At 22 years, Vatsalya Chauhan has a dream job. In December 2015, Microsoft hired him as a software developer for a salary of Rs 1.2 crore a year to work at its headquarters at Redmond, Washington.
But before this Bihar man flies to the US in November this year, he wants to set in motion a childhood dream: a school for children of Maoists to help them escape left-wing extremism.
Chauhan, who hails from the Naxalite bastion of Khagaria in north Bihar, graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, in April this year and returned to his native town with two IITian friends, Ashutosh Baheti and Dhruv Jain, to start work on the school project.
“We have registered a trust named Parivartan and got 5 acres land from a local philanthropist. We will now work on developing curriculum for the school before construction begins. Our aim is to get it going in 3 years from now,” Chauhan said over phone from Bengaluru, where he is visiting some schools to understand how they work.
Eldest of six siblings and son of a small-time welder, Chauhan says he will visit Kota in October first week to learn how coaching centres design their study material, which is so useful to students preparing for the country’s prestigious engineering and medical entrance examinations.
Chauhan came to Kota in 2009 after passing Class 10 from a Hindi-medium school in Khagaria with an IIT dream in his eyes and enrolled with a coaching centre.
It was a difficult decision for his father, Chandra Kant Singh, to fund Chauhan’s education in Kota because of his meager earnings. From his welding workshop where he makes steels almirahs, metal grilles, gates and shutters, and tractor trolleys, Singh earns `30,000 a month and has five other children to look after.
Chauhan got 9,000-plus rank in 2011 IIT-JEE and wasn’t too happy with it. He wanted to take another shot at the prestigious exam but his father thought it will be difficult for him to fund another year. He believed that he could still get an IIT with that rank.
“But his teachers, Vishal Joshi and Amit Ahuja, had spotted his caliber and wanted him to take another attempt at JEE. They told me just arrange for his train ticket and we will take care of the rest,” says Singh.
Rajesh Maheshwari of Allen Career Institute offered him free coaching, board and lodging.
When results of IIT-JEE 2012 were announced, Chauhan’s rank was 382 and he enrolled in Bachelor of Technology, Computer Science, at IIT-Kharagpur.
“The complete blueprint of the school is not ready yet,” says Chauhan, “but before I fly to the US, I will have everything thrashed out.”
The model school that he and his three IIT friends are working on will have reservation on the basis of talent and economic status of families. “We will offer free education to at least 40% students, and give scholarship to children of Naxals,” he says.
Small towns such as Khagaria, he says, are full of talented children but they don’t get guidance.
“I always try to help such students when they visit my house. The son of an auto-driver, who drove me to my hostel from Kharagpur railway station sometime in 2013, began visiting me since he was in Class 9. This year he took IIT-JEE and got into an NIT,” he says.
Chauhan says he was always available to students or their parents for any IIT-related query. “You can even mention my mobile phone number in your report for it to circulate.”