When Haritha V Kumar first took the civil services examination, she fell short of 18 marks in clearing the mains. But that didn’t dishearten her. Rather it gave her the confidence that she can crack the exams — and realise a childhood dream — if she gave it a small push.
Four years and an equal number of attempts later, the 27-year-old from Kerala on Friday became the topper of the UPSC civil services exam for 2012.
Ask her about how her interview went and she brightens up. “They asked me the four issues that plague India. I told them corruption, poverty, (lack of) women’s security and unemployment, particularly of the educated,” Haritha told The Indian Express at the National Institute of Customs, Excise and Narcotics in Faridabad where she is currently training as an IRS officer.
“They then asked me to suggest a single solution to tackle the four issues,” she said. Her reply was “transparency with the use of ICT (Information Communication Technology)”. That, Haritha believes, was among her best answers.
Born and brought up in Thiruvananthapuram, Har-itha completed her schooling from a Malayalam-medium school and then obtained an engineering degree in Electronics and Communication from the Government Engineering College.
Early on in her life, she had decided to become an IAS officer though. “I knew I wanted to do this,” Haritha said.
After graduating from college in 2007, Haritha started preparing for IAS and opted for Economics and Malayalam as her subjects. “I believe economics is the underlying problem to all issues India is facing. So I wanted to have a deep knowledge of the subject,” she said.
In her first attempt in 2009, she fell short of 18 marks from clearing the mains. “I thought when I could come this far with such shabby preparation, I could surely do better with a little more study,” said Haritha, who is fond of reading books, particularly Khalil Gibran, and usually watches Malayalam movies.
In 2010 she cleared IRS but her heart was in IAS. “I felt IRS would not give me the opportunity to serve the people the way IAS would do. I tried again. Moreover, IRS gives us extraordinary leave for a year to prepare for the exam. I availed that facility and cleared it this time.”
Haritha considers the friends she made at IRS one of her biggest supporters and a factor for her selection.