In August 2003, the police camp in Geedam, Dantewada was up in flames. Eleven policemen died in the Maoist attack, besides a Naxalite. In the small trading town of Geedam, Namrata Jain, then 10, saw the embers of the police station and told herself, she now says, that she would do something for her violence-torn hometown. Fourteen years later, Jain has cracked the UPSC, will become an IAS officer, and is the first person from Bastar to break into the top 100, with a rank of 99.
Jain is not an adivasi name, but Namrata says she knows no home other than Bastar, where her grandparents relocated more than five decades ago. “We were from Rajasthan but my grandfather settled here so many years ago. My father has a business here,” Jain tells The Indian Express over phone.
“So I consider myself from Bastar,” she says. “I was born here, grew up here, and this place gave me the inspiration to become an IAS officer. I was a very young girl when I saw the police camp attack, and I knew then that I wanted to contribute to the country, to try and fix these issues, and hopefully be able to work for my area.”
She studied in Geedam till class X at Nirmal Niketan School, then continued school in Bhilai, and studied engineering at Bhilai Institute of Technology. She then spent time in Delhi preparing for the UPSC. Unsuccessful in clearing the prelims on the first attempt, Nirmala returned to Dantewada to study, and cleared both the prelims and the mains.
Slightly nervous at the prospect of such a high stake interview for the first time, she began taking classes at Lakshya, a training institute for UPSC aspirants started by the Dantewada district administration two years ago. Among her teachers were the young IAS and IPS officers, including the district magistrate, zila panchayat CEO and additional SP posted in the district.
“I have got through because of the support of my parents, my friends, and the wonderful officers in my district,” she says. “They helped me with the interviews, because I was slightly nervous because this was my first time. They held mock interviews for me, even video recorded it, and gave me feedback on what I should or shouldn’t do.”
“We had started Lakshya two years ago, and she enrolled for the interview training. We took mock interviews for her, and gave her video feedback as well. It is wonderful that someone from Dantewada has done so well,” DM Saurabh Kumar says.
And additional SP Abhishek Pallava says, “We even arranged trips for her, sometimes deep inside, to look at the work on education, health and other aspects so she would know about both the difficulties and the work done in her home district. We had guessed that Dantewada would be a topic for discussion in her interviews and helped her understanding the kind of work done and needed. Someone getting this far from this violence-hit area will become an inspiration for others to follow in her footsteps.”
For her part, Namrata has filled Chhattisgarh as first preference for her cadre in both the IAS and the IPS, the two services she applied for, the former being the service she intends to join.
“I will work wherever I get the opportunity to try and change things for the better. But if the opportunity arises, I would like to work in Bastar. It is a place I have deep connections with, has so many problems, but is an area I understand,” she says.