Mumbai: Regret of not having proper guidance and resources when he attempted Civil Services Examination (CSE) between 1982 and 1984, led 62-year-old Vrajlal Patel to start a free library and coaching centre for IAS aspirants. Patel’s three failed attempts to clear IAS exams did leave him disheartened, but encouraged him to help others.
In, 1997 he set up a library and free career guidance centre for such IAS aspirants. The Maharishi Dayanand Foundation IAS Academy in Dadar has been training not only civil service aspirants, but also candidates attempting other competitive exams.
Patel provides free coaching at nominal charges (at no profit no loss basis) and a free library to IAS and IPS aspirants, among others. Patel says he doesn’t want them to suffer the way he did due to lack of guidance and resources.
“I first came to Mumbai from Saurashtra in Gujarat in 1974, aspiring to become a doctor. However, in the absence of a domicile certificate, which is needed for admission to the MBBS course, and some other requirements, I missed out on the opportunity. My goal then was to clear the civil service examination. However, I could not succeed due to a lack of proper guidance and resources. I then appeared for customs and excise inspector examination, which I managed to clear,” Patel said.
“However, the regret of not clearing CSE due to lack of resources stayed with me. I wanted to guide students and encourage them to prepare for civil services. I made it my mission to collect books that were expensive and unaffordable for many, seek donations and even pitch in from my own pocket to fund my endeavour,” he added.
Patel started the free library and guidance centre at his residence in Dadar. However, he could not accommodate more than 50 students at a time due to space constraints. Later, an NGO provided him with a 4,000-sq ft space at the Vasant Smruti building in Dadar (East). It could accommodate 200 students.
Within two years (1997-1999) Patel managed to collect 25000 books and by 2013 he managed to collect and buy more books and the number increased to one lakh.
Currently, the number of books in Maharishi Dayanand Foundation IAS Academy has almost touched the 5-lakh mark. There are books on a variety of subjects for students preparing for IAS, IPS, IRS, IFS, Maharashtra Public Service Commission (MPSC), Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), medical and engineering courses. Every student has to pay a security deposit while borrowing the books. But once it is returned, they get their money back; the membership is free.
However, student feedback made him realise they needed dedicated and regular attention and in 2005, Patel started coaching with nominal charges not for profit but towards the remuneration of the visiting faculty.
Apart from this, Patel's centre also conducts free IQ and aptitude tests for classes X, XII and other students and provides career counselling. He has also managed to start another centre in Junagadh, Gujarat. While the third centre at Dahanu will be inaugurated on August 15, 2021. “The Dahanu centre will be mainly dedicated for tribal students and has been facilitated with the help of Ashima Mittal Agrawal, Assistant collector and project director of Integrated Tribal Development Projects (ITDP), Dahanu,” Patel informed.
Patel said many students who sought guidance from the academy are now serving at various ranks in government jobs. However, even today he charges only book maintenance deposit and a nominal amount for coaching. Patel says this is his contribution to society.