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'NASA topper' Saurabh has no proof

Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow | February 26, 2005 09:42 IST

Saurabh Singh, who is at the epicenter of the raging controversy over a NASA award, has no proof of having been to London , where he claims to have appeared in the much debated International Scientist Discovery exam.

The 17-year-old lad from the backward Ballia district of Uttar Pradesh told over the telephone from his home in Narhai village (about 55 Km from Ballia), "All my travel documents, including passport, are lying with B K Bansal of Bansal classes in Kota, ever since I returned from London."

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He said, "Bansal had escorted me to London where I took the main ISD examination between January 4 to 8;  three other Indians -- Himanshu from Mumbai, Shatrughan from Mangalore and Rohit from Delhi -- had also gone along with us."

He claims to have been flown back to Delhi from Heathrow on January 9 after a brief award ritual at the Oxford University, where the merit list showed him as the "topper."

And no sooner than he returned  home and broke the news, the whole family danced with joy. Soon it was in a local newspaper and promptly followed up by regional and national dailies as well as the electronic media.

Saurabh's story begins on April 12, 2004 when he came to Lucknow to appear in the entrance examination for Vision 2000 -- a Kota based rival of Bansal classes.

After clearing the entrance examination, he  joined the centre on April 26 for a full year's  "foundation course" at a consolidated fee of Rs 38,000.

"I also took a small accommodation for my stay on a monthly rent of Rs 1000," he said.

Not an exceptionally bright student, Saurabh had secured just about 72 % in the high school examination of 2003. "I was very keen to join  IIT, therefore my father agreed to afford the best  available coaching in Kota", he said.

It was during the course of a seminar in Kota that he ran into B K Bansal of the widely known Bansal classes. "I asked him if I could join his mathematics classes and he asked me to come for a two-day trial. At the test my performance somehow impressed him so much that he offered to teach me without charging any fees."

Asked how he came to know about the ISD examination, he said, "It was Bansal who showed me the advertisement in 'Eduzine', an educational  journal published from Jaipur; he encouraged me to apply and even paid the examination fee of Rs 1400."

According to him, the preliminary ISD examination was conducted in Jaipur on September 26 . "As many as 200,000 students appeared in the examination. As soon as the result was declared  in October, I got a call at my native place from Bansal to inform me that I had cleared the examination and that I was now eligible to take the main examination to be held at London and Sydney."

He said, "when I expressed my family's inability to afford the travel, Bansal told me not to worry about that as the passage would be paid by the Indian government and that he would take care of the rest."

Saurabh claims to have flown along with Bansal and the three other qualifying Indian students to London on January 3.

"We were put up in a hotel in London from where Bansal would take us every day to Oxford University where the examination was being held; after the last paper on January 8, the result was put up on the notice board with my name on the top and the names of two other Indians -- Himanshu and Shatrughan -- also among the eight to have qualified out of the 100 finalists," he said.

It was during the course of the award function at Oxford, he claims someone (he does not remember) informed him that President A P J Abdul Kalam and astronaut Kalpana Chawla too had taken the same examination.

His disclosure about this feat that purported to place him in the same league as the  two illustrious Indians apparently wrote his nemesis even though he refuted reports that President Kalam denied audience to him after learning about the hoax.

"The President kept his appointment and I had a very inspiring 18-minute meeting with him at the Rashtrapati Bhawan on Wednesday," he asserted.

He claimed that Kalam did not make any inquiries about the International Scientist Discovery examination. "And let me tell you, he saw my certificate and patted me for the achievement,"  Saurabh adds.


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