Vraj Patel,55,regrets he could not qualify for the civil service examination due to lack of guidance. However,he feels that young aspirants should not face this disadvantage. So,two decades ago,he set up a library and free career guidance centre for them.
The Maharishi Dayanand Foundation IAS Academy has been training not only civil service aspirants,but also candidates attempting other competitive exams.
In 1974,when I first came to Mumbai from Saurashtra in Gujarat with a dream to become a doctor,I did not know that a domicile certificate was required for admission to MBBS course. I could not produce the certificate and failed to secure admission in the course. I then started preparing for civil service. I could not succeed due to lack of proper guidance. I appeared for customs and excise inspectors examination,which I managed to clear, Patel said.
Patel now works as a customs and central excise inspector. I then started guiding students and encouraging them to prepare for civil services. I started collecting books,which were otherwise expensive and unaffordable for many.
He said several hundred students who sought guidance from the academy were now serving at various ranks in government jobs. Among the prominent ones are Additional Commissioner of Police (Western region) Vishwas Nangre-Patil,Assistant Commissioner (Customs and Central Excise) Divya Iyer and winner of Kaun Banega Crorepati I,Harshwardhan Nawathe.
Patel started the free library and guidance centre service at his residence in Dadar. However,he could not accommodate more than 50 students at a time due to space constraint. Later,an NGO provided him with a 4,000-sq ft space at Vasant Smruti building in Dadar (East). It can accommodate 200 students.
I welcomed donations in the form of books from newspaper offices and other organisations. I made an in-house library with 25,000 books, said Patel. Today,the number has increased to one lakh books on a variety of subjects for students studying for IAS,IPS,IRS,IFS,Maharashtra Public Service Commission (MPSC),Union Public Service Commission (UPSC),medical and engineering courses. Every student has to pay security deposit while borrowing the books. But once it is returned,they get back their money.
When Delhi ranks high in the number of toppers in the IAS and IPS exams,why cant Mumbai? Patel added.
Dr Krishna Wishwakarma,who is currently preparing for IAS,said,The library proves helpful for students who come from the economically weaker section. Experts from Delhi and other parts of the country provide free guidance to students, said Wishwakarma.
I dont want any student to feel they dont have proper guidance centre. The doors of my library and guidance centre are open for them 365 days a year, said Patel.