Updated: August 7, 2020 12:42:44 pm
Whenever he felt he was struggling to keep up with the demands of his job and preparation for competitive exams, Pradeep Singh says, it was his father who motivated him to stay the course. On Tuesday, in his fourth attempt, the 29-year-old son of a Sonipat farmer ranked first in the UPSC exam. A total of 829 candidates have qualified for the civil services, including the IAS, IPS and IFS. All the top three rank-holders — Singh, Jatin Kishore and Pratibha Verma, respectively — are serving officials. While Singh is a resident of Haryana, Kishore is from Delhi and Verma, an IIT-Delhi graduate, is from Uttar Pradesh.
Last year, Singh had ranked 260 in the UPSC exam, and was undergoing training as an Indian Revenue Service officer. Kishore is a 2018-batch officer of Indian Economic Service and currently posted as Assistant Director in the Ministry of Rural Development.
Singh says while he hoped to do well, the first rank surprised him. Father Sukhbir Singh, who owns eight acres in Sonipat’s Tewri village, credits it all to his hard work, as does the rest of his family — his mother, elder brother who has a degree in mechanical engineering and a younger sister who is an MSc in mathematics.
“For the first three-four years, Pradeep studied at a private school in the village but in 2000, we moved to Sonipat town to ensure better studies for the children,” Sukhbir says. While Sukhbir himself has been village sarpanch twice, his grandfather and grandmother also held the post earlier.
In 2008, Sukhbir says, Pradeep topped his school in Class 12 exams. After that, he did B.Tech and, in 2013, was selected as inspector for the Excise and Taxation Department. While he had taken coaching initially, Singh this time prepared on his own.
As an IAS officer, Singh said, “I will try to do something for the poor and contribute to the development of the country.”
Congratulating Singh, Haryana Chief Minister Monahar Lal Khattar tweeted that he hoped the 29-year-old would be an inspiration for other youths of the state.
Verma, 26, who ranked third, said the news is yet to sink in. One of four children of government school teachers, the Sultanpur resident said her family and friends had contributed the most in her “journey”.
Having done BTech in Engineering Physics from IIT-Delhi in 2015, she worked at a telecommunications company for two years but then left. “I wanted to experience how the private sector works, but my heart was set on being a civil servant. Living in Sultanpur, I have seen how district magistrates and other civil servants can make a difference in society.”
Advising people to keep off distractions like social media if they wanted to give a shot at the UPSC, Verma said she also wanted to work for the empowerment of women. One of the most inspiring stories of the results today was of Jayant Mankale, who suffers from 70% loss of vision, and ranked 143. This was the 27-year-old’s second attempt; he ranked 937 earlier. A mechanical engineer from Beed, he worked for two years in Pune, during which time he developed a rare eye illness.
Mankale, who was raised by his mother after his father died when he was 10, says he relied on YouTube videos and radio to prepare.
For Ashish Das, 32, an employee of Kerala’s Fire and Rescue Services Department, it was his fifth attempt at the UPSC. He ranked 291.
Posted at the Pathanapuram Fire Station in Kollam district, Das said, “I had never been a top scorer in school or college. I did not have any major plan about higher studies. After my graduation, I also did a hotel management course.”
With his wife, a nurse, and their seven-month-old daughter in Saudi Arabia, Das said he kept attempting the UPSC to “gain some sort of competency to attempt such exams”. He says he never attended regular coaching, just a few classes here and there. In the first three attempts, he didn’t get through the preliminary stage, and in the fourth reached the interview round. “This time, I expected to make it to the final list.”
Das’s father Yesudas runs a cold storage unit, while mother Rosamma retired as a helper from a private school. He says his job as a fireman has taught him to be prepared at all times. “We don’t know what the next challenge before us is.”
Among the top rankers was Abhishek Augustya, 27, from Jammu, who came in at No. 38 in his fifth attempt at the UPSC exam. The son of a government school teacher, the NIT Srinagar 2014 graduate is a serving audit and accounts officer.
J&K saw 13 candidates clear the UPSC exam Tuesday, including a 23-year-old economics graduate from Kupwara, a mechanical engineer from Anantnag, and a doctor from Bhaderwah. Another three qualified from Ladakh.
Of the total qualified candidates, 304 are from the general category, 78 from EWS, 251 from OBC, 129 from Scheduled Castes and 67 from Scheduled Tribes.
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