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HVK Archives: Naxalites_catch_=27em_young?Date: Wed, 6 Jan 1999 16:20:51 -0000

Naxalites_catch_=27em_young?Date: Wed, 6 Jan 1999 16:20:51 -0000 - The Telegraph

Debashis Bhattacharya ()
December 24, 1998

Title: Naxalites catch 'em young
Author: Debashis Bhattacharya
Publication: The Telegraph
Date: December 24, 1998

Eleven-year-old Gobardhan Jani from Gajapati district wants to
be a Nona (Naxalite) when he grows up.

Jani, a tribal Class V student of the Gangabeda Upper Primary
school, has his reasons for doing so. "Nonas (the local term for
Naxalites) do not have to worry about anything. They do what
they like and get what they want," says the boy.

"Or else, I will have to do bogoda (shifting cultivation) like
my parents," he told this correspondent during a recent visit.

Wedged between poverty and Naxalites, students at the government-
run residential school for tribal boys in Raigada block
bordering Andhra Pradesh cannot aspire for a better future. The
options are limited. Either they take up slash and burn
cultivation illegally on forest land like their forefathers or
hitch on to the PWG bandwagon.

Gangabeda, a panchayat headquarters, epitomises the state
government's apathy towards border villages. The upper primary
school, with 39 students, is run by a temporary peon-cum-clerk
Jagabandhu Sabar in the absence of teachers. Both the
headmaster Jagannath Bhuyan and assistant teacher B. Mukhalingam
prefer to stay home.

They visit the school occasionally with the attendance register
and collect their salaries.

Villagers say unscrupulous district education department
officials work hand-in-glove with the teachers allowing them to
stay at home in lieu of 50 per cent of their salaries. The
teachers compensate for the reduced pay by moonlighting. "It is
a common practice in most schools of our area," says Braja Mohan
Sabar, the lone graduate from the village.

"We had lodged our protest to the district authorities in April
when we found the cook conducting the annual examinations, but
the officials pleaded helplessness. They said no teacher was
willing to stay in our village because of malaria," he said.

The cook said the headmaster had ordered him to stand in for
him. "I know it is not proper for me to teach the students.
But what can I do when I am ordered? I am a temporary employee
and will lose my job if I do not comply," he said.

The cook took classes only when he had time. The students
mostly busied themselves gathering fuel wood and water from the
nearby jungle to help the cook prepare their free meals.

A stone's throw from the school is an anti-Naxalite police
outpost to prevent the rebels from sneaking in from across the
border. But the police personnel are themselves aware of the
futility of the exercise.

"You can kill the militants but not militancy," said an
official. You give the villagers more rice to eat rather than
provide more arms to the police. Naxalite activities can be
checked only through development of the villages, " he said.

Villagers do not go to the outpost for fear of being booked
making it impossible for the police to collect information on
the Naxalite activities. "They do not get any help from us. On
the contrary, the jawans sometimes trouble the villagers by
demanding chicken and other foodstuff," an official said.

Chief minister J.B. Patnaik today said his government had
prepared a Rs 269-crore development package for all the four
bordering districts and had sent it to the Centre for
sanctioning the necessary funds. He said the government had
also drawn up a Rs 68-crore plan to modernise the state police.

"We do not need more funds. We require proper utilisation of
existing funds. The government has already pumped in enough
money for development of the area but no perceptible change has
taken place," a senior official said.

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