Diff-Abled IAS Officer: Ira, who is the first person with a disability to achieve the top rank in the UPSC Civil Services Examination, suffers from scoliosis, a condition characterized by a curved spine. Despite facing challenges and taking the exam three times before achieving the All India Rank 1 in 2015, Ira reflects on her journey as a humbling experience, occasionally frustrating, yet consistently rewarding.
She has consistently defied stereotypes and overcome obstacles throughout her life, refusing to let her disability hinder her progress. In an exclusive interview with The Better India, we delve into Ira’s motivations and how she has consistently achieved her goals without allowing anything to dampen her spirit.
At present, she serves as the Deputy Commissioner of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation.
Growing up in Meerut and Delhi, Ira shares her journey, stating, “I spent 12 years of my life in Meerut before relocating to Delhi. I pursued an engineering degree at NSIT (Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology) and subsequently completed my MBA in Marketing and Finance from FMS (Faculty of Management Studies), University of Delhi. It was during my role as a strategy manager at Cadbury’s that I felt the urge to appear for the civil service examination.”
However, the seeds of her aspiration to become an IAS officer were planted much earlier, back when she was just in Class 3. She recalls, “I was in Meerut at that time, and every time a curfew was imposed, people would mention that the District Magistrate (DM) had issued the orders. As a child, I was fascinated by the fact that someone held the power to issue such orders, and that intrigue stayed with me over the years.”
Just as I prepare to ask my next question, Ira emphasizes a crucial point, saying, “Make your plans; nobody knows you better than yourself. Don’t wait for someone else to validate your dreams—go ahead and seize them.”
With that, I inquire about how she managed to achieve everything she had envisioned.
Dreams do come true
Ira’s dream did come true in 2015, but the path to achieving it was quite challenging. Reflecting on her journey, she recounts, “I made my first attempt at the CSE in 2010, followed by attempts in 2011, 2012, and 2013. I did manage to clear the examination in my very first attempt, but due to my disability, I was initially deemed ineligible for any position other than the Indian Revenue Service.”
However, Ira refused to give up without a fight and took her case to the Central Administrative Tribunal, challenging this decision. After a protracted legal battle, she finally emerged victorious in 2014.
While her case was still pending, Ira took the examination again and, for the third time, successfully cleared it, only to be offered the same service once more. Just around the same time, the tribunal issued its judgment, and Ira received her posting.
She explains, “Filing the case was not only about achieving my personal goal but also about ensuring that doors were opened for many others like me who were being denied positions due to their disabilities. While that broader change didn’t occur, I did secure my posting.”
For three months after the judgment, Ira eagerly awaited her appointment letter. During this time, a friend suggested that while she waited, she could attempt the exam once more.
She reluctantly gave the prelims for the fourth time while still anticipating her appointment letter. As she completed her mains, she finally received her letter and set aside her study materials and books to undergo training. During her time at the academy, she dedicated herself to training, putting aside any thoughts about the exam results.
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