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Lakshmir Bhandar helps a poor Birbhum boy study on the internet and crack the NEET.- GetBengal story

26 June, 2024 17:02:02
Lakshmir Bhandar helps a poor Birbhum boy study on the internet and crack the NEET.- GetBengal story

West Bengal’s social support scheme, Lakshmir Bhandar, has again brought a positive change in the life of a student who had no money to fill his mobile internet on which he was studying for NEET, the competitive examination that acts as a stepping stone to do MBBS and become a doctor. With no means to pay for expensive tuitions, it was his mother’s monthly Lakshmir Bhandar money that came to his aid. The name Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth, is derived from the root word 'Laksh', which means 'pleasing'. Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and auspiciousness in the Indian pantheon, symbolises sustenance and security. Enabling humans to lead a decent life entails, among other things, the cultivation of their basic capabilities to cope with the vicissitudes of life. In enhancing such capabilities, whether social support schemes and basic income support policies like the Lakshmir Bhandar are an expression of social commitment to human empowerment, under the apt leadership of West Bengal CM Hon’ble Mamata Banerjee, many such schemes have brought a positive change in the lives of different sections of society.

Mehfuz Alam, alias Rahul, is a resident of Kaytha, an insular village in Nalhati, Birbhum district. This boy, who has been helping his father all day in his tiny teashop and burning the midnight candle for months, has taken the entire locality by surprise and joy by cracking the National Eligibility and Entrance Test (NEET), a national-level medical entrance exam to study MBBS in West Bengal. Organised by the National Testing Agency (NTA), NEET is widely regarded as a tough and challenging exam, with a high level of difficulty for an average student due to the pressure of time constraints, the complexity of the syllabus, and intense competition.

What is even more outstanding is the fact that the regular money Rahul’s mother received under the state government’s Lakshmir Bhandar Scheme helped him to continue his studies on a mobile phone. Rahul used the lone mobile phone the family owns to study online and get access to free coaching classes and study materials. He secured 673 out of 720 marks in the medical entrance exam in his very first attempt. His all-India rank is close to 12 thousand, and Lakshmir Bhandar has been instrumental in his road to success. He would recharge the mobile with money his mother received under the Lakshmir Bhandar Scheme every month. 

Rahul has always been sincere about pursuing higher studies. When he was studying in Class XI, he sold cow’s milk from door to door early in the morning daily and saved money to buy the mobile phone. In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the nationwide lockdown impacted the education sector in a major way. Schools were closed, classes were suspended, and exams were cancelled to contain the spread of the contagious COVID-19 virus. Yet Rahul cleared the final Madhyamik examinations with 92 percent aggregate marks.

He chose to take up the science stream for his higher secondary. Initially, he had planned to take up a government job. He was keen to join the Navy, but he could not clear the field test. Later, he contemplated studying engineering. However, he was aware of his father’s financial condition and was doubtful about his ability to shoulder the massive expenses involved in studying engineering. After many deliberations, Rahul finally zeroed in on studying medicine.

Rahul’s father inherited the teashop from his father. It is located at the corner of a hospital, close to the Koitha bus stand. He runs the shop with his son’s help. The family owns a milch cow that produces 10 kg of milk daily. This milk is sold in the neighbourhood, and most of Rahul’s books were purchased with that money. His mother receives money from the Lakshmi Bhandar, and she pitched in to recharge her son’s internet with that money. He studied on that phone. Rahul has already chalked out a broad plan to meet the future expenses he will have to incur to continue his higher education. He is aware of the state government’s various schemes for underprivileged students and plans to apply for an education loan in the future.

The Government of West Bengal, Department of Women and Child Development and Social Welfare, introduced a cash transfer scheme, namely, Lakshmir Bhandar, in February 2021. It was launched by CM Mamata Banerjee. The programme is aimed at providing financial assistance to the women of the state. It is targeted at empowering women belonging to the economically weaker sections of society. The scheme has already impacted the unstable lives of its recipients and enhanced their freedom to think and act. What is of particular interest is the feature of consistency in the flow of (albeit modest) support that is built into the programme, and hence its potential to somewhat reduce the myriad insecurities that plague people’s lives in the state, starting from rural distress to post-COVID low incomes.

This year, the state government has increased the monthly cash assistance for the recipients to improve their financial condition. The beneficiaries will now be receiving Rs ₹1,000 instead of Rs 500, and women from SC and ST households will be given Rs 1200 per month. Rahul’s case is a shining example of how Lakshmir Bhandar has brought about a sea change in the lives of many.

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