SUNSHINE WHEN THE SKIES WERE GREY
1. 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.
2. While Kashmir oscillates between dreams and despair, the children incarcerated in the conflict zone in particular, are one of the 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.
3. But, but there will always appear champions from the ashes who exemplify grit, determination, perseverance and pride. This chronicle is also about the superlative time tested Institution called the Indian Army and which is also at the heart of this account.
4. 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).
5. 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 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.
6. The projects success was primarily based on the three project partners, Indian Army which was the chief architect behind the project, provided custom made infrastructure 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 and the third member was NIEDO, an NGO which was the training partner.
7. Flash forward June 2019. After a gruelling 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.
8. 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 institution which is at the forefront of enjoining the local society with the mainstream populace – Indian Army.
9. Some of us have already played a tiny part in partially equipping these 35 students. Hereinafter I wish hope and pray that some of you play your role to aid these kids for the next four years of their life defining period. I sincerely crave if few of the virtuous and magnanimous corporate houses, the CSR big boys, Foundations, honourable individuals, philanthropists come forward and hold the hands of these kids for the balance of the journey because there is already the second batch(2019-2020) waiting at the entrance of the tunnel, to be held by the first set of partners. Additionally, I would also request the well heeled individuals/organisations to come forward and furnish their emphatic assistance for Projects already planned and in the pipeline for these bright and ingenious but hapless juveniles of the land.
10. For the rest of you, my friends, I request you to promulgate this, so that all of these 35 adolescents and many more are aided and leapfrog into the Sunshine when the skies are grey.