An entire community in Vallimalai village now looks to 18-year-old M. Rajapandi to act as a catalyst for change.

Hailing from the socially and economically backward Narikurava community, he is on the threshold of a course in medicine after passing the Plus-Two examination scoring 1,167 marks out of 1,200 and a cut off of 197.5. But, he can make it only with some help.

Admission to a government medical college might have been be smooth if he belonged to the Scheduled Tribe community. Narikuravas are in the Most Backward Classes section.

Rajapandi's paternal uncle S. Lakshmanan helped him study in a private school, after his father deserted his wife 12 years ago along with their three sons. Rajapandi is the eldest of the three.

Rajapandi worked hard through school education scoring centum in Mathematics and Biology, 190 in Tamil, 186 in English, 196 in Physics and 195 in Chemistry in the Plus-Two examinations. He scored 463 out of 500 in the SSLC examinations.

Funds for studies did not come easily for Rajapandi. His uncle and mother brought in money from their traditional vocation of selling beads and by toiling on farms. “It was after seeing Rajapandi's performance in the SSLC examinations that I decided to put him in Adhyamaan Matriculation Higher Secondary School at Uthangarai for Plus-One and Plus-Two. On its part, the school management took only Rs.10,000 as fee for two years,” says Mr. Lakshmanan.

Rajapandi has two younger brothers studying in a Panchayat Union Middle School at Konampatti, four km from Vallimalai village.

As many as 200 Narikurava families have been living for more than four decades in the village that comes under the Chandrapatti Panchayat of Uthangarai Panchayat. The village is situated about 20 km from the nearest town of Uthangarai.

Thrilled by the marks scored by Rajapandi, women in the neighbourhood want him to take up medicine, and then civil services, to serve the marginalised sections of society. Rajapandi told The Hindu on Wednesday that he would work for the uplift of his community but would need help from philanthropists during his medical education to get to that position.

Mr. Lakshmanan laments that his socially, educationally and economically backward community is in the Scheduled Tribe category in all other States, but not in Tamil Nadu. This impeded its upliftment.