Birhor boys in front of Bokaro’s trainees hostel on Tuesday. (Pankaj Singh)
Sundar Birhor is privileged. He goes to school, reads story books and plays football. But, the seven-year-old is not happy. For, his six-year-old sister has been denied the right to education. She only helps their mother in domestic chores.
So, is the Jharkhand government gender biased when it comes to primitive tribes like the Birhors?
Chief minister Arjun Munda — who touted the year as Bitiya Varsh and launched a bouquet of schemes for the girl child like the Laxmi Ladli Yojana — is faced with this poignant question.
And the issue has been raised by none other than 15 Birhor boys — all in the age group of seven to nine years — who are being provided free education, food and lodging unlike their lesser siblings.
Bokaro Steel under its corporate social responsibility adopted these children whose names were recommended by the welfare department. The boys, hailing from various villages of Maoist-hit Gomia block, currently study in Classes I and II at the steel plant’s BIV School. Their education will be sponsored till 2025.
However, both the steel major and the government have conveniently forgotten about Birhor girls.
“When I left my village home in June, my sister Munni asked me when she would join me in school. I had to keep quiet,” Sundar said.
“Im padhakane. Im school sunukani (I study. I go to school),” piped in friend Manoj Birhor (8), but added that the state never recommended his sisters for the scheme.
The 15 future leaders, who seem smarter than our unmindful government, have made a resolve.
“We will study hard, get jobs and then open schools for girls in our villages,” said Sundar.