Tribal students, belonging to small farming families from remote villages of Gadchiroli and Melghat in Maharashtra, have cleared the recently conducted National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET) 2021 and are soon expected to start undergraduate degree courses in medicine.
Suraj Pungati (19), a resident of Nagargunda village in Bhamragad taluka of Gadchiroli, is happy to have surpassed his own expectations by scoring 378 out of 720 in NEET.
Talking to PTI, the student claimed he will be the first person from his taluka to attend a medical college.
Pungati, the son of a farmer, said there are over 60 families in his village where he is the first one to take up the science stream and is happy that he will now be pursuing medical education.
The student, who belongs to 'Mariya Gond', a particularly vulnerable tribal group in the state, lost his mother four years ago and has a younger brother who is studying in Class 10.
Pungati, who studied at a school in Nagpur, scored 92 per cent marks in Class 10 board exams in 2019 and that's when he decided to become a doctor.
Another tribal student, Sawan Shilaskar (21), the son of a marginal farmer from a small village called Ghota in Dahrni taluka of Melghat region in Amaravati district, has scored 294 out of 720 in NEET.
The journey for both the students was tough due to their limited means, but they got a ray of hope after coming to know about free coaching classes taken up by MBBS students and doctors in Pune through an NGO called Lift For Upliftment (LFU), founded by students and alumni of the B J Medical College there.
The LFU operates for underprivileged and marginalised students, who do not have access to private coaching, its co-founder Dr Ketan Deshmukh, told PTI.
Pungati attended the free coaching classes offered by the LFU daily prior to the COVID-19-induced lockdown and was later forced to attend virtual classes from an ashram school in Hemalkasa in Gadchiroli due to the lack of internet and phone connectivity in his village.
Shilaskar, whose father works on someone else's land and has a meager earning, came to know about the free coaching classes from his seniors.
He mostly studied for NEET from his village with guidance from LFU mentors online.
Deshmukh said they have a special batch named 'Ulgulaan' for Melghat region students since 2017.
"Majority of the mentors at LFU are senior medical students. This year 25 of our students, including three from the tribal regions of Maharashtra, will be taking admissions in medical colleges. Many of those who have received training at the LFU is now studying in medical colleges and some have joined us as teaching faculty," he said.
(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)