Monday, May 23, 2022
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Song Of The Loom

Boys from Gaya's Patwatoli weave their way into the IITs

Song Of The Loom
Song Of The Loom Prashant Ravi

Munna Prasad is one of the four children of a poor weaver of Patwatoli in the benighted Gaya district of Bihar. His father, Krishna, works a back-breaking 16-hour-a-day routine on his looms to bring in a paltry Rs 2,500 home every month. These odds didn't deter Munna from completing high school four years ago and setting his sights on the tough IIT-JEE (Indian Institute of Technology-Joint Entrance Examination), the passport to a promising career in engineering and science. Unable to buy books and sign on expensive courses in preparation, Munna took tuitions by day, earning around Rs 750 a month, and prepared for the examination at night. The effort worked wonders: he cracked the IIT-JEE (rank 2,647) and got admission in Roorkee College of Engineering last year. But now Munna has set his sights higher: he's hopeful of getting Indian School of Mines (ISM) in petroleum, but his first preference is mechanical engineering at the Institute of Technology, Benares Hindu University (IT-BHU). "Here people say Munna will go to America after qualifying in the examinations and earn a lot of money," says father Krishna.

In the boondocks of Patwatoli, a hotbed of Naxalite activity, many like Munna are chasing the same dream. Cutting themselves off from sundry distractions, these boys from the backward Patwa (weaver) community study hard, sometimes in the din of noisy looms, for a place in the JEE. The results from this small town have begun showing in a state which has the highest number of school dropouts (58 per cent at the primary level and up to 80 per cent at high school level) and the literacy rate is 47.53 per cent: 22 boys of Patwatoli have qualified in IIT-JEE and more than 75 have competed in other engineering tests since 1996. Before 1990, the place had only 10 graduates and 30 matriculates. Now there are some 25 IITians, 75 engineers and one UPSC qualifier from this OBC collective of 10,000 families. And, mind you, most qualifiers are first generation.

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