Neha: The Pandit Girl who fought odds to make it to KAS, No 4

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by Sheikh Saman

SRINAGAR: Not many years ago, a delegation of Kashmiri Pandit bureaucrats set up an informal group and went in a delegation to Raj Bhawan. The number of Kashmiri Pandits in the Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS) has gone an all-time low, they petitioned.

Almost coinciding with the move was a concern deeply felt in Delhi, too. Quite soon, the central government came with a fully funded package to specially recruit Kashmiri Pandit boys and girls, some of them eventually served Kashmir.

In this backdrop, when Neha Pandit cracked the combined services examination, it was not an ordinary fiat. What made her success so special was that she belongs to a family that had migrated and underwent the pains and pangs of managing education and survival from a place, which may still not be the home.

Neha Kashaf has Jammu’s Domana locality as her home. Her schooling took place from Government Higher Secondary School, Domana, and she graduated in Science from GGM Science College. Later, she masters in Organic Chemistry from Grahwal University, Chandigarh. Apparently with an objective to become a teacher she did her B Ed from the University of Kashmir.

But destiny has something that is not known to the mortals. In 2016, Neha got appointed as an Accounts Assistant in District Treachery, Shopian. Her appointment was part of the Prime Minister’s Special Jobs Scheme for the KPs.

The family actually belonged to the south Kashmir Shopian district. Yes, the family is originally from the Manihal village.

“We migrated to Jammu in 1992. Then I was just two years old so I don’t have any memories of that time,” Neha told Kashmir Life.  “I owe it to my parents who say we belonged to the Manihal village in Shopian and our house was burned to ashes in front of them, forcing them to migrate to Jammu.”

Post-migration, I hazily remember, Neha said, the family used to live in the camp for around six years at Jhiri. Then, the government provided us one room flat in Mishriwalla. “I completed my graduation from there,” she said. “We lacked everything from electricity to water – almost all the basics, but I just wanted to do something that could change my future and community.”

J&K R&B Minister Naeem Akhter visited Neha’s family within hours after she cracked the examination. A J&K Government photo

It was her uncle, Ratan Lal Pandita who inspired her. “He always used to say that our community is not well represented in civil services and to prove our point in the government, we need to be a part of it,” Neha said her uncle would usually tell her. “Miseries of my community motivated me to move forward on this track because it was only through this, I felt, I can help change their fate.”

Neha said she started preparing for KAS in 2013 and attempted but missed it 32 marks in the mains. Then, she had gone for a month-long coaching too. She did it again, without coaching, and succeeded. For her success, she credits her friends, parents, family and above all Lord Krishna and insists hard work pays eventually.

“I used to get up at 4 am and sleep at 10 pm and would barely spend 15 minutes for my meals,” Neha said. “I would consume the entire time in my studies.”

Sounding very honest, Neha said, initially she was “really very scared” of general studies portion. Gradually it sunk in as Foundation and other NCERT books helped her improve knowledge and get her concepts clear. She had Anthropology and Zoology as her optional subjects.

Neha is the daughter of Roshan Lal Pandita, a relief holder, and Vidya Pandita, a homemaker. Her brother is a physiotherapist and sister was recently appointed as a teacher. Since 2011, her family is living in a flat in the Jagti Satellite Township.

But Neha’s goal is not to be in KAS. Her goal is to qualify IAS now. “One has to stay self-motivated,” Neha said. “The sufferings and miseries of my community kept me going.”

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