Meet Namrata Jain, the first woman from Naxal-hit Dantewada to secure top rank in UPSC exams
Dantewada district in Chattisgarh is infamous as a Maoist region and has seen many uprisings and turbulent times in the past decade.
Home to 5.5 lakh people, besides Naxal violence, alcohol-fuelled domestic violence, and rampant unemployment have affected growth and development in the region. The district has a low literacy rate of 30.2 percent, which is less than half the state average of 64.7 percent, and an all-India average of 75 percent.
This is largely due to the remoteness of the district from visible institutions and milestones of development.
Amidst such certainty and low educational standards, the following news certainly comes as a ray of hope. Dantewada resident Namrata Jain became the first woman from the region to clear the UPSC exams and secure an impressive All India Rank 12.
Despite the limited opportunities when it came to preparation for the UPSC examsNamrata refused to give in and found refuge in online distance education programme to help realise her dream of becoming a civil servant and helpher home state, Chhattisgarh.
“This is a very proud moment for me, and my family in Dantewada. I’ll be happy to contribute to whichever region I am posted and try to inspire more youngsters from Chattisgarh to make a mark,” 25-year-old Namrata says.
Tackling violence in the region
Though the family hails from Rajasthan, Namrata’s grandfather relocated to Bastar more than fifty years ago and they have been living in Dantewada ever since. Her father, Jhanwarlal Jain, is a businessman while her mother, Kiran Jain, is a homemaker.
Namrata’s desire to join the Indian Police Service (IPS) stems from her own experiences in Dantewada. From the young age of 10, she has been witness to many violent incidents. In 2004, a Maoist attack left a police station charred to the ground and killed 11 policemen.
Horrified and devastated by the scale of violence, Namrata vowed to do something for her strife-torn town.
When she was in the eighth grade Namrata was introduced to a district collector who visited school. Intrigued by the meeting, she enquired about the profession with her father.
“My father told me that Civil Services and IAS officers were the kings of the society. They were the change makers who had the power to transform communities and work for the welfare of people,” she recalls.
Namrata was clearly impressed and this laid the foundation for all the hard work she would put in over the years to fulfill her dream of being a civil servant.
An alumni of KPS Bhilai School and Bhilai Institute of Technology, Namrata moved to Delhi to prepare for her civil services exams.
“In Dantewada there was no access to information regarding the structure of the UPSC exams. We did not have much exposure and all we knew about higher education was either pursuing an engineering degree or an MBA,” she says.
While studying in Delhi, Namrata became familiar with the structure of the curriculum and also learned how to take a structured and disciplined approach towards her studies. When she failed to crack the exams in 2015, she moved back to Dantewada to continue her preparations there.
She received training for the UPSC personality test from Lakshya Coaching Centre run by the Dantewada district administration, where she was trained by civil servants from the district. In her second attempt in 2016, she stood at the 99th position out of 1099 candidates.
However, Namrata remained firm in her resolve to gain a top rank so that she could either join the IAS or the IPS. She began preparing earnestly the third time around, taking the help of online education portals.
“The journey from no rank to 99th position happened because of sheer determination and the hunger to serve the society. I learned a lot more from my failure and understood that hard work alone was not the answer. You have to be strategic about your goal and work step-by-step,” she says.
Online education to the rescue
Traditionally, aspirants from across the country have two choices when it comes to preparing for UPSC exams - either relocate to Delhi, the coaching hub for IAS preparation, or study from a local teacher in their own town.
However, with increasing digital connectivity, many students are now switching to online education and using technology effectively technology for exam preparation.
Namrata opted to join edtech platform NeoStencil.
“I have been mostly preparing through online help for the past two years and NeoStencil has played a very important role in my success. Online courses definitely provide a level playing field for students from remote regions to compete at national level.”
India has witnessed a significant increase in the total internet user population from 2011 to 2016 and it is expected to grow to 735 million users approximately by 2021. The e-learning sector in India is expected to grow to $1.96 billion over the next five years. The industry is booming, and various companies have ventured into this segment to offer affordable and impactful learning to users.
Today edtech startups are aiding digital inclusive education and bridging the gap between haves and have-nots by providing aspirants easy and seamless access to the best coaching classes without the need to relocate or face the hassle of tiring travel.
Kush Beejal, Co-founder and CEO of NeoStencil, says,
“Helping students with their UPSC preparation and eventually doing our bit in making their dreams come true instills more confidence and energy.”
Srushti Jayant Deshmukh, who secured an All India Rank 5, and was declared as a topper among girls was also an online student of NeoStencil.
Mission to serve the society
Namrata believes technology has broken barriers, shortened distances and made learning accessible, covenient and easier.
“Earlier people would cringe when the heard that I came from Dantewada and associate the district with violence. Our city was not developed and even getting 2G connection was a dream. Thankfully, today, we have access to many facilities and we can show everyone that there is so much more to the state than the Naxal movement,” Namrata explains.