. (1996)
  3. The composite culture of India. (1998)
  4. Youth culture today. (1999)
  5. Modernism and our traditional socio-ethical values. (2000)
  6. Indian culture today: a myth or a reality? (2000)
  7. As civilization advances culture declines. (2003)
  8. From traditional Indian philanthropy to the gates-buffet model-a natural progression or a paradigm shift? (2010)


  1. Judicial activism. (1997)
  2. Judicial activism and Indian democracy. (2004)
  3. Justice must reach the poor. (2005)

Social justice/Poverty

  1. Reservation, politics and empowerment. (1999)
  2. Food security for sustainable national development. (2005)
  3. The focus of health care is increasingly getting skewed towards the ‘haves’ of our society. (2009)
  4. Farming has lost the ability to be a source of subsistence for the majority of farmers in India. (2017)
  5. Poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere. (2018)

Media & Society

  1. Misinterpretation and misuse of freedom in India. (1998)
  2. Mass media and cultural invasion. (1999)
  3. Responsibility of media in a democracy. (2002)
  4. How has satellite television brought about cultural change in Indian mindsets? (2007)
  5. Role of media in good governance. (2008)
  6. Does Indian cinema shape our popular culture or merely reflect it? (2011)
  7. Is sting operation an invasion on privacy? (2014)


  1. Urbanization is a blessing in disguise. (1997)
  2. Protection of ecology and environment is essential for sustained economic development. (2006)
  3. Urbanisation and its hazards. (2008)
  4. Should a moratorium be imposed on all fresh mining in tribal areas of the country? (2010)
  5. We may brave human laws but cannot resist natural laws. (2017)

Economic sectors/MNCs

  1. Multinational corporations – saviours or saboteurs. (1994)
  2. Globalization would finish small-scale industries in India. (2006)
  3. BPO boom in India. (2007)
  4. Special economic zone: boon or bane? (2008)
  5. Are our traditional handicrafts doomed to a slow death? (2009)
  6. Is the criticism that the Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) model for development is more of a bane than a boon in the Indian context, justified? (2012)
  7. Tourism: Can this be the next big thing for India? (2014)


  1. Restructuring of Indian education system. (1995)
  2. Literacy is growing very fast, but there is no corresponding growth in education. (1996)
  3. Irrelevance of the classroom. (2001)
  4. Privatization of higher education in India. (2002)
  5. Modern technological education and human values. (2002)
  6. What is real education? (2005)
  7. “Education for all” campaign in India: myth or reality. (2006)
  8. Independent thinking should be encouraged right from the childhood. (2007)
  9. Is an egalitarian society possible by educating the masses? (2008)
  10. Credit – based higher education system – status, opportunities and challenges. (2011)
  11. Is the growing level of competition good for the youth? (2014)
  12. Are the standardized tests good measure of academic ability or progress? (2014)
  13. Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make a man more clever devil. (2015)
  14. Destiny of a nation is shaped in its classrooms. (2017)


  1. The new emerging women power: the ground realities. (1995)
  2. Greater political power alone will not improve women’s plight. (1997)
  3. Woman is god’s best creation. (1998)
  4. Women empowerment: challenges and prospects. (1999)
  5. Empowerment alone cannot help our women. (2001)
  6. Whither women’s emancipation? (2004)
  7. If women ruled the world. (2005)
  8. The hand that rocks the cradle. (2005)
  9. Women’s reservation bill would usher in empowerment for women in India. (2006)
  10. Managing work and home – is the Indian working woman getting a fair deal? (2012)
  11. If development is not engendered, it is endangered. (2016)
  12. Fulfillment of ‘new woman’ in India is a myth. (2017)


  1. Youth is a blunder, manhood a struggle, old age a regret. (1994)
  2. Useless life is an early death. (1994)
  3. Disinterested intellectual curiosity is the lifeblood of civilisation. (1995)
  4. When money speaks, the truth is silent. (1995)
  5. Our deeds determine us, as much as we determine our deeds. (1995)
  6. Truth is lived, not taught. (1996)
  7. True religion cannot be misused. (1997)
  8. Search for truth can only be a spiritual problem. (2002)
  9. The paths of glory lead but to the grave. (2002)
  10. If youth knew, if age could. (2002)
  11. There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so. (2003)
  12. Be the change you want to see in others. (2013)
  13. With greater power comes greater responsibility. (2014)
  14. Words are sharper than the two-edged sword. (2014)
  15. Lending hands to someone is better than giving a dole. (2015)
  16. “The past’ is a permanent dimension of human consciousness and values. (2018)
  17. Reality does not conform to the ideal, but confirms it. (2018)


