An Interview With : Civil Services Topper 2012 (RANK-1) Haritha V Kumar

Interaction with Haritha V Kumar, UPSC Topper
Name: Haritha V Kumar
Place: Kerala
Exam: UPSC
Rank: 1

For the first time since 1991, a Keralite has come first in the Civil Services Examinations


Haritha V. Kumar’s journey to success began when her parents encouraged her to dream and aim high. Her father, R. Vijayakumar, used to tell her to become a ‘collector’. “Although I had no clue what that involved, I remember saying that my ambition was to become a collector when Sister Jasmine, my teacher in class one, wanted us to tell her what we wanted to do in life,” recalls a smiling Haritha.

All the while during a conversation with Haritha, visitors and relatives keep dropping in to congratulate her. Ever since it was announced that 27-year-old Haritha had topped the 2012 rank list of the civil services examination, all roads seem to lead to her house. A Malayali had secured the first rank after 22 years!

Guests keep streaming into the modest house in a bylane at Thycaud. An amused policeman perched on a bike near the house assures visitors that this is indeed Haritha V. Kumar’s residence while a bored photographer waits outside the door to snap photos of VIPs who come visiting. Haritha’s twin brothers Sadheerth and Sadharsh, both engineers, entertain the guests when their elder sister is meeting mediapersons and guests. Phones ring non-stop as calls keep pouring in to seek appointments for interviews and felicitations. Vijayakumar, Haritha’s father, checks a diary to squeeze in time for yet another interview or a meeting.

A box of sweets has a permanent place on the table while a plate of sweets is passed around by relatives and friends who are still celebrating her achievement. When her mother C.S. Chitra, rushes inside for a quick breakfast before the next photo shoot and interview, Haritha finds time to sit down and talk about her journey to success.

“I could not believe it myself,” says a happy Haritha who reached home on Sunday. A probationary officer of the Indian Revenue Service, she was undergoing training at the National Academy for Customs, Excise and Narcotics in Faridabad when her father Vijayakumar insisted that she be there to greet visitors who were thronging the house to congratulate her.

An engineer, Harita says she owes her success to the encouragement of her parents and family. A former student of St. Theresa’s Convent School and Government Girls Higher Secondary School in Neyyattinkara, Haritha remembers how her father used to bring her every morning to Thiruvananthapuram to attend coaching classes while she was doing her Plus Two. While Haritha was still a student of Electronics and Communication at the Government Engineering College, Barton Hill, her father shifted to Thiruvananthapuram to make sure that his children got the best of education.

It was Chitra who encouraged her daughter to think of a career in the Civil Services. Following her graduation, Haritha decided to prepare for the Civil Services examinations and chose Economics and Malayalam as her subjects for the mains. “No matter what kind of administrative services you take up, an understanding of Economics is essential. So I thought I might as well take that as one of my subjects for the examination,” says Haritha.

Her classmates were research scholars and post-graduate students of Economics who were familiar with terms and theories of the subject. “But Narayanan Sir, whom I see as my mentor, always motivated me. He assured me that I would be able to do it,” she says. And she proved him right by cracking the examination in the second chance when she got selected to the Indian Revenue Service. But her goal was the Indian Administrative Service because “I want to be directly involved in making a difference to the lives of people in whatever small way I can,” she explains.

And what does she feel are Kerala’s problems? “Each region has its specific problems and one can’t generalise. In the capital city, it is certainly garbage disposal that has become an issue. In Kasaragod, it would be problems caused by the use of Endosulfan,” she says.

Now that she is on the cusp of a career in the Indian Administrative Service, what kind of a Collector would she want to be? “One who is accessible to the people,” says Haritha who adds that she sees herself as an idealist who is also pragmatic.


No bookworm, Haritha has learnt Carnatic music and Bharatanatyam and Mohiniyattam.

She is tuned in to old Malayalam film songs too.

An avid fan of Malayalam cinema, her favourite films are the kind of movies made by M.T. Vasudevan Nair-Hariharan team.

Some of her favourite authors are M. T. Vasudevan Nair, Indu Menon. Her favourite poet is Vylloppilly.

She won the top place in her fourth and last attempt.

Haritha has inspired Sadharsh who is preparing for the civil services examination.


Her school teachers at St. Theresa’s Convent School in Neyyattinkara remember Haritha as a student with a pleasant disposition who was never bored in class. Says Haziel Leo, who taught Haritha Social Studies in Classes nine and ten: “Hard working and bright, Haritha is the kind of student every teacher dreams about. We are extremely proud of her success.”

S. Narayanan, former head of the Department of Economics, Government College for Women, has only words of praise for his student. “Although she was completely new to Economics, within two years she managed to beat even research students. It is her perseverance and dedication that have taken her to the top.”


One should not get disheartened and must work with dedication and determination.

Instead of studying for a certain number of hours, I divided the syllabus into parts and decided how much I would cover each day.

For the interview, discussions with my friends in the National Academy for Customs, Excise and Narcotics helped a great deal.

It is imperative to have a lot of writing practice before attempting the mains.

Finally, one should not allow anything to be a road block that prevents you from reaching your goal. One has to overcome such hurdles and for that a family’s support is crucial.