The result of the IIT-JEE Advanced 2015 examination has brought great cheer to the engineering aspirants of Jammu and Kashmir, especially the Kashmir valley.
Two students from the valley and one from Kargil, coached under a programme sponsored by the Indian Army as a part of its two and a half decade old welfare initiative – Operation Sadbhavna have cleared this prestigious examination.
Zahid Ahmed Quershi of Kupwara secured all India 89th rank and Gazi Hussain Malik of Shopian secured all India 112th rank in the physically challenged category while Ajaz Ali of Kargil secured all India 598th rank in Scheduled Tribe category.
Most aptly named the ‘Kashmir Super 30’ project and modeled after the well-known ‘Super 30’ programme of Bihar, this initiative was launched by the Indian Army only last year under partnership with the Centre for social responsibility and leadership.
In the first year, 23 underprivileged yet academically brilliant students were selected from across the state and coached for competitive examinations in the engineering stream. Of these, one cleared the IIT-JEE Advanced examination and as many as 17 found seats in other prestigious engineering colleges, an impressive beginning by all standards.
Buoyed by the success, the army selected 36 students for the current academic session. Apart from the three who cleared the IIT entrance, 27 more have secured admission in various engineering colleges within and outside the state.
This impressive feat is an ode to the students of the state, especially the Kashmir valley. They have proved beyond doubt that, given the right platform, they are second to none on the achievement index. They have the willpower and the intellect to compete with the very best.
In times of political turbulence, the first to take a hit is the social indices. Jammu and Kashmir was no exception. Both the economy and infrastructure of the state took a beating during the period of peak terrorism.
During that critical phase, way back in 1990, the Indian Army came forward to make a herculean effort to stem the rot by initiating Operation Sadbhavna.
The intention was to offer a helping hand to the people left wanting in terms of civic and social infrastructure due to no fault of theirs. Under the ambit of Operation Sadbhavna, the Indian Army buttressed the flailing social sector in the state.
Reconstructing the image of the security forces in the mind of the common man from the ogres that they had been painted into to the positive performers and builders that they actually were was, no doubt, an additional goal.
During the times of peak terrorism, most of the government schools ceased to function, especially in the Kashmir valley. The Army, under Operation Sadbhavna, opened a number of Army Goodwill Schools, mostly in remote inaccessible areas of the state, with the intention of providing quality education for a nominal fee to the deprived children. The Army, through this effort, not only provided education in areas that were un-serviced but also generated employment for trained teachers.
The Indian Army has over the years established 46 Army Goodwill Schools and rendered assistance to approximately 1,900 state government run schools in remote areas through renovation, construction of additional class rooms, libraries, toilets, playgrounds, sports facilities, provisioning of furniture, computers, educational software packages, stationary and books.
Approximately one lakh students have obtained middle and higher secondary level education in Army Goodwill Schools in the last 15 years. About 14,000 students are currently obtaining quality education at primary/ higher secondary levels. 840 students from economically weaker sections are receiving scholarships for studies in schools within and outside the state; the outlay for this scholarship scheme is more that Rs. two crores.
The popularity of Army Goodwill Schools can be measured by the fact that there is a growing demand by the local population for opening more such schools.
Besides imparting quality education the Army Goodwill Schools are also providing employment to qualified youth of the state. As on date, nearly 1,000 teaching and non-teaching staff from among the local population is employed in various Army Goodwill Schools.
Over the years, the Army has expanded the scope of the education initiative. It has made tremendous effort to help students pursue higher education outside the state. Nearly 560 students have been assisted in obtaining admission in various institutions like Pacific University, Udaipur, Global Research Institute, Kurukshetra, Noida International University, Greater Noida and Hunar-e-Tarash, a rural ministry initiative. Most of the students studying in Army Goodwill Schools under scholarship have also been assisted in obtaining admission in institutes outside Jammu and Kashmir.
Education is simply one of many sectors where development and welfare programmes are being carried out under Operation Sadbhavna. In an effort to involve the youth in gainful and constructive activity, the Army has established a number of youth employment guidance nodes which provide the young boys and girls information regarding employment opportunities available to them. Vocational training and women empowerment centres have been established across the state. Tours are being conducted for young and old to create awareness among the people of the state about the phenomenal growth trajectory of the nation and motive them towards becoming a part of the success story.
The focus of Operation Sadbhavna in Jammu and Kashmir is on improving the core social indices through quality education, women and youth empowerment, infrastructure development and health and veterinary care.
The locals in Kashmir, particularly those living in remote and physically disadvantaged areas, look towards the Army for resolution of their many problems. They approach the Army for all kinds of help ranging from building of a road to help in availing a loan from the civil administration. The dependence on the Army is explained not only by its accessibility and willingness to help but also by the promptness of its response and the element of honesty in its approach.
(Jaibans Singh is an author and columnist. He can be reached on @jaibanssingh)