Ranchi, July 3: Midday meals were back on the plates and books on the tables of over 40,000 children of Khunti district after six days with the PLFI withdrawing its school shutdown order.
According to Khunti villagers, the rebel outfit, which had asked teachers to close around 400 primary and middle schools in the rural hinterland as it didn’t want CRPF camps on the campuses, realised they had done a blunder after The Telegraph published a report today, exposing how the poor students were suffering for no fault of theirs and the state government stirred into action.
In fact, chief minister Hemant Soren took note of the situation while acting chief secretary, accompanied by home secretary N.N Pandey and DGP Rajeev Kumar rushed to Khunti this morning. By that time, the shutdown order had been revoked by the PLFI and the schools were back to functioning normally.
A Khunti villager, who had narrated their plight to The Telegraph yesterday, confirmed this.
“Aap log shayad koi bada adhikari Chakraborty se baat kiye the. Uske baad pura prashashan tej ho gaya. Jab PLFI wala ko iska pata chala to usko bhi shayad apni galti ka ehsas hua. Oo log CRPF camp wala school chod banki mein bandi wapas le liya. Is sab raat mein hua... (Apparently you people spoke to some senior officer Chakraborty. After that the entire district administration became alert. When the PLFI members came to know about this, they apparently realised their mistake and withdraw the shutdown diktat in all schools, except those housing paramilitary forces. The development took place at night),” he said.
CRPF camps are lodged in only two school buildings in rural Khunti, that too in unused ones. Hence, 400 schools were paying the price for a false perception.
District superintendent of education Neelam Ilon Topno echoed the villager, saying that she had personally inspected 10-12 schools in the rural area of Murhu and found them open today.
“Sab thik ho gaya. CS bhi aaye the yahan. (Every thing is alright now. Even the CS (chief secretary) had come here,” she said this evening.
Chakraborty, Pandey and the Kumar could not be contacted for their comments.
Puja Singhal, director of Jharkhand Education Project Council and officer on special duty to Chakraborty, said the officiating chief secretary swung into action after seeing The Telegraph report.
“Soon after reaching from New Delhi this morning, he left for Khunti, saying he would return only after ensuring that all schools were functioning properly,” she added.
Torpa MLA and former PLFI rebel Paulus Surin, however, supported the group’s demand of removing paramilitary forces from schools.
“The state government also does not want CRPF camps in schools as it is not good for the academic atmosphere and violates a Supreme Court order. After the matter came into the knowledge of chief minister Hemant Soren, he directed the acting chief secretary to visit the area and also asked me to look into the matter,” he said.
Asked whether the government was serious about implementing the right to education and food as the Khunti children, hailing from extremely poor families, were deprived of lunch and learning for six days, Surin kept quiet.