They are an unusual group of 17 pensioners. Instead of looking for help and support, they go looking for bright students in need of help and then support them financially to fulfill their dreams.
Since 2001 the All India Organisation of Pensioners (AIOP) has helped as many as 77 students.
Seventeen students funded by them have either completed BTech or are pursuing it.
Last week, when Gaurav Nigam, who did BTech from IIT-Kanpur, got a job with Verizon Communications at Chennai, the group had a special reason to celebrate. Gaurav is the their first student who has got a job.
At the age of 13, Gaurav had lost his father. With the support of the group, he continued his studies. In Class X, he ranked 17th in the state and in Class XII, he improved his ranking to 13. Later, Gaurav cleared the IIT-JEE and got admission in the IIT-Kanpur.
Talking to The Indian Express over phone from Chennai, Gaurav said: “I owe my success to AIOP. My mother is a homemaker and after my father’s death the family was dependent on his pension fund. I can never forget the manner in which the AIOP members helped me at every stage.”
One of the first things that Gaurav did after getting the job was to contact the members of AIOP and offered them help in their effort.
Though the group has been in existence since 1969, it has only 17 active members. In 2001, it decided to introduce a students’ welfare scheme. The scheme’s priority is to help meritorious students of economically deprived upper caste families. The AIOP says there are several schemes for such students from SC and ST communities, but few for the upper castes. The finance secretary of the group, Saraswati Dayal Srivastava, said: “We have helped a Muslim girl and a Yadav boy, both brilliant students, who faced financial crisis. But our main objective is to help meritorious students from needy upper caste families.” In 2001, when the scheme was launched, seven students were selected for the scholarship and Rs 10,000 was given to them. This year, the number of beneficiaries reached 22 and the scholarship amount touched Rs 2 lakh.
“The students we supported have never disappointed us,” said M L Gupta, former joint commissioner, Income Tax.
The organisation provides a scholarship of Rs 600 per month till Class VIII and Rs 1,000 for students of Class IX to XII. Those who get selected in reputed institutes for higher studies are given up to Rs 2,000 per month. Besides, students are given financial assistance for competitive exams.
Most of the money comes from contributions made by the members but it is not enough. “We seek donations, or request the educational institution for help,” said Srivastava. The group now plans to spread outside Kanpur.
About the procedure to identify the students, Srivastava said: “We visit schools and collect information about meritorious students from deprived families and examine their academic record. We meet their families to see their financial status. Only then we give the scholarship.”
Ashish Agarwal, who cleared IIT-JEE this year and got admission in IIT-K, lives in a one-room house. His father Ram Agarwal works at a shop and gets Rs 3,500 per month. The AIOP spotted him and started providing a scholarship to him in 2005. “It’s a dream come true. I never thought my son will ever go to IIT-K,” said Ram Agarwal.
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