“My prolonged illness took away my eyesight forever. But it was not my biggest challenge,” shares Ajit Kumar Yadav, who recently received appointment letter for the Indian Administrative Services (IAS).
Even after securing a rank of 208 among 791 successful candidates in the Civil Services examination, Ajit was denied an IAS appointment due to his blindness. But he was not deterred by this. He fought a three-year legal struggle to get his rightful place.
Ajit lost his vision completely at the tender age of five after suffering from acute diarrhoea. But he went on to complete his schooling from Springdale School in New Delhi. “In spite of being differently-abled my confidence was always high and I never get bogged down when faced with any difficulty. I always stood first in class,” shares Ajit.
Ajit had no access to computers in the 1990s and only few technical aids were there. Braille books were available on very limited topics. Immediately after completing his Master’s in Political Science from Ramjas College, Delhi University, Ajit began teaching at a government school in Haryana. Then he cleared UGC NET-JRF and joined Shyamlal College of Delhi University as Assistant Professor.
“I never took my blindness as a physical challenge but society has a different thinking about a person who is physically handicapped. In the college lectureship interview I was asked how I will manage students in class. I proved those doubts wrong when students used to come even on Sundays to attend my classes!” he shares. “One day in 2005, I heard the Prime Minister say that the doors of IAS must be opened to visually impaired citizens. That very moment I realised what I wanted to do with my life,” says Ajit.
The civils marathon
To help prepare for Civils, Ajit made creative use of various media and technology. “I would make notes in Braille, listen to taped recordings and also create my own recordings,” explains Ajit. On clearing the coveted Civil Services Exam in 2008, he awaited a letter for induction into the prestigious IAS. Instead he was offered a post in Indian Railway Personnel Service. He fought back, filing a case against discrimination.
The Central Administrative Tribunal ruled in his favour in 2010. But still he did not get an appointment letter for IAS. He didn’t get disappointed and kept on struggling for justice alongside nine more candidates in a similar position. At last, at the initiative of National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) and CPM leader Brinda Karat, the Prime Minister intervened due to which seven of the nine candidates received appointment letters.
Ajit is now at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie for IAS training. “Joining IAS was not about money. My own struggle had shown me a different face of the bureaucratic system prevailing in the country. My only motive to join the coveted services is to do something for the betterment of people and society,” shares Ajit.