On a sunny Saturday afternoon, a boy travelled 10 kilometres to a remote village of Ganderbal district. A group of young children were waiting in an open field with a pen and copy in their hands. The group has been attending the sessions for the past three months. Suhail Mehraj, a youth in his early 20s has been working hard to educate these kids.
Suhail Mehraj, 21, is a resident of central Kashmirâ€™s Ganderbal district. He has been a newsmaker since he was a teen. He propelled to fame when he wrote a research paper on a lesser-known topic of â€˜Dragonfliesâ€™ in his 10th standard. The research dealt with the reproductive stage, breeding pattern, life-cycle and impact of environmental changes on Dragonflies.Â
Suhail was honoured for the research at the 2014 Indian International Science Festival at IIT New Delhi.
â€œAs a child, I was fascinated by dragonflies; I used to chase them in the paddy fields of my village. I never knew that my childhood fascination would become my passion,â€ Suhail said.
â€œI started my research on Dragonflies in my ninth standard. My findings were acknowledged by the scientists at Sheri-I-Kashmir University of Agricultural Science and Technology (SKAUST). But I was discouraged due to the lack of moral and financial support which was a must for my research. I eventually completed my research after two years of hard work,â€ he added.Â
The incident prompted Suhail to work for the education and social development of the valley youth.Â He has now become a well-known advocate for the youth; he raises his voice over issues that concern the younger generation.Â
Suhail along with a few of his friends started an initiative to improve the state of education in Kashmir.Â The group enrolled hundreds of students of first-generation learners. The initiative was well-received by people in Ganderbal, Bandipora and Srinagar.
â€œUnder the initiative, we tried to cover various remote areas of the valley. About 250 students were enrolled under it. Most of them were not able to read and write but after few months, our hard work paid off and the students started showing improvement,â€ Suhail said.
â€œI take pride when I see those students enrolled in various institutions of the valley nowâ€, he added.Â Â
Suhail was offered a scholarship from a top university of the United States after he completed his secondary education, but he rejected the offer.Â Â
"I wanted to grow with the people of my homeland. I believe that in order to achieve better results one needs to deal directly with it. I rejected the offer because I wanted to be at the receiving end of the problems; I wanted to face the flaws of our education system and then come up with solutions,â€ Suhail said.
Suhail Mehraj perused his Bachelorâ€™s in Political science from Amar Singh College, Srinagar, where he addressed the issues faced by the students and tried to find the solution.
Â â€œYouth form the largest age group in our society. We collectively need to explore the possibilities to channelize their workforce for the betterment of society. We need to work to put their potential in the right way and provide them with the best possible support,â€ he said.
â€œIn the college, I tried to imbibe leadership qualities into the students by holding discussions over various issues. I tried to create a culture of open classroom system, where every opinion is valued. I also organized some career counselling sessions, where with the help of other people; we tried to facilitate admissions of deserving aspirants to top colleges and Universities of the world,â€ he added.
For his excellent work in the field of education, Suhail Mehraj was appointed as one of the advisers on the UNDP board; which works with different volunteer initiatives for the welfare of the people.Â
He represented Kashmir at the 2018 youth assembly United Nations, New York, where youth leaders across the world delivered their talk on SDG17 (Sustainable Development goals). "I represented Kashmir at the Youth Assembly 2018. Youth leaders from across the world delivered their talk on GD17 goals, shared their ideas about how to bring in changes for a sustainable future. I too delivered my speech on GD4 about how to enhance the quality of education in the world and the leadership responsibilities of youth to help achieve the goal of inclusive and equitable quality education,â€ Suhail said.
In the Covid-19 pandemic, Suhail proved to be an angel for many. At midnight of May 23, 2020 Suhail Meharj received a distress call from a family which desperately requested help. In the wee hours of the night, Suhail delivered an oxygen cylinder to the Covid positive patient in the town of district Ganderbal.Â The patient was diagnosed with double pneumonia and was in a dire need of an oxygen cylinder.Â
As most people preferred to stay home due to the unprecedented circumstances of Covid-19, Suhail started a benevolent gesture of helping people by providing food kits and running errands for individuals who are at higher risk.
â€œPeople in the valley are facing serious financial crisis owing to the three back-to-back lockdowns since 2019. With the outbreak of the pandemic, the situation has aggravated especially for the proletariat. This spurred me to channelize my time and energy to help people in need,â€ he said.
â€œI along with my friend started a distress call centre where we try reaching out to people in need. We delivered food packets, supplied oxygen cylinders and other essential commodities to people in our community,â€ he added.
During the peak months of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, Suhail converted his car into an ambulance which was available for the people 24X7. The vehicle was used to carry patients to the hospitals and also for delivering essentials at the doorsteps of the people in need. After witnessing an overwhelming response, he converted two more cars into ambulances. The initiative helped hundreds of people from remote areas of his district Ganderbal.
Suhail Mehraj considers his late mother to his muse for the selfless work he does for society.
â€œWhatever little social work I do, itâ€™s all because of my late mother. She always inspired me to do more by pushing my limits. She was a witness to all the work I did. Even after being bedridden for two years, she would always insist to come along. While I did my work, she would gaze at me from the window of the car,â€ Suhail said.