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Bravo, Jharkhand’s sensational six girls

Lakhs of young women postgraduates pursue BEd to become teachers. But when Basanti Telra (27) from the primitive tribe Birajia becomes one of them, she makes both India and Jharkhand proud.

On a day when the country celebrated National Girl Child Day, a Jharkhand NGO and Ranchi University perhaps paid the most inspirational tribute to the nation’s girls by felicitating six students hailing from primitive tribes.

NGO Vikas Bharti Bishunpur, led by Ashok Bhagat, which has done groundbreaking work in Gumla’s Bishunpur block, as well as Ranchi University, felicitated the six at the varsity’s Aryabhatt Auditorium.

V-C L.N. Bhagat handed each a shawl and a biography of an inspirational woman — from Jhansi’s warrior queen Laxmibai to supercop-turned-activist Kiran Bedi.

Ranchi University V-C and NGO officials apart, tribal welfare commissioner Rajesh Sharma, noted anthropologist Karma Oraon and 200 tribal schoolgirls from Bal Niketan in Gumla, the school run by the NGO, attended the event.

The event was momentous because it acknowledged the incredible journey of each primitive tribal girl.

Jharkhand has 32 tribal groups, but of them eight are primitive tribe groups (PTG), the combined numbers being only 2.23 lakh (2011 census).

The Asur, Birhor, Birajia, Korwa, Parahiya (Baiga), Sabar, Mal Pahariya and Souriya Pahariya communities stay in some of the remotest areas — hilly, forested terrains, most under the stranglehold of Naxalites. Many are still nomadic food gatherers.

Basanti’s life illustrates the magnitude of her achievement. The postgraduate in Hindi from Nilambar-Pitambar University, who is now doing her BEd, is the first person from her village Henar of rebel-hit Garu block, Latehar district, to graduate.

“When I was in Class VIII, my parents wanted to marry me off. I worked in other people’s homes as a maidservant or as a labourer to pay for my studies,” Basanti said.

Her three brothers are not graduates. Her parents are illiterate farmhands.

“You won’t find a single graduate youth in my village, too. I decided to show the way,” said Poonam Birajia (26), from Rud village, also in Latehar’s Garu block. Poonam, who discovered her knack for maths as a girl, is doing her MCom from Marwari College in Ranchi.

She talks of gaps due to poverty and her father’s early death, but mentions her mother as her pillar. “My mother Laxmi is a farm labourer. But she supported my studies. I joined her in the farm to help her, but she’d tell me, go back home and study. I hope I become a teacher. I’ll keep her in comfort,” she said.

Poonam also had a message for chief minister Hemant Soren. “Jharkhand has a policy of direct recruitment for educated primitive tribe youths. From Latehar, 12 of us have completed their graduation. I submitted a list to then chief minister Arjun Munda in November 2012 and also met Hemantji on the issue a few months ago. Nothing happened,” said the articulate girl.

The other four primitive tribe girls who were felicitated were Saniyo Kumari (25) of Kujam Nawatoli in Latehar, who is doing her MA in tribal and regional language department, RU, as well as three teens Ankita Paharia of Godda, Pinky Kumari of Pakur and Anima Kumari of Latehar.

Ankita from Pakirkota, Godda, is the first girl in her village to complete Class X and study intermediate. “I want to become a nurse,” saod the confident Paharia girl.

Pinky of Chotasalgati, Pakur, is also the first girl from her village to attend college. She is pursuing her graduation from KKM College, Pakur. Anima, from Domakhar in Latehar, is again the first girl from her village to study intermediate.

Vikas Bharti Bishunpur’s Ashok Bhagat, who is primarily from Uttar Pradesh, but stayed among Jharkhand’s tribals for over three decades to work for their uplift, said: “We bought these six super-achievers on one platform to showcase what these girls are capable of, despite all odds.”