It was cause for triple celebrations in Punjab and Haryana on Friday with candidates from the region bagging the top three positions in the Civil Services Examination.

“I was pleasantly surprised with the result. This was my third attempt. I didn't expect to top! I am grateful to God,” said Shena Aggarwal, resident of the nondescript town Yamunanagar in Haryana and currently undergoing training for Indian Revenue Service at the Nagpur academy.

Rukmini Riar, who came second, is a resident of Hoshiarpur in Punjab, while Prince Dhawan, placed third, is the son of Income Tax Assistant Commissioner in Chandigarh — the joint capital of the two States.

The urge to work for the under-privileged and provide the common man with basic amenities like health and sanitation inspired 25-year-old Shena, a medicine graduate, to appear for the civil services.

Asked what prompted her to give up medicine and become a civil services aspirant, she said: “As a doctor, I was aware of the problems faced by the people when it came to health and other issues. Many people are deprived of basic amenities and proper healthcare in the country.” She would work for their betterment once she takes up government service, she added.

Shena said she could not have achieved this feat without the “tremendous support” of her family.

“My daughter has always been a topper, including in the pre-medical examination,” gushed her father, dental surgeon C.K. Aggarwal, who became emotional as neighbours and relatives thronged the house and distributed sweets.

Dr. Aggarwal said his daughter had qualified last year for the IAS and got selected for IRS.

She is the elder of two siblings. Her mother is a homemaker and her brother is studying B.Tech. at BITS, Pilani. Born at Rohtak in Haryana, Shena's early education was in Bathinda, Punjab.

A jubilant atmosphere prevailed at Rukmini's residence. Belonging to a family of landlords in Gurdaspur district, her father Baljinder Singh Riar retired as Deputy District Attorney of Hoshiarpur.

Rukmini said her teachers Gurnam Singh and Rajesh Kumar and her parents encouraged her to appear for the examination. This was her first attempt.

“I used to study for more than 10 hours daily...I wish to serve the people, especially the poor, and the country with dedication and honesty,” she said, adding that corrupt people brought a bad name to the country.

Rukmini studied at Sacred Heart School in Dalhousie, Himachal Pradesh, and did her graduation from Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar. The only child, her mother Takdeer Kaur is a homemaker.

Meanwhile in Chandigarh, Prince Dhawan's mother said he was always confident of making it to the top.

“My son was confident after the examination that he would figure in the first three,” said agriculturist Indu Dhawan, wife of Income Tax Assistant Commissioner K.K. Dhawan.

“He was attracted to the civil services even as a child. We told him to first deserve then desire...He was inspired by his IRS father and his grandfather, a retired judge,” she said.

“When I called him after the result was announced, my son, who is in Delhi, was speechless,” Ms. Dhawan said.

Incidentally, all three toppers were not with their families when the UPSC results were declared.

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