Every morning, Silu Nayak from Arakhadu village of Odisha wakes up to train about 50-odd candidates aspiring to qualify for the defence service examinations. His day begins at 5.30 am. The students train in physical exercises for two hours, followed by another session in the evening to focus on the interview, theory examinations and other grooming aspects of the qualification.
Ironically, Silu himself had failed to qualify for the physical tests of the army recruitment examination, held in his village in 2016. Despite losing his chance to get into defence forces, he decided to train others in the area and ensure they qualified for the examination.
“My height is 168 cm, and I was required to be at least 169 cm tall for the armed forces. So I didn’t qualify. Instead, I was offered a job with the Odisha Industrial Security Forces (OISF), under the parent department of Odisha Police,” Silu tells The Better India.
He says he was disappointed that he was unable to qualify for the defence services. “I wanted to help the society at large. Being in the armed forces could help me achieve that. The salary I was offered for the OISF was Rs 7,200 a month. How would I survive with less income and work for a social cause? I declined the offer,” the 29-year-old adds.
Silu says he became emotionally low and went into depression for almost three months. “My dreams had shattered. I had spent almost five years training to get into the armed forces. But I also started thinking about using the skills I’d developed at that time. Hence, I decided to train other students preparing for defence examinations,” he adds.
Building a battalion
Silu started with a few students in his village, four of whom succeeded in entering the defence sector. “Initially the candidates felt less confident and wanted to quit within a week. I worked on motivating and convincing them to continue training for at least 20 days to see the difference. It worked, and they continued,” he says.
Since then, he has trained over 300 aspirants, and 70 of them have made it into security forces. Out of the successful candidates, 18 were selected in the Indian Army, three qualified for the Indian Air Force, six entered the Navy, and the remaining were absorbed in other security agencies including the Border Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), and Paramilitary forces. He named his centre Mahaguru Battalion, and offered free training to encourage the youth.
“Employment opportunities for the youth in the district are less, and many aim for security forces to get a stable government job. I wanted to use my skills to help such people,” he says, adding that this way, the youngsters remain engaged in productive activity, rather than falling into anti-social behaviour.
Moreover, he feels that many aspirants need academic support and guidance. “Some students face difficulties in Mathematics, while some struggle with current affairs. I have devised a curriculum to make studying easier,” he adds.
Not for money, or fame
Satyaswapnajit Rout is one such student, who recently qualified for the paramilitary forces. “I have been seeking training from Nayak sir since 2019, and working to improve my fitness. I was heavy in weight and found myself weak in running. The training helped me reduce weight and overcome my physical fitness issues,” he says, adding that guidance in academics also helped him improve his grades. “I am excited to join the paramilitary training later this month in Uttarakhand,” he adds.
Silu says that he is not training these students for money or fame. “I want to help aspirants succeed. I have no other intention. People from the village often criticise me, claiming that I will charge the candidates money, or that I have hidden intentions. But my principles are clear. I do not want any donations, nor set up an NGO or trust to collect funds. I also do not expect any financial help from the government,” he affirms.
For his survival, Silu says he is satisfied with the income he and his father earns from toiling in the fields. “I graze cattle and work as a part-time driver, which earns me enough in a month,” he adds.
However, Silu’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. He received praise for his cause in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fortnightly programme, Mann Ki Baat.
Silu says that helping the students brings peace to his soul. “If I had managed to enter defence forces, I would be just one person succeeding. This way, I can help the success of many. Their dream is mine, and it is my responsibility to ensure they qualify,” he concludes.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)