Jain, Muslims, Baniyas, Dalits—communities helping their own crack UPSC exams
The centres are located in big metropolitan cities and attract aspirants coming from smaller towns and villages with the UPSC dream.
NOOTAN SHARMA (Edited by Theres Sudeep)
New Delhi: For too long, the only UPSC-related conversation in community groups revolved around reservation. Who gets included and who doesn’t in India’s job quotas?
But what has gone almost unnoticed is how communities such as Jains, Muslims, Dalits, and Arya Samaj are promoting their own to ace the UPSC exam – with free hostels, subsidised study material, and scholarships.
Cracking UPSC was Ekta Jain’s dream but it came at a formidable cost. Rs 20,000 every month at a private institution was a strain and she just wasn’t able to hunker down and study. That’s when the Jain community came to her help. An aunt and uncle told her about Jito Administrative Training Foundation (JATF)—a Delhi-based organisation with centres in Kota, Pune, Jaipur, and Indore that provides financial assistance and guidance to civil service aspirants from the Jain community.
Ekta went through a short screening, filled forms, showed her Jain certificate and gave a test at the Delhi centre. She made the cut. What followed was a suite of services that students normally pay a premium for. She received hostel facilities, coaching scholarships, and instructors to guide her. It was a dream come true. And she only pays Rs 10,000 a month—a fee her parents in Ajmer can afford.
She lives in the white and grey, five-floored JATF building in Delhi’s Karol Bagh with 250 other Jain students. All of them have one razor-sharp goal — study hard and crack the UPSC exam. The hostel building looks like a corporate headquarters, with a cafeteria, library and discussion spaces.
These community outreach initiatives to sponsor UPSC coaching are the new model of helping poorer members and ensuring they are adequately represented in India’s power elite. The outcome is ‘affordable UPSC’ for millions of Indian youth. The centres are located in big metropolitan cities and attract aspirants from smaller towns and villages.
Arya Pratibha Vikas Sansthan, Atiya Foundation, and Samkalp are some of the community interventions that provide facilities to aspirants at no cost. More and more people from these coaching sponsorships are getting selected for the civil services.
Assif Yousuf from Atiya Foundation made the cut in 2019 and joined the Indian Railway Accounts Service. Akshat Jain and Ahinsa Jain from JATF, and Sneha from Arya Pratibha Vikas Sansthan cracked it in 2020.
“I was about to pack my bags and go home because of the expenses. But then my relatives told me about JATF. They saved my dream,” says Ekta, who is preparing to write the UPSC Prelims this year.
These community organisations don’t just provide financial help and forget. They are result-driven and want to increase their numbers in India’s steel frame. They regularly invite star students to interact with new aspirants. It’s an effective way to build a thriving ‘alumni’ network as well.
Word of mouth
4 pm is tea time at JATF’s hostel. It’s a pleasant break from the rigorous study schedule. Students mill around the white tables and red chairs while exchanging notes. It’s where they gather for their meals or a glass of warm milk at night.
“I have completed the test series. I am going to start the revision now,” one aspirant says to his friend.
23-year-old Manish Jain uses the time to scroll through Instagram Reels.
“With my tea I watch these funny videos on Instagram and then go back to studying. This is my small break,” he says.
The hostel has all the creature comforts to allow aspirants to focus on their exam – air conditioning, solar inverters, a hall for guests.
And there is a built-in incentive too.
“The facilities are so good that I don’t feel like going home. We pay Rs 10,000 for everything, and if someone clears Prelims, then they live here for free. It gives us more motivation,” says Rahul Jain, who came from Gujarat’s Bhavnagar to prepare for the UPSC.
But the administration officers want no publicity, declined to be interviewed and just point to their website. Word-of-mouth is JATF’s marketing strategy.
“They have WhatsApp groups in which they share coaching-related information and just ask us to spread it to others in our community,” says Rahul.
But entry into community-specific coaching foundations is not easy. Competition among applicants who fit the criteria is stiff. There’s a stringent gatekeeping process where candidates are filtered out at various levels — application form to entrance exam to interview. The organisations want only the best students to increase their success rate.
“I think there is nothing wrong in it if people want to take their community forward and if they feel this is the right way. But coaching alone is not enough to clear UPSC. Coaching will be of no use unless critical attitude is inculcated within the aspirant,” says Shailaja Chandra, retired IAS officer.
