“There is an ulterior motive to let the poor remain poor,” says Dr Bharat Saran, as we begin our conversation.
Founder of an initiative called ‘50 Villagers Seva Sansthan’ in Barmer, Rajasthan, set up in 2012, it helps children from the economically weaker sections train for medical entrance examinations.
Inspired by Anand Kumar’s Super 30, this initiative takes in 25 students each in classes 11 and class 12, and hence the name 50 Villagers came about. A practicing doctor, Dr Saran, did not see himself take up teaching. “However,” he says, “it was the circumstances and the education system that made me become a teacher and mentor.”
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Speaking to The Better India, he adds, “So many students are forced to drop out of school once they complete their class 10 exams, we found that while many of them were talented and had the aptitude, it was their economic conditions that made them leave school.”
“I wanted to help them complete their education.”
When asked how the students are selected, he explains, “The first criteria is that the child must have completed class 10 with first division. Then, they have to appear for a 50-mark paper that we design to assess their aptitude, followed by a home visit where our team ascertains their economic status.”
The initiative aims to provide free coaching to those who have no means to afford it otherwise, and to find such students, the team does thorough background checks.
Thirty marks are allotted for the home visits, and the team is at liberty to award extra marks in case the student is highly deserving. Giving an example, Dr Saran says, “In 2013, the team visited the home of 16-year-old Nem Singh Rajpurohit who had cleared his class 10 examinations with 83.6 per cent, but had to give up his dreams of studying further due to the financial conditions of his family.
“Having lost both his parents in a road accident in 2008, the responsibility of looking after two younger brothers fell upon him.”
The team ensured that he got a seat at the coaching centre and six years later, Nem Singh is in his third-year MBBS course at the Jodhpur Medical College.
When asked how the team manages to fund this initiative, he says, “We are in debt of almost Rs 9 lakh. This debt is from the rent we have not paid for the building that the students occupy, the books that we have bought and have been unable to pay for, etc. We work only on the donations which range from Rs 500 to Rs 5 lakh. We are often ridiculed and mocked for our work, but none of that has stopped us.”
On an average, Rs 25,000 is spent each year for one student, which includes their accommodation, food, books, and daily expenses.
In 2015, Dr Saran made it to all newspaper headlines when 28 of his students cleared the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET-UG). This was certainly a feat that deserved the celebrations.
For students in this barren land, 50 Villagers brings with it lush hopes for a better future. If you wish to help Dr Saran, reach him at +91-9413942612.
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(Edited by Shruti Singhal)
Images courtesy: Dr Bharat Saran