Thursday, May 19, 2016

UPSC results: The story of aspirational India

                      G Sreedathan

This year’s Union Public Service Commission Civil Services examination results were unique in many respects.  It’s the first time that a Dalit girl topped the exam. That too in her first attempt. The second rank holder is from Jammu and Kashmir. Among winners there are many who have come from extremely poor and harsh surroundings. The results in a way present a real picture of aspirational India.
Twenty-two-year-old Tina Dabi, the topper, has created history. Tina has opted for the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), with Haryana as her cadre preference. “I opted for Haryana because it presents such an interesting example, where you have a lot of economic progress but when it comes to social indicators you are lagging behind, and that is a very big paradox.”  She wants to empower women.  Although Tina was born in Bhopal, she completed her schooling and higher studies in Delhi’s Convent of Jesus and Mary. Both her parents are engineers. Though she is a Dalit, she belongs to a middle class family. Yet it’s very important as BJP MP succinctly stated. Raj tweeted, “Napoleon said that without opportunity ability can’t be cultivated. Dalit girl topped IAS & this could not have been possible 40-50 yrs back.”
The second position was secured by Athar Aamir Ul Shafi Khan from Jammu and Kashmir, and the third position by Jasmeet Singh Sandhu, a Delhi Sikh. Khan’s victory is significant not only because he hails from Kashmir but he is the only Muslim whose name figures among the top 100 ranks. Out of 1,078 successful candidates, only 34 are Muslims. It’s the second time that candidates from J&K clearing the UPSC in flying colours. In 2010, Dr. Shah Faisal of Kashmir came first at the national level, sending a strong message for peace in the Valley. Besides Khan, six other Valley aspirants have also cracked the examination. This is a remarkable feat.
Another Muslim boy who secured a place in the rank list is Ansar Shaikh, son of an auto-rickshaw driver.  He is the son of his father’s second wife and according to him has seen poverty and domestic violence from close quarters. His mother works in fields and the family lives in a rented home at Shelgaon in Jalna - a dictrict place in Maharashtra's Marathwada region. His father used to beat his mother and his two sisters were married off at the age of 14 and 15.
Another inspiring story is that of 26-year-old Pranjal Patil, a visually challenged aspirant, who cleared the exam at one go. Pranjal was blinded at the age of six when her classmate poked a pencil in one of her eyes. Eventually, her other eye was also damaged.
There are a few more aspirants who have come from very impoverished milieu and cracked the exam. A few years ago, Sopan brought out an issue on successful candidates of UPSC exam drawn from rural backgrounds. Some of them were children of rickshaw pullers and tea vendors.
I am reminded of a friend who cracked the UPSC exam a few years ago. He hails from an impoverished village in Maharashtra. He gave the name of a backward district in Odisha as his option. He is now collector there. His innovative initiatives have changed the lives of thousands of poor tribals in his district

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