Most students who aspire to enter the Indian Institute of Technology would want to know the key to clearing the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE). Bhanu Pratap says cracking the test is a feat he must keep a closely-guarded secret back home in Uttar Pradesh.

Bhanu’s father is a wage labourer and mother a domestic help and he hails from a village in Ghazipur district. Caste tensions and the clout of a few rough elements in the village means he cannot be seen rising above his lot.

“I am the only one in my neighbourhood to study this far, but no one knows that I have cleared the IIT entrance. I have not made it known in my village, as life would be made difficult for me and my family by persons from the dominant caste. My family is happy for me though,” Bhanu told The Hindu.

He does not have a power connection at home. However, after having studied under oil lamps and candlelight, he has carved out a place for himself in the country’s elite institution.

Bhanu is among the 28 students of the Patna-based ‘Super 30’ institute to have cracked the IIT-JEE (Advanced) this year. The institute admits 30 students from underprivileged backgrounds each year and prepares them for the JEE free of cost. Founded in 2002, the institute is known for its consistently high success rate.

In 2003, when its batch of students took the test, 18 out of 30 passed. The figure improved in successive years. Of 30 students, 22 cleared the test in 2004, 26 in 2005, 28 in the next two years, all 30 cleared it in the next three years, 24 in 2011 and 27 in 2012, Super 30 founder and mathematician Anand Kumar told The Hindu.

“We conduct a math entrance test of our own to admit students to ‘Super 30’. My brother then conducts interviews to assess their financial background. The entire process takes about 20 days. We don’t charge any fees. We don’t take any donations from anyone. We run parallel tuition classes and that money is used to train the ‘Super 30’ batch. We specifically take poor students who can clear our entrance. Our upper income limit is children of lower division clerks,” says Mr. Kumar, who himself comes from a humble background.

So far the institute’s purview is limited to Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh.

Childhood memories of Abhishek Kumar from Dhanbad involve not having notebooks to write in. “We used rough pages. There were times when my family could not pay my fees,” Abhishek, whose father is a skilled labourer, told The Hindu.

“When I started to prepare, I had no confidence about getting through the test. But after I completed the course, I gained confidence,” says Kunal Kumar from Bihar’s Jehanabad district. When asked how many hours of study one needs to put in on an average, “15 hours, including classes,” is the reply.