KOLKATA: A grocer’s daughter from Bhadreshwar, who takes pride in saying how her parents gave her the best of education despite battling abject poverty, has stood 19th in the civil services exam, realizing her dream of becoming an IAS officer.
Sweta Agarwal had qualified for IPS last year and was training at the National Police Academy, Hyderabad, when she got the news. It was a day of double delight -and a dilemma. Just hours before this, she had bagged the Bengal IPS cadre. “Will I get Bengal cadre in IAS as well? I really hope I do. I don’t want to lose Bengal,” the 29-year-old told TOI over telephone on Tuesday evening.
Her rank is the highest attained by any Bengal candidate in years. “It’s like finding your goal at last,” she gushed. She spoke with parents San tosh (who studied till Class XII) and Prema (who was married off on reaching Class X) for an hour on getting the results. “They are the world’s best parents. Despite going through abject poverty, they sent me to the best schools possible.”
Sweta went to St Joseph’s Chandernagore, Auxilium Convent Bandel and St Xavier’s College Kolkata. “My parents went to Hindi-medium schools, but made sure I knew my English. They also made sure I could serve the nation,” said Sweta, who stood first-class-first in economics at St Xavier’s.
Her parents are the best also because they did not ask her to get married, she says.
“My father is a baniya only as far as his profession is concerned. He started out in a small way as a grocer, but shifted to other businesses. But unlike his community (trade), he never thought of marrying me off – his only child. He has no fear of what society might say. He let me grow in the true sense of the term.”
She cracked UPSC twice, qualifying for IRS and then IPS, but kept her sights on her childhood dream of becoming an IAS officer.
“I think I would be the first IAS officer from Bhadreshwar. It means a lot to me – I feel strongly about my roots, which is Bengal,” she explained. The last big success for woman power from Bengal was in 2013 when a Kolkata girl ranked 84.
Five others from Bengal cracked the UPSC exam this year – Sandip Ghosh (67), Kantesh Mishra (138), Srikant Mallela (388), Dhiman Barai (398) and Sridhar Das (974). Sweta and Sandeep, both of whom had sociology as the optional, will make it to the IAS. So will Dhiman, an SC candidate.
All six are from the Institute for Civil Service Aspirants (ICSA) in Salt Lake. “Her rank is the best from our institute so far,” said Jyotirmoy Pal Chaudhuri, chairman and director, ICSA.
“I am glad Sweta feels strongly about joining the Bengal cadre. Most youngsters, especially from Bengal, shy away from civil services because they feel they would be serving political bosses instead of the public. So our best talents go off to the IITs and earn material wealth. I am happy that more and more students are appearing for civil service these days, looking to make a difference to governance and public service.