Youth come here to live their IAS dreams

Youth come here to live their IAS dreams

Youth come here to live their IAS dreams

Ghettos of Mukherjee Nagar, Laxmi Nagar and Kalu Sarai, known for aggressive coaching institutes, are transit home to young adults in Delhi.

They come with big-ticket dreams of becoming babus, chartered accountants, doctors and engineers.

“Initially, it was like an alien place. But now I find this place more familiar than my native place,” says Shashi Ranjan, 26, a student who has been living in the IAS-aspirant settlement of Mukherjee Nagar for the last seven years.

After finishing his degree from a college in Delhi University’s north campus, he started taking civil services coaching in 2011. “Last time, I went home was one and a half years ago,” the youth from Champaran in Bihar says, explaining how the three-tier civil services examination spaced over 12 months makes time fly.

With over 300 coaching institutes running classes through most of the day, Mukherjee Nagar is the most preferred place for those aspiring to clear civil service examination.

Away in East Delhi, cramped stores and houses at Laxmi Nagar are buzzing always as it is a hub of coaching classes of chartered accountant (CA) students.

“There are benefits of living here. Different coaching institutes have specialised in different subjects – such as accountancy, direct tax, advance
audit, strategic financial management,” says Ashish Kumar, 23, a CA student.

“If you don’t have a home in Delhi, this is the place you come to,” he adds, pointing out that the inescapable signboards of coaching institutes, common at all student ghettos, remind him of what he is here for. 

“After clearing the CPT (or Common Proficiency Test – an entry-level test for chartered accountancy course), a student takes at least three years to
become a CA.

But most take at least five years. And some become CA in their thirties,” said Kumar.

CA students say cheaper accommodation and plethora of dhabas and coaching institutes ensure that hundreds of students pour in every year.

In south Delhi, top coaching centres for IIT-JEE, the joint entrance exam for Indian Institutes of Technology, have one address – Kalu Sarai.

Some of the popular coaching institutes such as FITJEE, Narayana, Bansal’s Classes and Resonance scream out name and photographs of their top rank holder on billboards.

Goaded by their family’s collective aspirations, many students from small towns from across the country head to Mukherjee Nagar or other student ghettos.

“Those who clear IAS exam become part of the village folklore,” says Ranjan, explaining how his IAS dream drives him to stick around the area.

Rents go up

He said the rents have more than doubled in the last seven years that he is here. To keep up with the rising cost of living, he has started to give tuitions to school students.

After Ranjan’s 30-year-old cousin, qualified in the Bihar Public Service Commission exam last year, he has found new roommates in his cousin’s friends.

“All of us come here with IAS dreams; a few make it, and others settle with something else,” he tells about his cousin, who exhausted his all four
attempts for civil services exam.

“There are advantages of living with seniors, you can always fall back on them for study material and guidance,” said Ranjan.

Medhavi Singh, 23, who quit her job as amanagement trainee last year, attends public administration classes at the same coaching institute as Ranjan. She is making her first attempt at the exam, inspired by her civil servant mother.

The clusters of coaching centres and a student population of more than half-a-lakh students in Mukherjee Nagar have spawned an ecosystem which is different from regular colonies of Delhi.

Meeting for chai and rolls is a routine for most IAS-aspirants after their evening classes; as it is for Ranjan and his friends.

In the CA settlement of Laxmi Nagar and young IIT-aspirants’ settlement in Kalu Sarai, students feel a similar camaraderie.

One of the reasons for camaraderie among students is the influx of mainly Hindi-speaking students from UP, Bihar, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh has left an impact on these student ghettos.

CA students say a food stall near the Laxmi Nagar Metro station which offers Bihari dish litti-chokha has become an instant hit because it also doubles up as a meeting ground for students.

The teeming student population has led to mushrooming of coaching institutes, and vice versa.

Other ancillaries like accommodation, dhabas, cyber cafes and bookstores are also flourishing.

There is no accurate explanation to say how the famed student settlements came into being. But most say it all began with the switch from coaching through correspondence to classroom teaching for nerve-wracking entrance tests.

Shops set up

In Kalu Sarai, for instance, FITJEE set up the first-ever centre way back in 1992. And the popular coaching institutes that have set up shop here have grown to the size of around 3,000-4,000 students per batch.

Similarly, CA classroom teachings are now being conducted in auditoriums, which can accommodate anywhere between 300-800 students.

“At times students have to sit on the ground,” says Dharmendra Kumar, a CA student, explaining how these auditoriums are usually packed to capacity.

For an auditorium with a capacity of 500-600 students, an institute running two batches reportedly pays Rs 25 lakh annually, says a tutor at one of the institutes. 

Students on the other hand say they shell out anything between Rs 20,000-30,000 per subject. Similarly, in Mukherjee Nagar various coaching institutes run classes for around 150 students each through the day.

The monthly rent in the student settlement see an annual rise of almost 10 per cent.

With room rents as high as Rs 10,000-15,000, students either pay through their nose or opt for shared occupancy.

“Proximity to coaching institutes and friends’ circle usually prevent people from shifting to neighbouring areas where rents are cheaper,” says Kumar, who lives in a windowless flat with three other students.

The colossal course material for competitive exams ensures good business for bookstores and stationery shops with photocopy machines.

In Laxmi Nagar, for instance, stationery shops and bookstores operate from basements of three-storied buildings. 

“For the last six years that I am here, the cost of photocopying hasn’t gone beyond 40-50 paise per page.

The only problem is that you are likely to be turned down if you go for getting photostats of one or two pages. They only deal in bulk,” says Kumar.

Among the new entrants in the student settlements are popular food joints. A few of them also provide all-night home delivery for students who burn the midnight oil.