Kalu Sarai: lanes which are home to IIT-JEE hopefuls

This south Delhi locality is crammed with coaching institutes, hostels and eatries

Karttikey Classes — Last chance to revive hopes for IIT-JEE aspirants”, reads a signboard in a narrow lane of Kalu Sarai. The centre, which assured students “success” with a crash course shut down a year back. But there are many more  “promising” institutes in this neighbourhood.

At Sri Chaitanya, an academic counsellor tries to convince a student how their coaching centre scores over FIITJEE. “Here you will be tutored in a batch of 30, whereas at FIITJEE it is a batch of 40. Don’t you think it makes a difference? And, do not trust the cheaper institutes. Those usually shut down mid-term.”

The student mumbles he will come back with his father for enrolment.

For years now, IIT-JEE aspirants have flocked to the narrow bylanes of Kalu Sarai to nurture their dreams of cracking engineering-based entrance exams. In 1992, FIITJEE opened its first centre here.

Following this, the “educational hub” of south Delhi saw the mushrooming of several IIT-JEE coaching institutes. While some institutes have been here for almost 20 years now, a few have come up recently and are often looked down upon as “fly-by-night” centres by the bigger brands. Alongside have come up several hostels, paying guest accommodation and eateries to cater to students.

“We receive almost 70 per cent outstation students. They hail from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. In the last two-three years, the market scenario has changed. With expenses running high and several coaching institutes coming up in these states, the number of outstation pupils has gone down,” says Rahman, an academic coordinator at Sri Chaitanya.

At Mishra Book Depot, salesperson Vijay Kumar says there is at least 20 per cent dip in the number of outstation students.

While some institutes enrol students for both engineering and medical courses, Kalu Sarai is more famous as the hub of engineering coaching centres.

“In our institute, the focus is on grooming students for engineering entrance exams,” says Sadhana Bansal. The 23-year-old centre has  three programmes running throughout the year.

“One is for plus two students and the other for the current batch of Class 12 students. The third slot is for passouts who take a year off to prepare for entrances. Over 50 per cent of the 200 students in the last slot are from outside the city,” adds Bansal.

Piyush Rathore, 22, thinks he learnt more in a year than he did in his four-year-long bachelor’s programme in UP. “I have secured a decent rank in GATE which I owe to the tutorial here. We hardly had classes in the government engineering college in UP.”

The Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) is an all-India examination for entry into various post-graduate programmes in higher educational institutes across the country.

While Rathore shelled out Rs 52,000 for a one-year-long course at Made Easy, other institutes are charging between Rs 80,000 to Rs 90,000 for the same course. Some centres also offer students “attractive scholarships” if they score well in the coaching’s admission test. A 90 per cent or above may even secure a student a 100 per cent scholarship on the tution fee in some institutes.

An institute like Vision IIT-JEE sells the IIT dream early to students. “We suggest students enrol for the four-year-long programme. If they take the course from Class 9, they are likely to benefit more,” says Ruchi Daud, a counsellor. It is difficult to attract students from the south, she adds. Most students come from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. “With the south and West Bengal having several such centres, we do not get students from these parts at all.”

Manisha Gupta, who hails from Lakhisarai in Bihar, believes it is mainly the lack of opportunities in their hometowns that draws students to the capital. “It is expensive to stay outside and study for a year. But the exposure is worth it, ”  she says. Gupta will finish her one-year course at FIITJEE in June.

Rita Kumari and Neel Kamal, who came to enrol their 17-year-old son at FIITJEE, says it was  necessary to bring him outside Bihar for development in his career. “There is a FIITJEE centre in Patna. But he would not have got the same exposure there.” It would cost the couple over Rs 2.27 lakh apart from the institute’s hostel charges at Mehrauli. The teenager is awaiting his board results. “The school fees would be an additional cost,” says Kamal.

To cater to students’ varying tastes, Kalu Sarai now has roll counters, bakeries and Chinese outlets besides the regular dabbawallahs. “Students love the fried chilli potato and momos here,” says a cook at HS China Town.

“Every day I supply 110 dabbas to students living in PGs within three km from this place. It shows that this is still a popular destination for students outside Delhi,” says Lukesh who runs an eatery from a basement.

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