When he lost his eyesight 27 years ago, he was desperately looking for people who could inspire him to live on. Today, he motivates thousands of others with his grit and courage.
This is the story of Ajit Kumar Yadav, who despite having an all-India ranking of 201 out of 701 in the civil services examination of 2008, had to fight a long battle to get what he deserved.
Presently training for the Indian Administrative Service in Mussorie, Yadav recalls an incident which is a sad reminder of the complete lack of concern for the visually impaired in our society.
“After I passed the national eligibility test (NET), I applied for the post of assistant professor in various Delhi University colleges. During one of the interviews in a reputed college, an interviewer asked me, ‘You can’t see so how will you know if students are getting bored of your lectures and leaving the classroom quietly?’ I was shaken. “Losing sight doesn’t mean lack of intelligence,” asserts Yadav.
Waking up to darkness
Yadav’s journey to success has been a roller-coaster ride. Born in a middle-class family in Kheri village of Haryana, he lost his eyesight at the age of five due to excessive dehydration. “It was horrific. I was studying in class one in the village school. One day, I had diarrhoea and dehydration. I still remember the night when my parents put me to sleep and the next morning I got up to a world of darkness. I lived in despair for the next couple of years,” recollects Yadav.
His father was his sole source of inspiration and kept trying to cheer him with stories of successful people who were either physically challenged or specially abled and brave warriors and war heroes from across the world. “My father is my hero. He taught me how even after having eyes there are people who are blind to the realities of life. That’s how he taught me to see – using my brain,” says Yadav.
On his own
When he was about nine years old, Yadav’s father enrolled him in Andh Maha Vidyalaya, a boarding school for the blind at Panchkuian Road, Delhi. Barely after four days, however, he returned to his hometown as his mother was reluctant to let him live on his own in Delhi. “It took me six months to persuade her to let me go back to the boarding school,” says Yadav. After completing Class 8 in the Vidyalaya, he moved to a government school in Paharganj, securing 75% marks in class 10 and getting admission in Springdales, Pusa Road.
It was during that time that he decided to become a civil servant and serve the nation. To follow his dream, he chose political science from Ramjas College in Delhi University (DU). He also did BEd and cleared the national eligibility test (NET) and junior research fellowship (JRF) from DU.
Quest for success
Yadav appeared for the civil service examinations for the first time in 2006 and cleared the prelims. However, he could not clear the mains and a year later a second attempt also met with failure. Not losing hope, he tried and met with success the third time. His all-India ranking was 201 out of 701 but despite that he merely secured a placement in the Indian Railway Personal Service.
“I was really shocked at this discrimination,” shares Yadav. He approached Central Administrative Tribunal which ordered the Department of Personal Training to ensure an IAS placement for him. When DoPT resorted to delaying tactics, he secured a similar order from CAT but nothing happened.
“Finally, I had to approach the Communist Party leader Brinda Karat and then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, on whose intervention I was finally given IAS placement,” says Yadav.
“I spent around more than Rs. 1 lakh in this legal battle. But most disappointing of all was the mental trauma and social preassures. Even my close relatives started questioning my claim of passing the civil services exams,” he shares.
Yadav feels that life is extremely difficult for visually challenged people in India. “We have to fight more odds than what most people realise,” he sums.