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Dream chasers: Bihar’s Shubham Kumar tops UPSC exam, Bhopal’s Jagrati second

The list of top-20 rank holders in this year’s UPSC Civil Services Examination, touted as the toughest exam in the country, is a varied mix.

Written by Avishek G Dastidar , Sourav Roy Barman , Esha Roy | New Delhi |
Updated: September 25, 2021 7:40:22 am
Second rank holder Jagrati Awasthi celebrates with her family in Bhopal on Friday

A freelance photographer, a dentist, a serving IPS officer who wanted to be in the IAS, the younger sister of a past UPSC topper, the son of an industrialist, a graduate of forensics sciences, a CBSE Board exam topper, and chasers of a dream that most Indians dream.

The list of top-20 rank holders in this year’s UPSC Civil Services Examination, touted as the toughest exam in the country, is a varied mix.

Shubham Kumar from Bihar, and Jagrati Awasthi from Bhopal — both engineering graduates — bagged the first and second ranks, respectively.

A total of 761 candidates have cleared the civil services examination, 2020, the UPSC stated in the results declared on Friday. A total of 545 men and 216 women have cleared the examination and recommended for various civil services by UPSC, the Commission said in a statement. It said there are 13 men and 12 women in the list of top 25 candidates.

Shubham Kumar, a Civil Engineering graduate from IIT-Bombay who is undergoing training as an Indian Defence Accounts Service probationer in Pune, has qualified the examination with Anthropology as his optional subject, while Awasthi, who did B.Tech (Electrical Engineering) from Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology, Bhopal, qualified the examination with Sociology as optional subject.

Shubham’s father Devanand Singh told The Indian Express: “My son has done not just us proud but has brought laurels for the whole of Bihar.”

Asked about the mantra behind her success, Awasthi, 24, said, “Nothing can substitute hard work, but work smart, not just hard. Most importantly, understand requirements of the examination.”

Ankita Jain was ranked third.

Ria Dabi, 23, whose elder sister Tina topped the UPSC exam in 2019, secured 15th rank in the examination. She said: “Caste system is extremely rigid and I think it should not exist. I was 18 when my elder sister came first in UPSC. It was highly motivating. But if you ask me who my inspiration is, I would say it’s my mother.”

Tina was the first candidate from the Dalit community to top the civil services exam.

Satyam Gandhi, 22, who ranked 10th and comes from Dighra village in Bihar’s Samastipur district, cycled 5 km to school every day. He topped his school in both class X and XII Boards, and did his graduation in Political Science from Delhi’s Dayal Singh College. Satyam supported his stay in Delhi and preparations for the UPSC by working as a freelance photographer.

Asked how she would like to serve her country, Meera K, 27, ranked sixth, said: “I trust the system. Whatever assignment I get, I will give it my best. No work is too small.” This was the fourth attempt, and second interview, for the Mechanical Engineering graduate from Government Engineering College in Kerala’s Thrissur — she had missed out by 12 marks in her last attempt.

Most of the candidates in the top-20 list are engineers, who repeated their attempts at cracking the UPSC exam. Topper Shubham was ranked 290th the last time.

Some had cleared the exam earlier and are already employed by the government but were still chasing their dreams. Jivani Kartik Nagjibhai, 26, ranked eighth, is undergoing training as an IPS officer, which he had cracked in his third attempt, falling just short of getting the IAS. His father owns an education campus with an engineering college, an institute of pharmacy, an MBA programme, and a high school. Nagjibhai’s family also owns Ribosome Research Private Ltd, which does preclinical research for pharmaceuticals.

“I am inspired by legendary bureaucrat S R Rao, who is credited with transforming Surat after the 1994 plague,” Nagjibhai said.

Praveen Kumar, 27, from Jamui in Bihar, who secured seventh rank, is working as an engineering officer in the Railways.

Mamata Yadav, 24, ranked fifth, is originally from Haryana but is now based in Delhi. She is training to be an Indian Railway Personnel officer but decided to chase her dream of being in the IAS. “I love reading fiction — Khaled Hossaini’s ‘Kite Runner’ is my favourite,” said Yadav, who did BSc from Delhi University’s Hindu College.

Coming from an Army background, this was dentist Apala Mishra’s third attempt to get into the IAS. She secured ninth rank. After completin BDS in 2017, she started preparing for UPSC.

With inputs from ENS

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