Srinagar July 31: In August last year, when COVID-19 pandemic had brought life across the globe to a standstill, Tanveer Ahmad Khan, 23, from remote Nigeenpora village in south Kashmir’s Kulgam, who was pursuing M Phil in Economics at the Institute of Developmental Studies, Kolkata at the time, rang up a guide from Kerala to learn some tips to crack the prestigious Indian Economic Service (IES)-2020 examination.
The guide, considerate of the mere 84 days to the all India level examination at the time coupled with an understandable pandemic induced stress, frankly told Tanveer to “just give it a try, you will get an idea (of the examination). Then you will make it the next time”.
The Economics wizard has not just simply qualified the examination, he has emerged as the 2nd topper in a selection list of a meager 15 candidates across India and the first to achieve the feat in the history of Kashmir!
“I decided to work hard and channelize my energy in the right direction. I didn’t look back. Alhamdulillah (praise to the Almighty) the results have come now,” Tanveer said in an exclusive chat with Greater Kashmir.
The lean boy terms it a “big achievement I have no words to express for” when asked about him being the maiden candidate from the valley to qualify IES.
But it was probably only a matter of time for the youth to taste success, who, as he himself recalls, “could understand the subject (Economics) and also enjoy it”.
Tanveer did his primary schooling at his native village, while he passed his secondary and higher secondary examinations from High School Waltengoo before moving to GDC Boys Anantnag where he completed his graduation in compound Arts stream.
“I enjoyed reading, hearing and talking Economics. So, I thought where there is a will, there is a way. So, better to focus on it,” Tanveer quipped over his aptitude in the subject and the preparations for IES-2020.
No surprises then that Tanveer had emerged as the 2nd topper in the Kashmir University’s Common Entrance Test of 2016 in Economics before he moved to IDS, Kolkata for the M Phil programme. Tanveer also qualified the prestigious NET JRF in Economics in the process.
But as they say, there are bound to be days of struggle behind every success story. Tanveer, whose father shuttles between home and Punjab where he pulls cart during dormant Kashmir winters to earn a few bucks, said that he had planned to appear in the civil services when he was still in college, but could not make it.
“I even opted History, Political Science and Economics, but could not avail coaching due to financial constraints,” a humble Tanveer recalled.
But good days were in store as Tanveer went on to crack JRF after university which has a provision of a genuine stipend even as he did not turn complacent.
“I decided to make myself financially independent so that I could take independent decisions, because I did not want to be a burden (on the family). It was a tight situation financially then,” he said.
Tanveer thanked his uncle for supporting him financially all along his career while also crediting his teachers for “seeing in me the spark I could not realize”.
Tanveer said he studied thoroughly during his Master’s, which later came handy during the IES preparations.
But the process of his Master’s degree per se, hit a major roadblock. Soon after Tanveer took admission at the KU’s Economics Department in the spring of 2016, the valley-wide shutdown against the killing of Hizb militant, Burhan Wani that summer and the Internet shutdown that followed, interrupted his studies, he recalled.
Tanveer believes that his coveted selection in the IES will change the trend of the penchant towards IAS in the valley lately and motivate more Economics students towards the service when asked if his selection could change that trend.
“I think there has been a trend towards a particular field. There is a diversity of fields. There are services people don’t know about. I think this is a message that there is a lot more to it and there are opportunities for youth especially in Economics,” Tanveer said.
He also suggested an overhaul in the teaching of Economics as a subject in Kashmir.
Tanveer said the debate on the field is not up to date what it should be. “The teaching community needs to update on the subject especially Indian economy. The empirics as well as theory needs to be amalgamated vis a vis Indian economy,” he suggested.
As for his message to the IES aspirants, Tanveer said, “It is a tough call as a mere 15 candidates are selected on an average every year, so don’t close your options. Don’t make it a do or die situation, but having said that, more and more students should try in the field. I think many students here will qualify it”.
For himself, the overnight youth icon from south Kashmir is looking forward to his posting, he said lies in central ministries in the economic administration at the beginning then in the economic advisories to different ministries later on in the service.
Pertinently, IES-2020 along with the Indian Statistical Service (IIS) was held by the UPSC from October 16-18 last year while the interviews for personality test were conducted in April and July this year.
Editor's Note: The author had erroneously mentioned that the selectee was the first from J&K to have cracked the Indian Economic Service exam, which isn't true. Sushant Sudan from Poonch district is the first from the erstwhile state to qualify IES in the year 2012. The copy has been rectified accordingly.