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Day schools at night shelters

It might not be a direct outcome of acting chief secretary Sajal Chakraborty’s censure after a visit to half a dozen raen baseras, which have become less of a shelter for the poor and more of a free space for encroachers, on Sunday night.

Nevertheless, the senior IPS officer can take heart that Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC) is finally doing something to wrest the night shelters from encroachers.

The civic body has decided to turn two of its 11 raen baseras into schools for poor children during the day with one such facility slated to start functioning from Tuesday.

The plan, which was apparently in place for some time now, was unveiled a day after Chakraborty’s surprise tours of these facilities at Hinoo Chowk, Jagannathpur, Doranda AG More, Pahari Mandir, Madhukam and Karbala Chowk.

“We are ready to launch the first day school-cum-night shelter to be run by an all women’s group at Pahari Mandir tomorrow (Tuesday). The second one will be thrown open at the Madhukam-Khadgara night shelter on Thursday,” RMC public relations officer Naresh Kumar Sinha said.

The day school at the Pahari Mandir raen basera will be run by members of Gulabi Gang, popularly known as Nari Sena, which functions under Prerna Jagriti, a registered NGO.

Rani Kumari, a member of Gulabi Gang, said they had been asked to be present at the Pahari Mandir shelter around 10.30am. “One of our members, Poonam Kumari, will be in-charge of this place, while I will handle the Madhukam shelter, which will be given to us on May 15,” Rani confirmed to The Telegraph over phone.

Speaking about the unique concept of starting schools, she added that the idea was to stop misuse of night shelters.

“We already provide free education to slum children and rag-pickers at our homes so that they don’t fall prey to child labour or trafficking. Currently, we are teaching about 40-45 such children. But there are many problems such as lack of space, proper set-up and all.

“Hence, a couple of months back, we got in touch with RMC, asking it to allow us run day schools at the night shelters. They agreed and decided to develop some basic facilities like taps and fans at the raen baseras,” Rani added.

However, some problems do remain.

“We literally have to hunt for such children who want to study. When these children do come, we need to offer them something more like free meal and other goodies to keep them interested in studies. Many parents at times raise objections, stressing they needed their children to earn. So convincing them is also a challenge,” she added.

The Pahari Mandir and Madhukam night shelters were among the six visited by Chakraborty on Sunday night.

The acting chief secretary started the inspection at 9.30pm with the Hinoo Chowk shelter that was found locked. Inquiry revealed that a JD(U) leader, Sanjay Sinha, had illegally converted it into a hotel.

The next stop was Jagannathpur, where the raen basera was also shut while people slept outside.

Then, he moved to Doranda AG More, where the facility had been converted into a banquet hall. The night shelters at Pahari Mandir, Madhukam and Karbala Chowk have also been taken over by encroachers by way of food carts.

Ranchi Municipal Corporation CEO Manoj Kumar, however, could not be contacted for comments.


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