The word disability immediately evokes certain stereotypes of individuals who are helpless, dependent, deserving of pity and so forth. Ira Singhal shattered every imaginable stereotype associated with differently-abled individuals and stunned the world with her brilliance and confidence. Cracking the most difficult public service exams in India, Ira is celebrated as the first person with a disability to have topped the UPSC examinations. This blog covers the inspiring journey of Ira Singhal, who fought all odds with her iron will.
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“Make your plans; no one knows you like you do. Do not wait for someone else to validate your dreams for you—go ahead and grab them.”
Childhood and Education
Ira was born in Meerut on 31st August 1983, to Rajendra Singhal who is an Engineer and Anita Singhal, an Insurance Advisor. She completed her education at Sophia Girls School, Meerut and Loreto Convent School, Delhi where she was among the school toppers. She then went on to pursue her Engineering from Netaji Subhash University of technology and MBA from FMS Delhi.
Singhal was diagnosed with scoliosis, a locomotor disability during her early childhood. Scoliosis is a progressive disease that grows till one reaches adulthood. As a result of her disability, Ira was unable to twist her arms or legs because of problems with the spinal cord and short height. It also caused a restriction in her movement of limbs. Nevertheless, Ira did not let her condition dampen her spirits. She continued to be a high achiever all through school and college.
Career Before Cracking the Civil Services Examination
After completing her MBA, Ira worked as a marketing intern at Coca Colas and strategy manager at Cadbury’s. It was during her stint at Cadbury’s that she felt the desire to appear for a public services exam, namely UPSC. While preparing for her UPSC exams, Ira also taught Spanish at a language institute.
In an interview, Ira admitted that she’d always aspired to do something that involved service for the larger society. Ira appeared for the civil service examination for the first time in 2010 and subsequently in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014. Her final attempt in 2015 was met with soaring success when she topped her examination. In her previous attempts, Ira cleared her exams in the first go but was denied admission owing to her disability. She decided to not let go without putting in a fight and challenged the decision in the Central Administrative Tribunal.
Ira Singhal Challenging UPSC
After first appearing for her UPSC exam in 2010, she found her file rejected in 2011. That’s when Ira decided to challenge the verdict and filed a lawsuit. Ira had a disability mark of 62 %, however, UPSC denied her the seat as her condition did not fit into any of the disability categories enlisted by the UPSC. She firmly believed that this decision was violative of the Persons with Disability Act and Article 14 and 16 of the constitution. She moved to the Central Administrative Tribunal and emerged victorious in 2014, after which she was inducted as assistant commissioner in the customs and central excise service.
Following her success, Ira was given numerous prestigious awards and facilitated by many. Following is the list of some of her prominent accomplishments:
- Brand Ambassador or Department of Disability, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
- Brand ambassadors for Ministry of Women and Child Development & NITI Aayog
- On the National Panel for Accessible Elections, Election Commission of India
- Part of the Designing committee of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) Examination Policy with regard to children with disabilities.
- India Today’s Woman of the Year, 2015
- President’s Gold Medal for Topping the IAS Training
- First Ladies of India Award by the Ministry of Women and Child Development
- Recorded in the Limca Book of Records
Ira Singhal’s Constant Battle to Breaking Stereotypes
Ira Singhal believes that differently-abled people don’t have it easy when it comes to navigating through society. They are often on the receiving end of prejudices and certain harmful stereotypes. To combat this issue and to spread awareness Ira has spoken at over 500 national and international conferences. She has also worked relentlessly on other pressing issues such as empowerment of the transgender community, persons with a disability, women empowerment, child labour to name a few. Within 1 year of her posting, she rescued over 340 children and bonded labourers and restored them to their family. She is also the first person to offer full-time employment to a transgender person in the government office in Delhi.
Ira Singhal journey has been nothing short of an inspiration. Her achievements are a testament to her grit and determination. This is all about the fiery Ira Singhal who is now one of the top government officers in the country. Let us know in the comments if Ira’s journey motivated you to achieve your goals. For more interesting content follow us at Leverage Edu!