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If Your Idea Gets Rejected, It’s Either Flawed Or Its Time Has Not Come: IAS Ira Singhal

2014 batch IAS officer Ira Singhal is totally against ‘victim mentality’ She never used her physical disability as a card for achieving her dreams But, when it came to inclusivity, she took a strong stand against the government to correct a wrong
Indian Masterminds Stories

Success in the civil service did not come easy for 2014 UPSC Civil Services Examination topper Ira Singhal. She had to literally fight for her rightful place in Indian Revenue Service in the courts even after cracking the CSE three times in 2010, 2011 and 2013. Despite being allotted Indian Revenue Service all three times, she was not given any posting and the reason cited was her disability. She has scoliosis, a spine-related disorder, which limits her arm movement.

Not to be deterred, she decided to make one last attempt at CSE in 2014, and after the exam, she disposed off her books and deleted her notes. But, ironically, this fourth attempt would turn out to be her last grapple with success, as she topped the exam with AIR 1 and joined Indian Administrative Service.

Looking back, Ms. Singhal says she did not take it up as a challenge when she knocked at the doors of courts, which eventually ruled in her favour. “I was only trying to right a wrong,” she told Indian Masterminds in an exclusive conversation.

IAS officer Ira Singhal

FACED DISCRIMINATION

Ms. Singhal was working in Cadburys Mumbai when she decided to take the UPSC plunge in 2010 in order to join civil services. “I was working for 16 to 20 hours a day but I felt my work was not impacting society in any way,” she said. Hence, she quit and started preparing for the Civil Services Examination.

She ended up giving CSE four times – 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014. The first three times, she was allotted IRS but was not given any posting on account of her disability, for which she went to court. The courts eventually ruled in her favour, but the posting letter came just before her fourth Mains exam, in 2014. “I was asked to join on the day after Mains,” she said.

She finally joined IRS but did not have to be there long, as when her fourth attempt result came, she had topped the 2014 CSE with AIR 1, and she joined her dream service – IAS.

She said, “I did not go to court to challenge, but to correct a wrong. People say the private sector discriminates, but, in my case, discrimination came from the government.”

IT’S ABOUT INCLUSIVITY

Her fight was all about inclusivity, she reiterates. It was about giving chances to all sections of people to contribute their bit. “No two persons are alike and each one of us brings something unique to the table,” she said.

Elaborating further, she continued, “If there are 10 people in a family and only five are working, this means the strengths of five others are not getting utilised. Inversely, the burden is more on the five who are working. But, if everybody works, then everyone would have more money and time for themselves to work on their dreams and desires.”

The end result – productivity increases and the happiness index goes up, she quipped.

GOING AHEAD

In all her CSE attempts, Ms. Singhal never applied for disability reservation. Even when she was not given any posting in the Indian Revenue Service because of her condition which, in the official words, limits her ability to “push, pull, and lift”, she did not go into the victim mode of ‘Us vs Them’ and instead focussed all her energy on correcting the wrong in the system.

Growing up with scoliosis, she never lacked any support from her family, her father being her greatest supporter. “The family is very important. The values it reinforces in you makes you who you are. Growing up, if you see inclusivity at home, where nobody is made to feel alienated and valued for who he or she is, you will grow into a healthy adult who values all lives around them.”

Hence, she cautions families, especially parents, about the importance of creating the right rippling effect by practising the right values at home, as the children are watching.

Just as her father gave her wings to fly, similarly, the first steps she took after joining the IAS in the AGMUT cadre were to free 340 child and bonded labourers and appoint a transgender person on a full-time government job in Delhi, her first place of posting.

Ms. Singhal is currently posted in Arunachal Pradesh as Special Secretary, Education.

FOR BUDDING IAS OFFICERS

She said that the IAS offers her the “best possible job” as it brings her immense satisfaction at the end of the day. “As an IAS officer, you get to serve the public and do good for them on a daily basis across all sectors. If you want to help people, nobody will stop you. If ever any of your plans does not get approval from the top, it could either mean one of two things – lack of resources or the timing is not right,” she said.

Lastly, affirming her belief that every person is unique and comes with a unique set of strengths and talents, Ms. Singhal advised UPSC aspirants not to follow her or other toppers, and instead chalk out their own paths and strategies to walk on it.

Giving her own example, she said, “When I failed to get a rank that would have got me IAS, I did not whine. Instead I focussed on identifying my weaknesses and working on them. Eventually, this got me AIR 1. Similarly, when you join the service and your proposal does not get approved, consider this – maybe it needs improvement or its time has not yet come. Remember this: to all those who wait patiently, their time surely comes.”


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