Women on top was the verdict of the 2008 civil services examination. For the first time, the top three positions went to women.
In another first, a physically disabled candidate topped among men. Varinder Kumar Sharma is from Chandigarh.
Leading the pack was 30-year-old Shubhra Saxena from Ghaziabad. An IIT Roorkee graduate, Saxena is a teacher at an IAS coaching institute in Delhi.
“I did not always want to become a civil servant,” she said. “But four years in the IT industry were enough to make me see the futility of it all. I realised I was in no position to make a meaningful change in our policies or affect development.”
Saxena left the industry in 2006 and joined a coaching institute. “While I taught students, I studied for my exam,” she said. “The first time I did not clear the final stage.”
Saxena, who hails from Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh, said she could not wait to get her hands dirty.
“There is so much that is wrong with the country,” she said. “Malnutrition, child rights and the condition of women are three issues I want to focus on.”
Second rank holder Sharandeep Kaur Brar is a government-school product from Chandigarh. She did her master’s from Punjab University and had made it to the Indian Audit and Accounts Service last year. “I did expect to improve my performance and get into the IAS,” said Brar. “But I had never imagined I would be second on the list.”
Sharma gave credit to his willpower and determination. “Willpower must be more powerful than skills,” he said. An alumnus of the Punjab Engineering College in Chandigarh, Sharma had been posted with the state government’s food and civil supplies department.
Of the top 25 candidates on the list, 10 are women. In all, the successful candidates include 625 men and 166 women.