This story comes from the land of disenchanted, which regrettably in the recent past has been synonymous and tabooed as the shore of agitators, insurgents and non-conformists: Kashmir. While Kashmir oscillates between dreams and despair, the children incarcerated in the conflict zone in particular, are one of the worst sufferers. The hope and the future of the nation rests on these dexterous shoulders and it is these same shoulders which are being deprived of the good fortune of a systematic educational upbringing. They are more or less entangled in the conflict than to their education. But there will always appear champions from the ashes who exemplify grit, determination, perseverance and pride. The story is also about the superlative time-tested Institution called the Indian Army and a benevolent partner, HPCL, both of which are at the very heart of this triumph and foremost pillars.
June 2018, Indian Army, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) and National Integrity and Educational Development Organisation (NIEDO) embarked upon a journey to transform the lives of 35 Kashmiri heroes, post some real diligence. They together joined hands and started up a facility in the heart of Srinagar to coach and mentor these 35 students, all of them coming from economically disadvantaged backgrounds for a period of one year for National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), formerly the All India Pre-Medical Test (AIPMT). Inadequacy of quality educational coaching infrastructure and with myriad other challenges, aspiring for higher education at national level, these students remain severely handicapped. The problem gets amplified for children coming from lower socio-economic strata. With this as the stimulus, a fully residential project called Army HPCL Kashmir Super 30 (Medical)/Centre of Excellence was launched to coach the local students from not so privileged backgrounds for NEET. Basically, providing them with a platform to leap into the sunshine. The project’s success was primarily based on the three project partners, Indian Army which, provided custom made accommodation for the students and oversaw the progress of the project right from its inception till the results were declared in June 2019. Second, HPCL, which provided with the budgetary support from their CSR kitty for the infrastructure and yearlong running of the project and the third member was NIEDO, an NGO which was the training partner responsible for the entire management and its successful running.
Flash forward June 2019. After a grueling one year of intense coaching and mentoring, which included academics, psychological coaching and motivational counselling, all 35 students cracked the NEET and after the final round of counselling, 10 got through MBBS, 2 got through BDS & balance 23 students got through Allied branches. This splendid result symbolises the aspirations and flamboyance of today’s Kashmiri youth who aspire a life beyond a belligerent climate and kudos to the institutions which were at the forefront of enjoining the local society with the mainstream populace – Indian Army and HPCL.