The results of 2014 UPSC examination has brought with it more than just names and numbers. Besides the top four positions being secured by women – Ira Singhal, Renu Raj, Nidhi Gupta and Vandana Rao, it has unveiled a truly inspirational story of 31-year-old Ira Singhal from New Delhi, a diferently abled UPSC topper. She has become the first physically challenged woman to top India’s prestigious and tough civil services examination in the general category. Ira suffers from scoliosis, a condition in which the spine bends to the side abnormally which resulted in her short height (4 feet five inches) and complications with her spinal cord. She had cleared her Indian Revenue Service Examination (IRS) for the first time in 2010 but was refused a posting as authorities cited “her inability to push, pull and lift,” as a reason for rejection. “It was a big disappointment, a major setback then. But I decided to fight back. It was tough initially as I had to undergo tests, submit medical certificates and prove that I am capable of doing jobs entrusted to me in the IRS. For two years, it was tough but then everyone realised that I am capable of working in spite of the disabilities. They realised I am no pushover,” said Ira recounting the 2010 incident. Undeterred in her spirits, she filed a case in Central Administrative Service and after 4 years of struggle she got a favourable ruling, with the bench wondering if it was required for an IRS officer to lift heavy packets herself during a raid. However, a medical examination showed she could lift a packet weighing up to 10kg. She is currently posted as an Assistant Commissioner in the Customs & Excise department of the Indian Revenue Services. Topping the exam in her fourth attempt, Ira had earned the praise of the very officer who rejected her posting in 2010. An MBA(marketing) graduate from Faculty of Management Studies (FMS), Delhi, Ira had never let her disability turn into a setback. She also holds a BE in Computer Engineering from Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology (NSIT). The multi-faceted Ira Singhal has taught Spanish for a year, has been a manager in Cadbury India and marketing intern in beverage giant The Coca Cola Company. A fan of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Beti bachao beti padhao’ campaign, women and children are top of her agenda says Ira talking to the BBC. ‘I also want to actively work towards changing the lot of disabled people in the country,’ she says. Given that on physical and medical grounds,her condition debars her from being eligible to be an Indian revenue services officer, a clerk or even a sweeper, Ira’s achievemnet is truly laudable.” I think people will now have a different perspective when looking at girls, specially disabled girls,” Singhal told ANI.
About the Author: This article is contributed by Sneha Madhuri S, our intern.