Looming uncertainty: DAV Public School in Dugda near Bokaro. Picture by Pankaj Singh
A month after the playground of DAV-Dugda, near Bokaro, was seized by a section of the powerful Mahto community backed by Dumri JMM MLA Jagannath Mahto, school principal Ashutosh Kumar on Monday wrote to National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) chairperson, the governor and chief minister, requesting they intervene.
Insisting that the playground belongs to their ancestors, on February 7, Mahto youths who enjoy tacit support of the Dumri MLA, laid a foundation stone in memory of India’s first home minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and JMM statehood leader Binod Behari Mahto.
Principal Kumar wrote they had given 39 pages to district authorities that vouch for the fact that the grounds were a part of land leased to them by Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL) decades ago.
In contrast, the Mahtos have not furnish any papers.
The past month, fasts by teachers and pupils; tripartite talks among school and BCCL authorities and Mahto leaders supervised by district administration; parent protests and letters to virtually all district bureaucrats have not helped.
Encroachers have not budged an inch from their stand.
Kumar, in his letter sent to NCPCR chairperson Kushal Singh in New Delhi, said schoolchildren said they felt cheated of their playground.
“I and thousands of students and teachers of all DAV school in Bokaro, Dhanbad and nearby are prepared to strike to reclaim the 1,200sqm playground,” Kumar told The Telegraph on Monday. “Some 300 students, I and a few others sat on hunger-strike exactly a month ago.”
When contacted, chief negotiator on behalf of BCCL A.K. Ojha said: “They (villagers) have no legal claim over the land that BCCL acquired five decades ago taking approval from Union and state governments. We have legal papers. But who will see them?”
Bermo SDO Rahul Sinha, who had convened tripartite meetings in the hope the matter would be amicably resolved, admitted nothing had changed. “I am busy with election work but I assure you in the next two days I will take up this matter. As both BCCL and the school handed land-related papers to Bokaro DC (Uma Shankar Singh), I can’t decide,” he said.
It is obvious the logjam is political, not administrative.
The Dumri MLA, one of the JMM’s strongmen, is also being tipped as one of the frontrunners for the prestigious Giridih Lok Sabha seat and enjoys the support of all nine Mahto sub-castes. The ruling combine may not like to ruffle his ego at a crucial juncture.
Uttam Mahto wondered what the fuss was about. “School mein exam chal raha hai, students ko khel ground se matlab kya? MLA sahib bolenge to khali kar denge. Abhi koi harbari nahin hai (Exams are on in the school so why should students play? When the MLA (Jagannath Mahto) tells us to vacate the grounds, we will. There’s no hurry).”
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