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By Harshmeet Singh

New Delhi’s Old Rajendra Nagar area brims with students all year long. However, these aren’t the students who go out partying over the weekends or celebrate new year’s eve at a lounge. These are the students who prefer not to step out of their rooms for months, for there is an endless barrage of books that need to be read and re-read in order to achieve their target. These are the civil services aspirants.

These students don’t discuss about the latest Bollywood flick and the IIFA awards. They rather discuss which lecturers are sought after for which subject. Home to well over 100 civil services coaching institutes and more than 30,000 outstation students, the Old Rajendra Nagar area is Delhi’s largest IAS aspirants’ hub.

“There is a common notion that it takes at least 3 attempts to clear the exam. While those clearing it in their maiden attempt are a minority, I have seen a number of them doing it. I have also met those who haven’t been able to clear it in 6 attempts!”, says Kunal Arora, an aspirant himself.

Civil services have long been known as the most coveted jobs in the country. The 3-tier exam can easily get on an aspirant’s nerves. With close to 10 lakh students applying for merely 1,000 posts, the success depends on much more than hard work.

Most IAS coaching institutes are located in Rajendra Nagar and Mukherjee Nagar areas of Delhi. Students from all parts of the country come to Delhi with a hope of entering the bureaucracy. Delhi is to the IAS examination what Koa is to the IITJEE. While the success stories catch the imagination of the entire country, the failures, which are much more common, remain hidden in the bylanes of Rajendra Nagar.

Aman Shukla, who has failed to clear the exam in his six attempts, says, “When I first appeared for the exam, I had no idea how tough the exam was. It was only when I saw people around me studying for almost 18 hours every day, that I understood what it takes to clear it.”

He is now a banker, a common backup option for the aspirants. “I always it would take time. But once you clear it, your life is made. I didn’t want to label myself as a failure after all these years. What about the dreams of my family?”, he added.

While coming to Delhi and joining a coaching institute seems like the obvious way to go to achieve your goal, this isn’t the most affordable option. Most coaching institutes charge over Rs 1 lakh for a 6-7 months course to train the students for the preliminary stage of the examination. Add to that the expense of books, stationary, sample papers, lodging and food, and you are looking at an expenditure of about 3 – 3.5 lakh for one year.

Considering that a number of candidates stay in Delhi for multiple years since they need to give more than one attempt, and you would understand why stories like ‘farmers having to sell their land to send their kids to IAS coaching’ are true. Even after they finish their coaching classes, students prefer to stay in these areas to stay in touch with the latest trends and have discussions with other candidates.

The story of their struggles doesn’t end here. Stay tuned to get more glimpses into the lives of civil services aspirants.

More in this series-

The world of Civil Services Aspirants – Introduction


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