  1. Attitude makes habit, habit makes character and character makes a man. (2007)
  2. Discipline means success, anarchy means ruin. (2008)
  3. Character of an institution is reflected in its leader. (2015)
  4. Need brings greed, if greed increases it spoils breed. (2016)
  5. Joy is the simplest form of gratitude. (2017)
  6. A good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge. (2018)
  7. A people that values its privileges above its principles loses both. (2018)
  8. Customary morality cannot be a guide to modern life. (2018)


  1. Modernisation and westernisation are not identical concepts. (1994)
  2. The world of the twenty-first century. (1998)
  3. The implications of globalization for India. (2000)
  4. My vision of an ideal world order. (2001)
  5. The masks of new imperialism. (2003)
  6. Globalizations and its impact on Indian culture. (2004)
  7. ‘Globalization’ vs. ‘nationalism’. (2009)
  8. Preparedness of our society for India’s global leadership role. (2010)

Science & Tech

  1. The modern doctor and his patients. (1997)
  2. Value-based science and education. (1999)
  3. The march of science and the erosion of human values. (2001)
  4. Spirituality and scientific temper. (2003)
  5. The lure of space. (2004)
  6. Science and Mysticism: Are they compatible? (2012)
  7. Science and technology is the panacea for the growth and security of the nation. (2013)
  8. Technology cannot replace manpower. (2015)
  9. Alternative technologies for a climate change resilient India. (2018)


  1. The cyberworld: its charms and challenges. (2000)
  2. Increasing computerization would lead to the creation of a dehumanized society. (2006)
  3. Cyberspace and Internet: Blessing or curse to the human civilization in the long run. (2016)
  4. Social media is inherently a selfish medium. (2017)

International organisations/relations

  1. Restructuring of UNO reflect present realities. (1996)
  2. India’s role in promoting ASEAN cooperation. (2004)
  3. Importance of Indo-US nuclear agreement. (2006)
  4. Has the Non- Alignment Movement (NAM) lost its relevance in a multipolar world. (2017)


  1. Terrorism and world peace. (2005)
  2. Are we a ‘soft’ state? (2009)
  3. Good fences make good neighbours. (2009)
  4. In the Indian context, both human intelligence and technical intelligence are crucial in combating terrorism. (2011)


  1. India’s contribution to world wisdom. (1998)
  2. The pursuit of excellence. (2001)
  3. Geography may remain the same; history need not. (2010)
  4. Fifty Golds in Olympics: Can this be a reality for India? (2014)
  5. Quick but steady wins the race. (2015)

When preparing for IAS Mains, aspirants must focus on UPSC Mains Answer Writing Practise as this will improve one’s speed, efficiency and writing skills. It will automatically help in essay writing as well. 

Also, read:

How to Write the Essay Paper: UPSC Civil Services Preparation UPSC Essay Paper 2019
Essay Paper Strategy from Essay Toppers 10 Things to Keep in Mind while Writing an Essay for UPSC Mains
UPSC Mains: Preparation Strategy for Essay Paper Important Points to Note for Essay Preparation

Frequently Asked Questions on UPSC Essay Topics for UPSC Mains


Q 1. How can I write a good essay in UPSC?

Ans. Essay writing not only checks your ability to understand the topic but also how well you can explain the same. While preparing for any subject, keep making notes. Read editorial articles in newspapers like The Hindu. Listen to analysis of particular topics on Rajya Sabha TV. There is no shortcut to master the essay, it is all about regular practice.

Q 2. Does handwriting matter in UPSC?

Ans. If the answer is good and the handwriting is not good, then there is a possibility of being at a state of disadvantage because the person who evaluates your paper will be evaluating thousands of other papers. Hence, to make sure that your evaluator has not missed out on any piece of information that you have written, it is better to have good and legible handwriting.
Relevant Links
Topic-Wise GS 1 Questions in UPSC Mains Topic-Wise GS 2 Questions for UPSC Mains
Topic-Wise GS 3 Questions for UPSC Mains Topic-Wise GS 4 Questions for UPSC Mains

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  1. Please share all essay mains paper for UPSC ?