India’s cyber crime hub Jamtara scripting new story with public library mission
As many as 88 libraries have been made functional in 88 panchayat. All the panchayats of the district will have a library in the next fortnight. The libraries came as blessing for the poor and deprived students, who dream to crack examinations of various government services
Ajharuddin Ansari, 25, a daily-wage labourer, spends at least four hours daily in the panchayat’s public library, built by district administration, to prepare for competitive examinations to government services. Ansari, who lost his mother in 2005 and father in 2015, pays for the education of his two sisters with his income from the construction site. He counts the newly-built library as a blessing for him and his two sisters.
“We are not economically sound enough to buy books for competitive examinations or pay for tuition of my sisters. The library is meeting all our learning needs. Now, I dream to crack examinations for government services,” said Ansari, a physics graduate.
Ansari is not alone, hundreds of students, mostly from the weaker section, are benefitting from the public library movement launched by the administration in Jamtara, a Jharkhand district considered to be the Indian equivalent of the Romanian town Ramnicu Valcea, which was considered the global hotbed for cybercriminals in 1990s.
Scale of phishing activities in the district could be assumed from the fact that more than 150 cyber fraudsters were arrested in 2020, while more than 90 cyber criminals are languishing in Jamtara jails, officials said. Police of more than 20 states have visited the district in connection with online fraud cases.
In a bid to shed the negative image of the district, the administration conceptualized the idea of setting up a public library in each panchayat of the district, which could illuminate the path shown by legendary educationist and social reformer Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar in the district in the 19th century.
Vidyasagar, who brought a revolution in the education system of Bengal, came to Karmatar, a sleepy hamlet in Jamtara, in early 1873 to recuperate from poor health and ended up spending more than 18 years in the village.
Jamtara deputy commissioner (DC) Faiz Aq Ahmed Mumtaz said 88 libraries have been built so far and all are functional in 88 panchayats. The DC said all the 118 panchayats of the district would have a library in the next fortnight.
“We wanted to change the negative image of the district and rehabilitate the youths involved in negative activities. Then, the concept of setting up public libraries came to our mind. We started working on it and it soon turned out to be a big success,” Mumtaz said.
Funds and infrastructure were major challenges first. “We put in funds through convergence of various schemes. Besides, funds were also managed through contribution, donation, crowdsourcing and corporate social responsibility,” he said.
Thereafter, abandoned buildings or community halls were identified, renovated and converted into libraries in each panchayat. Geo-tagging of all the libraries was done for identification and contact numbers of librarians were available on the website, he said.
The libraries are getting a huge response from students. “There are 100 books in the library provided by the administration, and around 50 students from the village are preparing for exams,” said Ansari, a resident of Jiyajori village in the district. He said many youths, who were earlier engaged in phishing activities, were now joining the library to prepare for competitive examinations.
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Biswajit Gorai, 21, a resident of Mejhia panchayat of the district, said life was not the same when there was no library in and around his village. “A new library was built in November last year, which has changed the lives of the students. We, the senior students, are preparing for the competitive examinations in group, while junior students are preparing for school examinations in the library.”
He said most of the residents in the village are poor. “They do not have money to buy books. However, the library has sorted out that problem. Now, the village has got a proper educational environment,” he said.
Riya Gorai, an intermediate student of the same village, said, “My parents do not have enough money to get me tuition. However, the problem is now sorted out as I get help from my seniors in the library.”