Thursday, January 22, 2009

Feared cops launch tribal school in remotest WB terror area

Abhijit Dasgupta
Kolkata, January 21, 2009

The cops are not always unfeeling, nasty creatures as some of them have shown in Murshidabad district of North Bengal how to rise above the daily rigours of work and help the community. About 45 kilometeres from Murshidabad district and in one of the remotest tribal dominated and Naxalite infested villages, Hijol, the local constabulary have set up a school only for the local populace where they themselves will teach and not only nab criminals.

Basab Dasgupta, superintendent of police, Murshidabad, told India Today that he had been thinking of how to relieve the constables and other work force of the beat station at Hijol from stress and hit upon this idea. A month back, constables went from door to door arguing and convincing the apprehensive tribals to send their children to the proposed school.

"At first, they thought that this was some sort of a ploy as policemen are feared people. But we convinced them saying that it would be compulsory for the parents to be with the kids when they are in the school. √Źn a month, we have got around 200 students and the school was inaugurated officially on Tuesday. We have called it Savera," said Dasgupta.

Dasgupta said that Hijoli was one of the remotest areas of Murshidabad and was very prone to crime. "Also, whenever there are rains, the area is submerged and flooded. The school can only help to light up the lives of the poorest of the poor in Hijol," he said.

A constable and an ASI have been deputed to train the children in physical education, classes for which are held in the early evenings when the sun is still up. "We use texts trashed by students of the affluent schools in Murshidabad and other local schools and use them in Savera. Volunteeers from nearby villages are being approached to increase the teacher strength.

The youngest student was four years old while the eldest was 12 years. "The whole problem hinges on motivation. That is the toughest part, the tribals are scared of us and for them, education and schooling make no sense. We have to educate the parents first," said Dasgupta.

The school would also help the police force reduce the monotony of working in such a remote area. "This has worked. I can see a new enthusiasm among the work force. They feel they are achieving something," Dasgupta said.

He said the next step would be to teach the children the art of gardening. "That is a very invigorating exercise. I have asked some constables to learn how to handle nurseries from the traders in Murshidabad and teach the children various aspects of gardening. It will make the area look beautiful too," he said.

Another plan that Dasgupta has in mind is to get affiliation with another village school some kilometres away but not as remote as Hijol. "We can then begin proper graded classes and segregate the students according to age and intelligence. But that will take time," he said.

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