Punjab’s Mansa district, which has been mourning the death of its country singer-rapper Sidhu Musewala for almost a month, has now got a big reason to rejoice.
Manmeet Singh, 24, a resident of Budhlada town in Manesa, Punjab’s most backward district in terms of education and other facilities, was commissioned as a flying officer in the Indian Air Force. Force (IAF), during the Joint Graduation Parade of the Indian Air Force Academy, Dundigal, near Hyderabad, Telangana on June 18.
Probably the first to join the IAF as a Flying Officer from Mansa, what makes Manmeet’s achievement even more special is that his parents are government school teachers under the Punjab Education Department and he himself Studied in a village government school till class 10th. Joining Punjab Public School, Nabha (formerly known as Sainik Singh, alumnus of many veterans of the Indian Armed Forces).
“I come from Mansa which has always been known as backward district due to lack of educational and other facilities. Here the students really don’t get the motivation to think differently and aim big in life. Most of the youth of Mansa are aiming to become constable in Punjab Police to secure their source of livelihood or others are doing IELTS and going abroad. I would suggest them to think big and don’t stop even after failures. I myself failed three interviews before I was finally selected. Instead of going abroad, think about staying in your country and working hard here,” Manmeet said.
Manmeet studied till class 5 at Government Primary School in Mohar Singh village of Mansa and then from class 6 to 10 at PPS Nabha. Thereafter he cleared the entrance exam and took admission in Maharaja Ranjit Singh Armed Forces Preparation Institute (MRSAFPI), Mohali. From where he passed 11th and 12th.
However, even after clearing the NDA written exam in 2016, he could not clear the interview, following which he took admission in B.Sc (Non-Medical) at Guru Nanak College, Budhlada to complete his graduation. “After graduation, I also started doing B.Ed, but kept on preparing for IAF. I cleared my Air Force Common Admission Test (AFCAT) during B.Ed and got a call for interview.
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But the seeds of passion and determination to become an Air Force pilot were sown during schooling at PPS Nabha, he said.
“It was at PPS Nabha when former Army Chief General Bikram Singh came to our school and I got a chance to interact with him. He was an alumnus of our school. Talking to him inspired me a lot and I decided to join the Air Force. Then we were also taken on an educational journey with the Indian Army to Jammu and Kashmir and that was also a major inspiration. Apart from my father and General Bikram Singh, my other role models have been Major General (Retd) Baljit Singh Grewal who was the director of MRSAFPI,” Manmeet said.
Manmeet’s father Dr. Karnail Vairagi is a lecturer in Political Science at the Government Senior Secondary School, Mansa’s Hodla Kalan village, while his mother Geeta Bala is a teacher in the Government Primary School, Jeetgarh Biroke Khurd, Mansa’s village.
“It was a golden moment for us to go to Hyderabad for our son’s graduation ceremony. We never stopped him from pursuing what he wanted, said the recluse. “This proves that even the students passing out from government schools are no less, they just need inspiration. We need more academies like MRSAFPI at the district level to prepare students from backward districts for armed forces,” he said.
“It is only because of the atmosphere that I got at home that always inspired me to read. My parents used to study with me when I used to prepare for the entrance exams. My father never gave up studies and recently completed his PhD too,” Manmeet said.
“People used to ask him why are you sending your only son to the armed forces but he never stopped me,” he said.
But Manmeet says he faced the same hurdle after passing out of class V from a government school. “During the formative years at PPS Nabha, where I joined class 6, I faced difficulty in speaking English as there was no language experience in a government school. I learned slowly by watching my peers and teachers but it was difficult as I came from Punjabi speaking background. This is where government schools can focus more,” said Manmeet, who is now on his way to Yelahanka IAF station in Karnataka for specialized training.