Sometimes joy comes in pair. The same is the case with Vijendra Meena.
When the results of the UPSC 2015 were announced on Monday, Meena was one of those whose hard work bore fruit. But that was not the only reason for jubilation. His wife of two months, Pankaj, too had cleared the exams.
“I don’t have words to express how happy I am. You can say I am on cloud nine,” said Vijendra over phone to TY News.
Vijendra is an IIT-Delhi graduate in mechanical engineering. His wife too is an engineer. While this was Vijendra’s fourth attempt, Pankaj cleared the same in her third.
Vijendra and Pankaj have known each other for 10 years. Their relationship blossomed but for years Vijendra was unable to marry her because of personal issues, especially job.
Finally, they got married with the blessings of their respective families in March 2016.
While Vijendra works for the Ministry of Defence in Jabalpur as part of the IES batch 2011, his wife works as an engineer in RDSO at Lucknow.
Both of them began their preparation for civil services after getting their respective jobs. Though they had to remain apart for their respective careers, the couple was able to coordinate on studies.
When asked how they managed to prepare for the exams, Vijendra said that they discussed topics over phone or video chats.
Pinki and Vijendra Meena. Vijender Meena
He credits Pankaj for constantly encouraging him and uplifting his mood whenever he felt depressed. Vijendra says that when his wife felt low, he took it upon himself to lift her spirits.
“We helped each other through these times,” says Vijendra.
What if the two get different cadres? Vijendra is not worried. He says that the UPSC takes note of married serving officers. There is a possibility that the two would get to work in a single state which might not be their respective home cadres.
His elder brother used to tell Vijendra Meena, “You can do this”. Those words inspired Vijendra to surge ahead in the game of life and conquer everything he wanted to.
But conquering the world is not an easy affair.
Vijendra hails from Pilauda, a small village in Sawai Madhopur in Rajasthan. He did his initial schooling from the village before moving to Jaipur to pursue a better education.
Pilauda is a small village in Sawai Madhopur district of Rajasthan.
Not coming from a financially strong background meant a bit of struggle, but Vijendra sailed through thanks to his own academic prowess and help from his elder brother.
“It was my elder brother, Jitender Meena, who had it really hard,” recalls Vijendra. “He faced hardships and eventually won over all of them to become a surgeon.”
Vijendra says that parents are of course to be thanked, but to him his elder brother is special. It was his brother’s victory over the struggles that gave strength to Vijendra.
Vijendra with his parents (right). To the left is Saket Kumar, one his batchmates from IIT and his parents. Vijender Meena
He says that his family has always been very supportive of him but Vijendra took up a job so that he could provide another pillar of support to his family before embarking on his IAS dream.
His wife, on the other hand, faced her own pressures of being a girl in a patriarchal society. Yet she braved the odds and triumphed standing shoulder-to-shoulder alongside Jitender.
Pankaj is working as an engineer with RDSO at Lucknow. She got married to Vijendra in March 2016.
Cracking the UPSC is an uphill task. So Vijendra had to toil extra hard. In the few months he got before joining the MoD, Vijendra studied till around 5 am – the crack of dawn.
Like all officers in the MoD, at work Vijendra had to devote almost 11 hours daily – from 8.30 am to 7.30 pm. Of course, studying properly after such a work schedule is almost impossible.
To appear for the mains, Vijendra had to take two months leave. In those two months he studied hard devoting himself to the course. The result was astounding. He secured AIR 949 (Pankaj has secured AIR 979).
“Heaven,” he summed-up his time in the prestigious IIT-D. “I don’t think I would get that kind of life again,” Vijendra’s voice did not betray the excitement at the mention of his alma mater.
According to Jitender, it is only in colleges that the overall development of a student is possible. He says that schools impart the necessary education but colleges make the students mature and be able to take challenges head on.
“I learnt what to do with life in IIT-D,” says Vijendra.
Meena says that his IIT days were the best of his life. Vijender Meena/Facebook
He candidly confesses that he was a “5 point someone” at IIT but enjoyed every moment and learned every minute of his days in the institution.
At the same time, Vijendra is of the opinion that ragging, if done in a healthy way, actually helps develop professionalism.
“I enjoyed being ragged,” he said.
“I will work towards the broader goal of poverty alleviation with particular focus on education and employment generation,” says Vijendra.
And how is he planning on doing that?
Vijendra says that those poor are trapped in a vicious cycle. Because they are poor, they are unable to pursue proper education. Lack of proper education keeps them largely unemployed. Unemployment leads to poverty.
“But education should be such that it helps in employment,” points out Vijendra. And here he stresses upon the need for vocational education – a key focus area of his.
“We have around 300 types of vocational courses but only 5 per cent are job worthy,” he says. “Compare this with China – they have 3000. And while 90 per cent of Japan’s population learns a vocation, we have between 2 and 5 per cent skilled workforce,” he says.
Vijendra standing right behind President Pranab Mukherjee in this photoshoot just taken at the time of his induction into the MoD.
Pointing at India’s strong service sector and comparatively weaker manufacturing sector, Vijendra opines that a growth of the latter would also contribute to low prices of goods and allow India to compete better in the world market.
“It will immensely help our economy. Growth of economy will allow us to pursue more improved technology. Income of the people will rise and unemployment rate will come down,” he says.
Meena with then Defence Minister A.K. Antony. Vijender Meena/Facebook
When asked what he felt about the government’s policies, Vijendra praised them but cautioned that their implementation will eventually spell their fate.
“It is the lack of implementation that makes even the best of policies fall flat on their faces,” Vijendra said.
But lack of implementation can be due to any reason. “Elitist mentality or politician-businessman- bureaucrat nexus often hampers implementation,” says Vijendra.
He said that being an IAS officer with a rural background, he doesn’t have that elitist mentality and it’ll be easier for him to work on the implementation of the policies.
Speaking on behalf of his wife, Vijendra said that women empowerment is a subject close to her heart.
“Since she herself faced struggles as a woman, she’ll try to ensure that women get proper education and assistance in jobs through NGOs or self-help groups,” he said.
Pankaj believes that women can be truly called empowered when they are allowed to participate in decision making process.
“Only hard work will help clear the exams and coaching is not necessary at all,” Vijendra says.