The weekend crowds at Patna’s Kali Ghat beside the Ganga have been exceptionally big for the previous two months. Sunday isn’t any different. Thousands of students from Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Maharashtra are scribbling away on mock test papers for the Group D Railways examination on the steps of the enormous ghat.
This same group of students, numbering over 7,000, had taken a practise test for the Railways’ RRB-NTPC examination the day before.
S K Jha, a mechanical engineer by training who has been instructing Railways applicants since 2014, is the brains behind these 90-minute mock exam sessions.
“My goal is to make these practise examinations for Railways exams more democratic,” Jha explains. As a result, he offers these free sessions, which draw a large crowd. Many of these candidates are from low-income families, including the children of daily wagers, farmers, and rickshaw drivers.
“However, I don’t inquire about their past.” It’s a battle against joblessness. Jha, who spends up to Rs 45,000 every session, adds, “My objective is to give energy to the preparation of pupils.” “Because my coaching centre only has approximately 1,200 pupils, I have to give these mock examinations at Kali Ghat in the mornings on Saturdays and Sundays.”
Jha was arrested by the police in January after huge protests against a change in the Railways’ recruiting policy, along with three other teachers, including the well-known “Khan sir,” for “inciting the protests” and preventing public officials from performing their responsibilities.
The Patna administration thereafter summoned Khan sir and Jha to provide their side of the story.
The recruiting decision was later reversed by the Centre. RRB-NTPC and Group D tests will now take place in May and July, respectively. These simulated examinations will be held for another two months.
“Our huge numbers demonstrate the degree of unemployment and the demand for government jobs,” Manoj Keshav, son of a Gaya farmer, said after taking the test on Sunday.
Jha, who was born in Birpur, Supaul, had completed his B.Tech (Mechanical) at an Odisha institution and had accepted a job in Maharashtra for only ten days. In 2014, he switched to coaching and opened a centre in Patna with just four students.
His centre has over 2,000 students registered, and his YouTube channel has around 6.5 lakh active viewers. On his channel, he charges Rs 99 for teaching a subject. His students had nothing but good things to say about him.
“I have been staying in Patna for three years after graduation,” says Ravi Paswan, a student from Gumla, Jharkhand. My father earns less than Rs 20,000 per month but continues to support me.”
“Though Ashok Rajpath area has several coaching centres, no one thought of organising free examinations,” Shambhu Mandal, a Madhepura student whose father is a poor farmer, remarked. Jha sir has made a wonderful gesture.”
The turnout, according to Jha, was overwhelming. “I can relate to them.” My plan is to help them in every way I can.”