There’s a saying that caught my attention a few days ago – ‘Be a good person in real life, not on social media’.
At a time when everything has become virtual, it is important for us to continue to find ways to step outside our virtual avatars and do good. And Indian Revenue Service (IRS) Officer Shashank Shekhar Singh, who is currently posted in the Meerut-Ghaziabad region as the Assistant Commissioner of Income Tax, is the epitome of this saying.
He has helped over 700 Union Public Service Commission’s (UPSC) Civil Service Examination aspirants during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Speaking to The Better India, he says, “It all started when I saw posts on social media seeking help. In the beginning, it was for basics like food and medicines. I used my social media network to try and mobilise things as fast as possible. With the COVID numbers decreasing, the nature of requests changed and people started seeking help with their exam preparation.”
During the second wave, social media platforms were abuzz with people amplifying requests of various kinds. Shashank felt that there was a void when it came to helping UPSC aspirants. “Even during the first lockdown, I felt that the students became the neglected lot. Those who were staying in hubs like Allahabad, Delhi, Pune and Varanasi and attended coaching classes, bore the brunt of the lockdown rather severely.”
Shashank reached out to a few of these students to see if they needed help of any kind and that is how the initiative took shape.
Within the first week of the initiative itself, Shashank says that they were flooded with over 1,000 requests for books, study material, test series in regional languages and also medicines and food in some cases. “A voluntary group of eight of us from various backgrounds (civil servants and otherwise) got together to verify these requests and then send books or resource material to them. In some cases, after verification we found that the request was not genuine and we took a call on a case-to-case basis,” he says.
If the request that comes in is for food or medicine, that is attended to immediately. In cases where the request is for books and resource material, we fulfil the request, depending on the location, within 10 days. “This is purely a voluntary service and we are doing this on our own time and spending our own money. So far, we have fulfilled more than 700 requests for books and resource material and are hopeful to continue doing the same,” adds the IRS Officer.
When asked why he chose to appear for the CSE, he says, “I come from a family of farmers and have on several occasions seen how officers have come to the rescue of people. Our first port of call, whenever there was any issue, was to reach out to the administration. Witnessing this while growing up left a very indelible mark on me.”
To other aspirants preparing for the CSE, Shashank’s advice is to find personal motivation.
More Tips for Aspirants:
1. Be honest with yourself.
This according to Shashank is the building block of anything that you might wish to do. Before you embark on the preparation route ensure that you are clear about what the end goal is.
2. Do a clear life analysis.
Aspirants must not put all their eggs in one basket and they must ensure that they have a backup plan in place. Don’t make any examination so important that you lose focus on the larger picture. Study well for it but be prepared for the outcome, no matter what. Be practical in your approach.
3. Be diligent and persuasive.
The examination is a competition that you enter into with yourself. It is impossible to compete with the lakhs of aspirants who appear for these competitive examinations year after year. Set targets for yourself and with each passing day, try and improve on it.
Shashank is also actively working on creating an interface to connect donor and donee for resource materials and books. “This initiative is one that should continue even after the pandemic subsides. That is when it would have truly helped aspirants,” he concludes.
If you wish to reach out for any assistance, you can send an email at Sos.email@example.com or reach out to the IRS Officer on Twitter.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)