India Interior

The Railway junction coaching centre

Sarita Brara | Updated on June 29, 2018 Published on June 29, 2018

On track for success Quiz group at Sasaram railway junction Sarita Brara   -  Sarita Brara

How Bihar’s Sasaram has become a launching pad for job aspirants

Groups of young boys are busy poring over reading material or taking part in animated discussions on current affairs on platform 1 and 2 of the busy Sasaram Railway Junction!

This is not a one-off scene, it greets the eye every morning and evening. For two hours, this railway junction in Rohtas district of Bihar transforms into a coaching centre for young aspirants preparing to crack various competitive and entrance exams. And this activity didn’t start yesterday, it has been going on for over one-and-a-half decades.

It all began in 2002-03 when a small group of students started coming to Sasaram railway station to study. It was the availability of electricity 24x7 at the station that drew them there. Today, on any morning or evening, you will find nearly 1,000 young aspirants for jobs in the Railways, banks, Staff Selection Commission and other government and private institutions as part of the study group, called Quiz.

Students are seen sitting in groups preparing for competitions, written and oral tests without anyone having to pay any fee. Santosh, who is in the final year of his graduation, says he pays a nominal ₹3 for a set of 100 questions. Apart from questions on current affairs, math, reasoning and language, these students learn all that is required to sit for these exams, including how to face job interviews.

Not for the non-serious

Santosh, who hails from Kochas in Rohtas district, has rented a room close to the junction and attends both the morning and evening sessions at the railway platform. “It helps to sharpen the competitive edge. I will sit for every exam that I am eligible for. I may not clear at the first instance, but at least I will get the exposure and do better next time,” he says. “Not only is the environment at these coaching classes conducive but the methodology adopted by the groups also ensures weeding out of non-serious students,” says Sandip Kumar Srivastava from Sila village in Kochas, who was once part of Quiz. “If any student missed the sessions for even two days in a week, he is ousted from the group unless he has a credible reason to be absent. A list is put out on the students’ performance group-wise.”

The students are provided ID by the Railways so that they are not harassed as they prepare for various competitive exams

 

Srivastava recalls how one had to complete answers to a set of questions within a time line at the sessions. The students thus get the required practice to answer as many questions, as fast as possible. “Sometimes, a student considered the weakest among the group would top after a week because of the sheer hard work put in by him and that gave us the confidence that we too can do something.”

Over the years, he says, Quiz has become a coaching centre where anyone who joins clears at least one exam or the other. “The results have been good, at least 150-odd participants are able to clear exams on an annual basis and many land good jobs,” says Kunal, who too was part of the Quiz group and now works with the Railways.

He says that the Railways has always cooperated and the young aspirants also make sure they keep the place neat and clean and not disturb anyone. In fact, the young students are provided identity cards by the Railways so that they are neither harassed nor bullied as they prepare for various competitive exams.

One of the most heartening aspects is that there are no paid teachers, only volunteers who help these young men acquire a competitive edge to pass the exams. Some of the teachers from nearby institutes coach them gratis. Young men who themselves were part of the ‘Quiz fraternity’ at one time and are now employed, also come sometimes to give tips to the aspiring candidates.

Over the years, the coaching ethos has spread to other parts of the area. Now, even the premises of a temple complex and vacant space outside a political party’s office are used for coaching. Santosh says in addition to quiz sessions at the railway station, he goes to the Mahavir Quiz centre at a temple complex, where a bhaiyaji teaches math from 3 pm to 4 pm. Students pay ₹20 a month and the money goes towards buying mats to sit on or batteries for the mike.

It is no longer the lack of electricity that brings hundreds of aspirants here, but the high success rate. Kunal recalls how even passengers would become emotional seeing the young boys concentrating in the din and would make sure that the students were not disturbed.

The writer is a senior journalist based in Delhi

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Published on June 29, 2018
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