As part of an initiative to prevent the younger generation from falling prey to Maoist propaganda, the Jharkhand government has decided to relocate many impoverished children from 32 rebel-hit villages in the Gumla-Latehar-Lohardaga tri-junction and enroll them in residential schools across the state.
Chief minister Raghubar Das has asked senior government and police officials to build residential schools on a war footing, and rehabilitate the children with their parents’ permission. However, until the new institutions are constructed, the children will be enrolled in existing boarding schools at Bishunpur, Gumla and nearby townships.
Director general of police (DGP) DK Pandey has asked boarding schools across the state to spare at least two seats in each section for children from these areas. “While we are sparing no effort to flush the Maoists out of their last refuge in the state (the tri-junction), we want to ensure that they do not succeed in inducting children from the region into their ranks,” Pandey told HT.
Pandey said security forces relocated at least 28 children from affected villages in the last fortnight, and were trying to accommodate them in residential schools. “Talks are on with parents of another 42 children in the area because they stand the risk of being recruited forcibly by the Maoists,” he added.
The DGP said security forces have penetrated deep into rebel territory, clearing the areas where their hold is the strongest.
The initiative comes in the wake of a fresh demand for children made by Maoists in at least five border villages of the tri-junction. HT had earlier reported how they were even holding “public lotteries” to draft children into their fold.
Keen on clearing the area of Maoists, civil authorities undertook a series of development initiatives in the district. Welfare secretary Rajiv Arun Ekka recently announced three area development plans for the Banalat, Peshrar and Sarju regions located in the tri-junction. He also announced that two residential schools would be set up in Maoist-affected villages under the Banalat Action Plan.
“Police alone cannot turn the tide and bring in a revolution,” the DGP said, asking civil society groups, NGOs and conscientious citizens to help generate at least 400 seats in private boarding schools for children from Maoist-affected areas.
Additional director general (operations) SN Pradhan said that though rehabilitating children from Maoist belts was not the responsibility of the police alone, they are the ones who usually wind up shouldering most of the burden. “But we have never shied away from taking up such responsibilities because we are as concerned about the safety and development of children in hard-to-reach areas as their parents may be,” he claimed.