Meghnidhi Dahal is perhaps the most discussed name in Sikkim today. An inspiration for many young Civil Services aspirants from the State, Dahal is a reminder for everyone who believes in plain old hard work that fortune does favour the brave. However, before the UPSC 2015 results were declared, Meghnidhi was just another 28-year-old from Sikkim working as a software engineer in a major firm.
In its 40 years of existence as an Indian state since 1975, Sikkim has had 20 UPSC officers, however, till date; no one had made it in the general category. Nearly 50 percent of the Sikkimese population belongs to the reserved category. Of the 20 UPSC officers, five have become direct Indian Administrative officers, three IPS officers, one IFS, Indian Railway Service, Indian Revenue Services and Indian economic services respectively.
Dahal is the first Sikkimese to clear the UPSC examination in the general category, he secured an enviable 63rd position. Dahal has also topped the Sikkim State Public Service exam but opted out after clearing the UPSC examination.
Why Civil Services?
It was his father’s dream to see him as an IAS officer, and though he had not charted a career path in that direction, it was always somewhere at the back of his mind. His father is a manager at a private firm in Sikkim and his mother is a school teacher.
It was only after he got involved in various voluntary services under the Sri Sathya Sai Village Integrated Program during which he was involved in the Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Vahini program which aims to provide value-based meaningful education that he really thought of contributing meaningfully to society. ‘This involvement was a realisation that if an individual with some amount of positive thought can make a difference, how much can an institution, or say the administration can achieve,’ he reflects.
Since his school days, learning new things thrilled him like nothing else. He studied at East Point English School, Singtam and New Garden Boarding School, Singtam till the seventh standard. Later, he completed his secondary level schooling from Tarpin Secondary School, Rhenock and Senior Secondary from Namchi Senior Secondary School. He graduated as an engineer from Nagarjuna College of Engineering and Technology, Bangalore with Information Science and Engineering.
‘The schools I attended aren’t the ones you hear much about, but I remember taking part in competitions since my childhood; however, while at Tarpin Secondary School, I got invaluable experience in public speaking, debating, and essay writing. ‘My college life was perhaps like that of any college goer. I though used to manage a good balance between studies and extra-curricular activities’.
Preparing for the Exam
Dahal worked as a Software Engineer in Subex Limited for the first three years of his career beginning 2009. He shares, ‘The learning was immense and I could build a solid foundation for my career. It also gave me opportunities to travel abroad and see the world. I went to Stockholm twice on official visits. The fourth year of my career was in the capacity of a Senior Development Specialist at Prowareness Software Services Ltd. It exposed me to newer clients and technologies – newer avenues to learn. I also met wonderful friends and colleagues during these years who will remain dear to me throughout life’.
Finally, one day, Dahal decided to quit his job and dedicate time exclusively for the preparation of the Exam. He adds, ‘the preparation process was rigorous. I had taken up studies on a full time basis since October 2013; it took me around a year and a half of preparation. However, I would like to highlight that the examination per say is not so difficult—any informed citizen can perhaps answer them all. The exam is made tougher by the competition as the rejection rate is very high.
‘My strategy for preparation was to learn, to know about things rather than to merely prepare for an exam. I gave due attention to current affairs (newspapers, internet), even made notes whenever needed. Overall, I believe, that it was practice which gave me the confidence to face this exam,’ shares.
The preparation phase was the most fruitful phase his life as he had never learned so much in such a short span of time.
Message to the Youth of Sikkim
‘My message to my young friends is to develop liberal thinking. An overtly regional approach cannot take the nation forward. Also, it is almost impossible to determine our capabilities without trying, hence, do not hesitate to try, if nothing, it will be an experience’ asserts Dahal.
He adds, ‘I would like to highlight that Sikkim is a top ranker in many indicators like literacy rate, per capita income, primary healthcare, nutrition levels, etc… Hence, there are not many reasons to hold us back. We are held back perhaps only by our own thoughts and inhibitions’.