Location and safety
The four-storeyed Atiya Foundation in Patel Nagar may not be as imposing a structure as JATF, but it is nurturing the IAS dreams of students, a majority of whom are Muslims.
“The foundation is open to everyone, but because of our name, the maximum number of applicants are Muslims. But we have people from different religions,” says Younis Yousuf Mir, who manages the hostel.
It opened in 2018 with six students, and has since expanded to accommodate 49 this year, nine of whom are women. Like JATF, Atiya does not run coaching classes, but offers free food, accommodation and study material. It does, on occasion, sponsor private coaching fees for a few students—need is the only criterion.
“I joined the Atiya Foundation in October. The best thing is that our hostel is located near Karol Bagh. All kinds of study materials are available here. Everything is nearby. We don’t have to pay anything for anything. And it’s absolutely safe,” says Mohsina, who cleared the UP PSC last year, and is now a Naib Tahsildar. Now she’s giving the UPSC a shot, to become an IAS officer.
There are young women from Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Kashmir, and Madhya Pradesh. Saadat Ali from Bihar came to know about the foundation from Jamia Millia Islamia University.
“I had written UPSC Mains last year for which the foundation got me admission in Vision IAS. But I could not clear. Now I am preparing for the next Prelims. From food to coaching and test series, I get all kinds of facilities here,” says Ali, whose optional subject is Urdu literature.
Akshay, who came from Pune two years ago, has made it to the interview level.
“The Atiya Foundation focuses on each student. Seniors from here who cleared the exam also keep in touch,” says Akshay. He adds that the UPSC cycle can be emotionally and mentally draining and students at the foundation are given individual counselling by past students and serving officers.
Assif Yousuf, who was a part of the Atiya Foundation and cleared the UPSC in 2019, gave a shout-out to the foundation on Twitter in 2020.
“Atiya Foundation is doing a phenomenal job in the field of education. It is ideally committed to serve the society by providing the best environment to the students for UPSC preparation,” he wrote.
Central universities like Banaras Hindu University (BHU), Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), and the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) also provide free coaching to aspirants who belong to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities.
But perhaps one of the most coveted spots is a seat at the Residential Coaching Academy (RCA) at Jamia Millia Islamia, which provides free coaching like private institutes, library access, mock interviews and hostel facilities.
It’s open to minorities, aspirants from SC/ST categories, and women. Between 2011 and 2021, 220 students from the RCA have made it into the civil services. UPSC Civil Services 2021 All India Rank 1 holder Shruti Sharma credits her success to this institution.
Apart from these residential initiatives, some communities have formed WhatsApp and Telegram groups, and lend financial help to the aspirants who belong to their community.
Mohit Bansal was struggling to arrange study material and test fees for the Mains. That’s when people from the Baniya community came forward to sponsor him.
“I had asked my friends on Telegram if there was any cheaper option. That’s when someone told me about these groups. I shared my result with them and they provided the fees for the Mains test series to me,” says Bansal, who gave the UPSC interview in 2022. He did not clear this attempt.
One such active group is the Brahmin Samaj Kalyan Samiti. It identifies candidates who have cleared the Prelims and reaches out to them to see if they need any assistance.
“The motive is simple: we want more and more civil servants from our community. We identify serious aspirants and ask them if they need anything like sponsorship in coaching or test series or even a hostel or PG. And we try to give them that,” says a member of the group who did not want to be named. The group collects funds from other members.
In Maharashtra, government initiatives like Sarthi sponsor Maratha, Kunbi, Kunbi-Maratha, Maratha-Kunbi community aspirants, BARTI sponsor Scheduled Caste students and MahaJyoti sponsors Other Backward Class, Vimukta Jati Nomadic Tribes and Special Backward Class students. They are selected after an entrance examination. Sarthi sponsors around 250 students, while BARTI sponsors 200 and MahaJyoti sponsors 1,000.
The government sponsors their coaching at a private institute in Delhi and provides help with other facilities like hostel accommodation, food and study material as well.
“I came to Delhi a few months ago. It’s my first time here. I never imagined that I would come here for my coaching,” says a young beneficiary of the Sarthi scheme who did not want to be named.
“Being a Marathi, life is difficult here. For people like me, Dilli dur hai (Delhi is far away).” He’s well aware that community support is what got him this far and he’s not letting the capital distract him from his goal.
There will be time to explore Delhi after he becomes an IAS officer.
Courtesy : The Print
Note: This news piece was originally published in theprint.com and used purely for non-profit/non-commercial purposes exclusively for Human Rights.
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