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Civic body clueless on boys’ hostels

MBBS intern and hostel resident Azaz Hashmi, interrogated by the NIA on Thursday on the nature of his friendship with Patna blast suspect Haider Ali, trained the security spotlight back on hostels and lodges running in the capital without Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC) licences.

Run by a welfare outfit, Idris Medical Hostel in Bariatu is where 26-year-old Hashmi stayed, and where Haider, also 26, apparently came off and on, storing his laptop and other items in his friend’s room.

Only 300m from Jharkhand’s biggest state-run hospital RIMS, the men’s hostel is running since early 1970s but is not registered with the RMC.

It means that officially, RMC is not supposed to know the existence of a familiar city landmark, which houses medical students, interns and young doctors of the minority community.

The Patna serial blasts of October 27 last year brought into limelight another men’s only private hostel Iram Lodge, based in crowded Ranchi locality Hindpiri.

A joint team of the NIA and Jharkhand police raided it on November 4 to recover a large cache of ammunition from the room of one Muzibullah Ansari (24), a quiet youth whom no one suspected to be an IM conduit.

Unlike Idris, Iram Lodge was registered under the RMC.

But the November raid at Iram Lodge prompted the RMC to seriously prod hostels and lodges — most private and a few state-owned — for registration.

Though RMC reminders for registration are regular, they are not taken seriously. But the terror threat infused urgency in RMC to bring some level of monitoring in hostels.

Acting on RMC orders, between November 2013 and March 2014, 311 hostels and lodges applied to the civic body for registration.

However, an overwhelming 300 of the applications were from girls’ hostels. Seventy-one hostels, which were short-listed by RMC for final verification, were all girls’ accommodations.

The skewed numbers prove that most men’s or boys’ hostels are conveniently outside RMC loop.

More worrying, no one knows how many boys’ and girls’ hostels exist or operate in the capital, leave alone the rest of the state.

What it effectively means is that a huge floating population of young males — most prone to being led astray — stay in the hostels outside the ambit of monitoring by any civic body.

“Yesterday, when the news of Hashmi’s link with Haider flashed on TV, we checked with our files to see if Idris was registered or not. It was not. While this is not surprising to us as most hostels here run without licence despite our regular reminders, we were taken aback to see such few licence applications from boys’ hostels,” said an RMC source.

In 2011, RMC framed rules for functioning of lodges and hostels under which registration was mandatory. Under Jharkhand urban area, licence of dharmshalas, marriage or banquet halls, lodges and hostels was made mandatory.

This was done for two reasons. One, the RMC wanted to keep track of people and activities at these habitations. Two, the RMC wanted to ensure basic amenities at these places.

But the Patna blasts orchestrated by young men of Bihar and Jharkhand, with hostel accommodations playing a key part, have made security concerns more urgent.

RMC CEO Manoj Kumar hinted the civic body might seek Ranchi district administration’s help in cracking whip on the boys’ or men’s hostels, which might be used as hideouts for youths engaged in anti-social or subversive activities.

The RMC rulebook for awarding licence makes it mandatory for any hostel accommodation to install CCTV cameras at the entrance and a security guard.

The RMC also formed teams in April to check facilities at girls’ hostels that applied for papers. Of the 71 hostels on the shortlist, RMC inspected 43 till May 20 and put 25 on the “unsatisfactory list” for not having CCTV cameras, firefighting arrangements and adequate power and water.