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In sum, a beautiful mind

Aasheesh Sharma writes on Mani Ram Sharma, who has ignited hope in the hearts of millions of hearing impaired in the country.

india Updated: Nov 25, 2006 03:10 IST

The nearest school from his village is still five kilometres away. The native of Badangarhi village in the Nadbai tehsil of Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district is one of the hundreds of students who walk barefoot to school to educate themselves.

Only, this 31-year-old has ignited hope in the hearts of millions of hearing impaired in the country. A beautiful mind. That’s how one would describe a man who overcame abject poverty, enormous disability and barriers of discrimination to score 80 per cent in the Civil Services interview for 2006.

A brief interaction with the man who can read your lips makes for a fascinating story of human spirit. Mani Ram Sharma is the first in his family to complete school. The Department of Personnel and Training has awarded the Post and Telegraph Finance Accounts Service to Sharma, who secured the highest rank (378), among the hearing impaired.

While Salma Fahim (386) and Abhijit Chakraborty (424), the other two hearing impaired got the Indian Administrative Service and Indian Foreign Service respectively, Sharma, who is completely deaf, says he has got a raw deal. From where he comes — his village still doesn’t have a school 59 years after Independence — the post has a lot of prestige attached to it. But Sharma says he won’t settle for third best.

“I am already an allied officer with the Rajasthan Administrative Service (RAS) and work as an inspector for two districts. The salary I would get as an accounts service officer, at double the Rs 10,000 I earn now, is tempting. But I can’t take it. If a deaf candidate can be discriminated against, I shudder to imagine the plight of other candidates who are both mute and deaf,” he says.

Considering the odds stacked against a disabled student in a ‘conventional’ school, his academic record is brilliant. Seventh position in the Rajasthan Board at Senior Secondary level; a gold medal and an honours degree in Political Science in college; MA, M Phil and PhD from Rajasthan University and a bright career in academia.

“I taught as a lecturer in Tonk and was a research fellow with the University of Rajasthan. But as a lecturer I wasn’t able to empower the people I grew up with. That is why I found greater satisfaction as an officer with the RAS.”

Sharma took the Civil Service exams twice. The last time, he got a higher rank (227) but was discriminated against. This time round, after a marathon 90-minute interview, one of the panelists wished him luck and called him an extraordinary talent.

“After all that, some babus in the DOPT decided I wasn’t good enough for the Administrative Service, while others ranked lower than I am are. When the Prime Minister promised last year that the Civil Services will be opened to the disabled regardless of the degree of their disability. That the disabled are good enough to be given every service, nobody has the right to deny me this. Rather than take a cushy but ornamental job, I will fight for my principles,” he says. Do the policy makers need hearing aid?