Coaching institutes have gained as demand for Railways and SSC jobs is high in rural areas.

New Delhi: The Kali Ghat near the Ganga at Patna was in headlines recently as a large number of students gathered on weekends, giving mock tests for Group-C and Group-D examination of Railways and Group-C, Group-B examinations of Staff Selection Commission (SSC) organized by coaching institutes. The Sunday Guardian traced the coaching industry of SSC and Railways, how it is different from Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), pre-medical and engineering and what difficulties students have to face.
“Students here are quite different from those who are preparing for UPSC or pre-medical entrance examination. Most of them are from poor backgrounds. For many in rural India, getting an SSC or railway job is the first preference. They hardly get anything between Rs 4,000-Rs 7,000 from their family to survive in Patna during coaching. Most of them who come to prepare here have a window of one to two years or else they have to go back to villages and do menial work. Some who are economically better go to New Delhi and prepare in Mukherjee Nagar, which has now developed more as an SSC hub. In Patna only, you have more than one lakh students preparing for the Railway and SSC examinations. The syllabus is same in many respects; hence, it is possible to prepare side by side,” said Shailendra Kumar who runs Railway Per kabza, a coaching institute in Patna since 2014.
Despite being a low-budget coaching industry, the number of aspirants had made this industry a big one as no examination even something as prestigious as UPSC can match the number of aspirants who appear in these examinations. In a recent Railway examination, more than 90 lakh students appeared. Unlike the students who pay more than Rs two lakh to coaching institutes during their UPSC or medical entrance preparation, the coaching institutes of SSC and railway charge in the range of Rs 10,000-20,000 even in New Delhi’s Mukherjee Nagar. “You cannot compare SSC/Railway students with UPSC. These examinations are for recruiting low grade employees. The students need not analyse things in detail, but they just need to have the basic knowledge of mathematics, reasoning, general science, current affairs etc,” said Nishant Singh who is teaching “Reasoning” independently in Mukherjee Nagar.
It is not that only in Patna students collectively gives mock tests on weekends. In many other cities and towns on weekends students are found giving mock tests at a large park or railway platform. “It is going on in Varanasi, Patna, Muzaffarpur, Prayagraj and Jaipur as per my information,” added Shailendra.
“I prepared in Prayagraj for six months before the Covid pandemic. But, I thought of coming to Delhi as it is the mecca of all entrance preparation. In Prayagraj, my monthly expenses were Rs 8,000, but in New Delhi, I have to spend at least Rs 12,000. My family is in the condition to help, but most of my fellow aspirants cannot afford to come to New Delhi. The UPSC students are few in number in Mukherjee Nagar, the majority here are preparing for SSC or Railways.
The UPSC student areas like Old Rajendra Nagar are quite expensive,” said Karan Rajveer Singh who hails from Dhanbad in Jharkhand. Asked about the difficulties he had to face and how different is the environment and teaching faculty in New Delhi compared to Prayagraj, he said, “Leaving home is always a difficult thing. But, a job is most important.” On the level of teaching faculty, he added, “I don’t find any major difference. The fee in New Delhi is a bit high. In Prayagraj, we used to get the full coaching at Rs 8,000, while here, I am paying Rs 18,000 for the course. Moreover, I have subscribed to the paid online course of Khan General Studies Research Centre.”

During the lockdown, the online platform Khan General Studies Research Centre, run by a teacher popularly known as “Khan Sir”, gained prominence and now it has 15.6 million subscribers and his focus is primarily SSC and Railway general studies topics.