The kidnap and killing of 11-year-old Sudhanshu Kumar Singh and other similar abduction cases have sullied Bokaro’s reputation as a destination for quality education with academics and residents fearing that parents will now think twice before sending their children to any cradle in the district.
In the past three months, Bokaro police have registered four kidnap and missing cases involving school and college students, including Sudhanshu. While two of the students — both girls — are still missing, schoolboy Satyam Sagar came back after his family paid the ransom.
In Sudhanshu’s case too, a ransom of Rs 5 lakh was paid, but he was still murdered by the four kidnappers, including three college students.
“Bokaro was regarded as the safest and best place for quality education in United Bihar. But the frequent attacks on students are surely going to keep prospective education seekers away. Now, parents will think twice before leaving their children alone,” said A.K Singh, a retired senior executive of Bokaro Steel.
He urged everyone — schools, parents, intellectuals and media — to come together to check rising crimes. “Police must also be ready to make the place safe,” he added.
Criticising the deteriorating law and order situation in the district, former GM of Bokaro steel plant R.K. Singh said the criminals were taking policemen for a ride. “I believe that if police are active, the crime rate will definitely come down. But in the recent past, Bokaro, which is otherwise known as a peaceful city, has become unsafe,” he said.
Pentecostal Assembly School’s director D.N. Prasad agreed. “There has been a spurt in crimes in Bokaro after the formation of a separate state. In recent times, students from other states are being increasingly targeted,” he said.
Sudhanshu’s father, senior bureaucrat of Bihar Amlesh Kumar Singh, feels that better policing alone can make the place safer.
“How can criminals kidnap a boy just like that from the heart of the city? The gang that abducted my son was wandering in the area, looking for a target. When they did not find the person, they took away my son. They wanted someone and Sudhanshu became the victim. What were police doing?” he asked.
According to rough estimates, more than 40,000 students from states like Bihar, Bengal, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and also from various parts of Jharkhand troop to Bokaro to study at top-notch schools here. But as most schools lack hostels of their own, parents are forced to leave their wards in the care of relatives, if any, or alone at private hostels.
Sudhanshu, a Class VI student of St Xavier’s used to live with his uncle Mani P. Singh at Sector IV-C to pursue his studies. His father is posted in Bihar. Similarly, Satyam hails from Hazaribagh. He was staying at a private hostel to pursue his studies at Bokaro Public School when he was kidnapped.
Bokaro superintendent of police Kuldep Dwidevi, however, claimed the police had rescued most kidnap victims.
“Sudhanshu’s case was really unfortunate. Though we were able to arrest all the four killers, it was too late by then,” he added, urging citizens to cooperate with police to check crime.
Teachers, parents, intellectuals and community elders have also been shocked by the involvement of three college students in Sudhanshu’s abduction and murder, saying that it goes on to show how the youth are increasingly falling prey to greed and end up committing crimes in their desire to be rich overnight.
“The situation calls for deep thinking and introspection. As educators, schools and colleges have a very important role to play as they are the ones who ultimately shape up healthy minds. The words of the teachers are taken seriously by all. Cultivation of human values among the students is crucial to check such crimes,” said principal of Chinmaya Vidyalaya Ashok Singh.
He also highlighted the role of parents, saying they must spend time to get to know their wards, their friends and activities. “Parents have to know when the children are being exposed to the outer world, but are not mentally ready for such experiences,” he said.