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One story of hope, another of despair

By Sharat Pradhan and Mukhtar Ahmad
Last updated on: June 29, 2015 09:14 IST
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Zahid Qureshi, Raju Saroj and Brijesh Saroj hail from underprivileged families.

All of them have scored enviable ranks at the IIT-JEE.

The similarities end here.

While Raju and Brijesh Saroj have found help from the Uttar Pradesh government as well as the Ministry of Human Resource Development (under which the IITs fall), Zahid Qureshi is struggling to make ends meet.

UPDATE: Zahid Ahmed Qureshi will study at IIT

Raju and Brijesh Saroj (pictured above) are over the moon.

And their father, Dharamraj Saroj, is hoping that his family's financial woes will be over.

His sons Raju and Brijesh have secured 167th and 410th ranks respectively at the IIT-JEE.

When he first heard about their scores, he didn't make much of it.

"I was wondering what the big deal was about my boys being selected in some ITI! After all so may children get into it is, don't they?

"But then I was told that this was not ITI, it was IIT. Honestly I had never heard about IITs till then."

Raju and Brijesh studied at the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya in the rural corner of Pratapgarh district, near Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh.

Along with their other three siblings, Raju and Brijesh grew up in a ramshackle hut with a tarpaulin for a roof. Until recently, the family's prized possessions include a bicycle, a table fan and eight goats.

To this, they have now added two laptops and two cheques of Rs 1 lakh each that the Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav presented them in Lucknow recently.

"This money is being given to ensure that these bright students from my state can pursue their education unhindered," Yadav announced at a press conference where he felicitated the two boys along with Abhishek Kamalvanshi another bright young student from Mainpuri who fought similar odds to clear the IIT-JEE

"This is just the beginning. We are prepared to bear the entire cost of engineering education of these meritorious boys," Yadav said.

Meanwhile, Union HRD minister Smriti Irani declared that the government would arrange for the entire fees.

Life is finally looking up for the Sarojs (below).

"Earlier we did not even have electricity, Brijesh (19) says.

"I was lucky to have got into Navodaya Vidyalaya where both my younger brother and I got free education from Class Five to Class 12

When Brijesh appeared for IIT-JEE the first time, he couldn't make it very far. That was when a coaching institute in Patna spotted his talent and offered to train him for free.

While he was being coached in Patna, Raju was selected by the Dakshina Foundation at Hyderabad.

"Had it not been for the free education and coaching, it would have been impossible for either of us to even dream of getting into IIT," Raju says.

Rajesh, the eldest of the siblings, did not get the opportunity to apply for Navodaya Vidyalaya. (The Navodaya Vidyalaya system is an initiative of the Ministry of HRD that attempts to provide competitive education opportunities for talented children from rural India.)

"He studied at the local village school and after finishing Intermediate, he managed to get into Allahabad University from where he did BSc and was now pursuing MSc, all the while earning money through tuitions," Raju says.

The youngest brother, Rahul is in Class 12 and the sister, Madhuri is still in Class Eight.

"I am already trying to guide my sister and some other (local) children to clear the entrance examination for Navodaya; I am sure they will succeed," Brijesh hopes.

He continues: "Once my brother and I are settled, we hope to do every bit to motivate and assist others like us in our village to dream big and pave the path to realise those dreams."


Then there is Zahid Qureshi (above). He is 21 and he hails from the Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir.

His father, Farooq Ahmad Qureshi, was killed by suspected militants in 1995 when Zahid was all of two months old.

Juvera, his mother, remarried and left Zahid at the care of his paternal grandparents: Azizullah Qureshi, his grandfather and Gul Jan, his grandmother.

Until ten years ago, Azizullah ran a tea stall in Dudwan a hamlet in Kupwara and kept the kitchen fires burning.

He also ensured Zahid stayed off the streets and went to school.

By the time Zahid completed his Class 12 examinations, he had already changed three schools.

Eventually he moved to Srinagar where joined the Super 30 programme that the Indian Army runs for bright young boys like Zahid.

He appeared for his IIT-JEE and secured an enviable rank of 89.

He was over the moon, so was his grandfather.

But the joyous prospect of seeing himself in an IIT was soon overshadowed by a more harsh reality: Zahid Qureshi had no money.

"I approached a bank but I was told that they can loan me the money (for my fees) only after I produce a confirmed admission letter from the institution," he told

"I don't have any money to pay Rs 10,000 for the prescribed counselling. I have been running from pillar to post to arrange the money but I have had no success so far," Zahid says.

He has, of course, heard the story of the Saroj brothers who received financial help from their chief minister and Smriti Irani who waived their admission fees.

"I hope the government will help me too," Zahid says hopefully.

UPDATE: Zahid Ahmed Qureshi will study at IIT

(If you still wish to help Zahid, these are his account details: J&K Bank, Kupwara 0012041000000268; IFSC/Swift code: Jaka0forest; MICR code 193051206

You can reach Zahid on +91.8493.07.3755 and +91.9018.67.6669)

Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow and Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar

Photographs: Sandeep Pal in Lucknow and Umar Ganie in Srinagar

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Sharat Pradhan and Mukhtar Ahmad