Sumita Bhattacharya, Baisakhi Gope, Mani Mala Sikdar and Sunita Gope are no legends. They are not even political or social leaders. But if you visit their village in Potka block of Jharkhand’s East Singhbhum district, you will find lanes named after them.
Juri, the non-descript village some 150 km south of state capital Ranchi, has initiated the unique practice to promote girls’ education. The village, which has over 600 families, has no high school and children have to travel 3km to reach a high school and 30 km to go to a college. There is a single government middle school where 5 teachers teach over 300 students.
Sumita Bhattacharya was the first girl to be picked by the village’s women’s committee and a Sumita Bhattacharya Gali (lane) was dedicated to her as the 23-year-old is the most educated girl in the village.
“I had never expected that any lane would be dedicated after my name as I have done nothing remarkable for the society so far. But the act gave me immense encouragement and confidence for my higher education,” Bhattacharya, who is pursuing a master’s degree in history from Women’s College in Jamshedpur, said.
She said that girls of the village have to struggle a lot for higher studies. “There is no college in the nearby area. We have to travel to Jamshedpur where there is no direct communication from the village,” Bhattacharya, who wants to become a teacher, said.
Despite many hurdles, the village enjoys higher literacy rate compared to the state average. As per the 2011 census, the literacy rate in the village is 68.39% compared to state average of 66.41%. The male literacy stands at 79.46% against the state average of 76.84% while the female literate rate is 57.26% against the state average of 55.42%.
After Bhattacharya, the committee chose three other girls - Mani Mala Sikdar, who is masters student, and undergraduates Baisakhi Gope and Sunita Gope - and dedicated three lanes after them.
“Our objective is to encourage the girls for education. We hope this village will turn as a model village for other parts of the state,” village mukhiya (head) Savitri Sardar said.
“The handwritten or printed signage for lanes are often torn by children or destroyed during rains. The administration had promised to provide wooden signage, which is yet to be fulfilled,” Sardar said.
East Singhbhum deputy commissioner (DC) Amit Kumar said that the demand of signage would be fulfilled soon.
“Aimed at women’s empowerment, the initiative got a huge response and inculcated confidence in girl students. We want to replicate it to other villages if women group of the respective village come forward,” Kumar said.