India is still casteist, says UPSC topper

August 20, 2016 03:47 am | Updated August 29, 2022 05:38 pm IST - MUMBAI:

It would take a long time for reality in India to change, said Tina Dabi, 2015 UPSC topper from the Dalit community, but she urged students to have faith in the system and the Constitution, which gives rights to the marginalised. Ms. Dabi was speaking at a student interaction in Mumbai on Friday, after she was felicitated by the Pune-based Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Research and Training Institute (BARTI).

“The unfortunate reality is that India is still very casteist. When my results were out, wishes poured in on the first day, but the next day, I started getting messages from the media asking for my caste, because my surname sounded different. Then I became a Dalit topper. It will take a long time for this reality to change. I am proud that I am the first person from the SC community to top the UPSC,” Ms. Dabi said, in response to a question on the suicide of Dalit student Rohith Vemula in Hyderabad, and the flogging of Dalits in Una. “It is very unfortunate that a student had to commit suicide because of his caste, but that is the negative side. I believe we have to have faith in the system. We have a robust Constitution that has given us our rights and we must respect and cherish that. I hope I have set an example that you cannot only clear the exam but also top it. I want to give the message that (you must) never just think of clearing the exam, but also think that you can be the best,” she told The Hindu on the sidelines of the function. Speaking of the importance of the newspaper-reading habit for excelling in the civil service examinations, she said she was a regular reader of The Hindu .

Ms. Dabi hailed the entry of women in the IAS ranks in large numbers. Ruing the lack of facilities and institutions for the rural youth who aspired to become civil servants, she sought higher internet connectivity to bridge the gap.

She answered a range of questions from young IAS aspirants. “My life has changed. I used to be a UPSC aspirant. Now suddenly a lot of people look up to me. It feels incredible, at the same time you feel you have a lot of responsibility. With so much love, you have to do something for the country.”

Ms. Dabi and her mother Himali Dabi later visited Chaitya Bhoomi, a memorial to Dr. B R Ambedkar, in Dadar. Calling her mother the “Dr. Ambedkar in her life,” she said, “I am because she was.” She added that it “felt incredible” to be in the land of Ambedkar, whose struggle to overcome difficult circumstances has inspired her.

She urged IAS aspirants to have a vision of progress and passion, instead of the lure of power and the lal batti (red beacon).

Ms. Dabi, from the Rajasthan cadre, will traini for two years at the IAS training institute in Mussoorie. Rajkumar Badole, Minister for Social Justice; Dilip Kamble, MoS, Social Justice and Welfare Department and Rajesh Dhabre, Director General of BARTI, were present at the event. Mr. Dhabre said Ms. Dabi’s success was “a victory of Ambedkar’s andolan ”.

The writer is a freelance journalist

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