Young and Dynamic

Ovessa Iqbal became the first Muslim female from the state to qualify for the combined civil services exam. Syed Asma reports.

Ovessa Iqbal

She is just 25 years of age. She is like any other girl, but with the only difference that she has qualified the Civil services examination 2010. His rank is 572. Hailing from Chucot, Ladakh she had not only made herself proud, but brought pride to all the state.

She is the first Muslim girl from Ladakh to make it to the Indian Administration Examination. Ovessa was always passionate about administrative services as she had appeared in last State level Administration examination- Kashmir Administration Services (KAS) also and interestingly has qualified that in the very first chance. Presently, she is getting trained for being a KAS officer at the Institute of management and Public Administration (IMPA).

She belongs to a normal middle class family. Her family includes her father, her brother and a sister. Her father is a farmer, he has willow and populas tree fields. Her sister is working as an Assistant Professor at Government Women’s College, M.A.Road and teaches History. Her brother is an Engineer and yet to decide about his future. Ovessa feels he may join business. She has lost her mother a few years back in a train accident at Hyderabad. She was a lecturer in DIET, Ladakh.

Oveesa has done her basic schooling from Moravian Mission School, Ladakh and moved to Kandri Vidlayay Bhawan for her secondary school (11th) but due to lack of faculty and facilities in the institution she had to move from Ladakh to Chandigarh. She has been a non-medical student and has done a Bachelor in Engineering (Chemical) from Punjab University (2007).

After Graduating she immediately decided to appear in civil service exams.  “I had many options after doing engineering- I could do MBA, Master’s in Engineering, I could easily apply for any job in my stream or I could opt for civil service. I chose the last one unlike my batch mates who were always busy calculating the salary packages that hardly interested me. I wanted to be different”, says Oveesa.

“I have appeared three times in this exam (IAS), first time I couldn’t qualify the preliminary exams because of lack of preparation. Second time I was dropped in the mains exams but third time (this time) I made it!” Her optional subjects were geography and sociology. She has done her coaching from Chandigarh.

Ms. Iqbal says that her family has being very supportive and has encouraged her at every stage of life. “They have been of great support and have never stopped me from going anywhere, I mean, I went to Chandigarh and Punjab for studies and they had no reservation and objections”.

She feels that the biggest reason for the low participation of women in civil services is the society and its treatment of women. “We are reluctant to send our girls outside for studies and think on many unimportant lines like where to stay, whom should we stay with, how can a girl manage to be alone in a strange place ?..etc.”, she says. She believes that things in Ladakh have changed a lot and the place ahs have a comparatively free society than Kashmir where there are a number of restrictions on daughters.

Ovessa Iqbal wants every women of the state to believe in herself and wants them to appear in these kinds of tests as she feels they have the potential to be there, “I think a woman has to have believe in herself and take a chance to trust yourself”. Right after joining she wants to work for women emancipation.
She achieved what she aspired for, but it was not easy. “I cannot say I had a tough time but I can say I had a tiring one. When for two chances I could not qualify the exams, I was a bit disheartened at times which I believe is quite normal but I have been lucky to have good friends who from time to time motivated me, supported me and inspired me to achieve more”, she says.

Apart from her family and friends many of her mates in the coaching centre she attended encouraged her. “When I used to feel disheartened for the two chances I appeared for I used to look at the people who were there for 3-4 years and had appeared for 4-5 chances and still were firm that they were going to do it. This was quite inspirational to me” she adds.

She has some suggestions in her bag to share with the new aspiring civil servants.  “Do not completely rely on the coaching centres because my personal experience is that they make you dependent and restrict you within certain limits. You should yourself look for different ways and best things to be among the best”, she says. She used to study for 10-12 hours daily.

She aspires to be an honest, responsible and an accountable officer and says “more and more young people should be a part of this cadre because then we will have power to keep things in place and may be we can make an effort to lessen the chaos around”.

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Syed Asma completed her masters in journalism from the Islamic University, Awantipore, in 2010. After working with Greater Kashmir and Kashmir Times, she joined Kashmir Life in February 2011. She covered politics, society, gender issues and the environment. In 2016, she left journalism to pursue her M Phil from the University of Kashmir. She is presently pursuing PhD.

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