“Deaf people can do anything, except hear.”
– I. King Jordan (Former President of Gallaudet University)
Badangarhi is a small village in Alwar district of Rajasthan. It is so small that according to official records its population is just 169. One cannot expect basic amenities like roads, public toilets, schools or electricity. The residents of this village would be cursing their fate.
Can you believe it that in spite of all odds one boy from Badangarhi secured positions in the merit list of the class X and XII board examinations? Not only that, he is also partially deaf. These challenges could not deter him from chasing his dreams and realizing his ambitions. Meet Mr. Maniram Sharma who has made history by clearing the IAS examination not once but three times in 2005, 2006 and 2009!
Maniram started losing his hearing at the age of five, becoming totally deaf by nine. His parents, both illiterate farm labourers, could do little to help. Yet, Maniram continued trudging to the nearest school, 5km away, and cleared class X standing fifth in the state board examination and cleared class XII ranking seventh in the state board. He cleared the Rajasthan Public Service Commission (RPSC) examination, but his hearing disability came in his way. He had to take up the job of a clerk-cum-typist, to meet the economic challenges of the family. He studied and did part time jobs , during his final year .So much was his determination and concentration that he topped the university in Political Science. He went on to clear the NET (National Eligibility Test). He then gave up his RPSC job and became a lecturer. Not satisfied with that, he became a Junior Research Fellow and completed his PhD in Political Science during which time he taught M Phil and MA students in Rajasthan University. Having completed his PhD, Maniram got through the Rajasthan Administrative Service and while in service he started trying for the UPSC.
Maniram Sharma has won a 15-year-old battle for justice. On 8th October 2009, this deaf IAS candidate learnt he has made it to the Civil service. With this, Maniram has not just won a personal battle, but a milestone victory for disabled persons like him who have been kept away from the premier government service. Maniram’s case has been highlighted by Times of India over the past couple of years — how his efforts were thwarted on one ground or the other, till he finally went through surgery to make his aided hearing so good that he appeared in his IAS interview this time by the oral question-and-answer method. Despite this, his induction into the service was just not happening. While other successful candidates got their call on August 17, he didn’t. Finally, on September 3 he was informed that he had cleared the exam on all counts but still had to wait for another month to get his appointment. “I still can’t believe it has happened. It has not sunk in. After suffering so many disappointments, it’s difficult to imagine it has actually come true,” said Maniram.
Maniram’s IAS saga began in 1995 when he was 20 years old .He appeared in the civil services examination but failed in his first attempt to clear the preliminary examination. He was then 100% deaf. Since then he has cleared the exam three times — 2005, 2006 and 2009. In 2006, he was told he could not be allotted the IAS as only the partially deaf were eligible, not fully deaf persons like him. Around this time, following the intervention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Sharma was allotted a job with Indian Post and Telecom Account and Finance Service. He says, “I cleared the civil service exam in 2005 but the UPSC sent me back without allotting any service as I was deaf. This, despite the fact that there is a mandatory quota for disabled candidates and they are eligible to appear for the examinations. “
“I appeared for the exams again in 2006 and went through the same ordeal. I was told that only the partially deaf were eligible. But I saw a silver lining; during the course of the medical tests mandatory before joining the civil services, for the first time, I was told that my deafness might be curable. It required a cochlear implant.” There was no way the family could arrange for the 7,50,000 rupees required for his treatment. But his savior came in the form of Supreme Court lawyer Arun Jaitley, now leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, who collected 5,50,000 rupees from various organizations. Sharma managed to borrow the balance amount from various other sources. The ear surgery was done at Delhi’s Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in mid–2007 and Sharma can now hear partially. But to hear sounds again suddenly after 25 years was not a very pleasant experience.” I put up with severe headaches and suffered from nausea. Many a times I felt like removing the implant to escape the noise that would fill my head.” recalls Maniram in a nostalgic mood. People undergoing such implants are required to undergo specialized speech therapy to help them distinguish sounds from noise.
The hearing problem runs in the family, Sharma admits. “More than 20 persons in our family have hearing disability. My maternal grandmother was the first person who was deaf. This was passed on to my mother and maternal uncle. Both my sisters are deaf and now my children are also acquiring this problem. My eight–year–old son, a bright student, uses a hearing aid. But when he becomes totally deaf, I will make him undergo the cochlear implant surgery. At least now I know the remedy. And when I look back now at all the hardships faced, I see a sense of purpose in it.”
He appeared for the IAS again in 2009 and cleared it, scoring the highest in the hearing-impaired category. Yet, he faced several more hurdles as the government put technical hurdles questioning his level of disability. Anyway, this story has a happy ending, and Maniram has no complaints. “If I could wait for 15 years, I could surely wait for a few more months. But the uncertainty kept me on edge,” he said without rancour. He is off to his village Badangarhi, to convey the news to his family. “I have decided to go in person to tell them. My whole village will celebrate” says a beaming Maniram.