Aastha Suman, Class of 2012 graduate of NUJS, talks of her decision to sit for the UPSC, and how she managed to clear it in her first attempt. Although she had a job at one of the top legal firms in India, she chose to work instead towards strengthening the country’s connection to its grassroot level, and make a difference in people’s lives. With an impressive rank of 331, she had law as her optional for the UPSC, and joined as a proud member of the Indian Revenue Service (Income Tax) last month.
Q1. When did you plan to appear for the civil services examination?
Ans. I decided to appear for the civil services examination in August of 2015 and gave my first attempt in 2016.
Q2. What was your motivation behind appearing for the civil services?
Ans. Initially, I was reluctant to appear for the civil services examination. Both my parents are All India Service Officers and growing up I was exposed to the dark side of the services. I have seen honest officers fight incessantly against the political system. Such officers work day and night but are given no credit for their work, and continue living under the cloak of anonymity. I have seen officers being lynched by mob for no fault of theirs. I have seen honest officers being implicated under Section 13 of Prevention of Corruption Act, often for merely taking a decision instead of leaving the file pending like most government officers do. My own mother was falsely implicated under the Prevention of atrocities against SC & ST Act for merely doing her duty of preventing encroachment of the last remaining patch of good forest in her district. To top it all, many honest officers feel they are not paid commensurate to their ability and work. I have seen that a one person salary of an honest officer sometimes makes it difficult for ends to meet.
However, I still chose to appear for the civil services as it offers a unique career opportunity to work at the grassroot level and to shape important government policies. Even small decisions a civil servant makes, has large scale impact on the lives of people and has the potential to make a real difference. For instance, as the chief development officer of his district, my father had implemented the TRYSEM scheme of the Government of India where he trained uneducated youth to do sandalwood carving. The trained individuals trained others while organizing themselves into a cooperative producer-company which changed the fate of the entire village!
Having a satisfying and meaningful career gave me the motivation to attempt this exam.
Q3. How did NUJS as your alma mater help you in cracking the civil services examination?
Ans. NUJS was a great experience and has been instrumental in making me a confident professional. More particularly, in relation to the civil services preparations, NUJS was of help in the following ways: (1) Many of my batchmates and from NUJS have already cracked this examination and were able to guide me through the journey; (2) My contracts and IPC notes from college days helped me complete the lengthy law optional syllabus within a record one month.
Q4. Any advice for the NUJS students who are preparing for civil services examination?
Ans. Civil services examination is unlike any other journey and is fulfilling in more ways than one. Irrespective of the result, every UPSC aspirant gets a lesson in patience, perseverance and optimism. I would advice anyone trying to attempt this examination, to gather as much information from all sources first and then to strategise all stages of the preparation well in advance. Planning and strategizing is the key to success in this examination.
For students interested in pursuing civil services, you can find more about Aastha's profile and preparations here