Preparing India’s future IAS, IPS officers

Thirty years ago, Vrajlal Patel gave his best shot but failed to join the civil services. Three failed attempts between 1982 and 1984 left him disheartened.

Patel now provides free coaching to IAS and IPS aspirants, among others. The service tax department employee makes sure others do not make the mistakes he did.

"At the time there was no guidance available. There were no classes. One did not even know where to procure study material and books from. Thankfully, I had cleared the inspector of central excise and customs exams in 1981. That saved my career. I did not want others to face similar hardship and decided to help," he said.

Patel started collecting books that would be useful to prepare for competitive exams. "I was a voracious reader and had a large collection of philosophy books. I kept adding to the collection till my house was full of books and I had to shift some to the houses of friends and neighbours. I acquired medicine, engineering, management, economics and computers books, among others. Initially, I did not have chairs in my house, but books."

Patel has set up "India's largest library for IAS", collecting over 1 lakh books in the past 30 years. He opened the library to students in 1997 for a nominal maintenance deposit and also began guiding them in preparation for civil services and other competitive exams.

However, student feedback made him realise they needed dedicated and regular attention and in 2005, Patel started coaching for free — he only charges for book maintenance — on Saturdays and Sundays.

"I converted my drawing room into classroom," he said.

Seeing his dedication, NGO Vasant Smruti offered Patel a 4,000-square-foot space in Dadar for his library and coaching academy.

The academy has regular lectures on weekends, apart from guest lectures.

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