Dhavendra Kumar has returned from Rajasthan’s Kota after failing to rustle up the annual fee of Rs 1.3 lakh for admission in a tutorial to pursue his dream of getting into an IIT.

Dhavendra Kumar is no ordinary vegetable vendor. The 17-year-old who sells vegetables with his mother at the local market of Balod district’s Laundi village is also Chhattisgarh’s topper in this year’s class 12 state board examination.

Kumar scored 98.6%, coming first among 3.95 lakh students who took the examination, results of which were declared in April.

But Kumar’s joy has been short-lived. His family has no money and the boy has just returned dejected from the coaching hub of Rajasthan’s Kota after failing to rustle up the annual average fee of 1.3 lakh rupees for admission in a tutorial to pursue his dream of getting into an IIT.

According to him, the Balod district administration had assured him financial help for further studies. But the promises have not translated into money yet. “I went to Kota but had to return,” lamented Kumar.

A student of the Government High School in Pondi, some distance away from his village, Kumar has turned bitter. “I think that the government has no respect for toppers,” he told HT, in between selling ladies finger and brinjal by the roadside.

His mother is equally heartbroken. “My son secured 90% in class 10 and is now topper of class 12, but no one is helping us. We have only two acres of land and we cannot afford fees for his coaching where he wants to study,” she said.

Kumar’s father is a marginal farmer with meager income that had forced his elder brother Mohnish to discontinue studies after tenth standard some years ago.

“I am confused and have lost hope in the administration,” said Kumar. Having failed to get into a coaching centre in Kota, he tried for admission into the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani. Here again he failed for want of money.

Yamini Sahu, his Physics teacher at the school, said Kumar was the ‘most talented student’ she had ever taught. “We all knew he will be in the merit list. He surpassed our expectation by coming first,” she added.

Kumar secured 493 marks out of a total of 500 in the board examination. He got 99 each in both chemistry and mathematics. The lowest he got was 93 in English.

BR Dhruw, the district education officer, described Kumar’s plight as “unfortunate”. “We have no funds to help him and we have written to the director of social welfare department to help him,” he said.

Ironically, the Chhattisgarh government gives a cash award of 1.1 lakh rupees to each student on the merit list, but the money is disbursed only in September. By then, it would be too late for Kumar.