Tribal hostels of Jharkhand 'the worst'

No wardens, cooks or caretakers, points out survey; toilets filthy, students defecate in the open

By Pheroze L. Vincent
  • Published 22.08.18

EVERYDAY NIGHTMARE: The Adivasi Boys’ Hostel in Mandar block of Ranchi district resembles a haunted house, as it always does, on Monday (top); a run-down stairway (above) of the building where students live amid inhuman conditions. Pictures by Manob Chowdhary 

New Delhi: Too little food, unusable toilets, run-down buildings, Jharkhand's Adivasi hostels fared the worst in a survey of 32 such government-funded facilities in three states done between December 2017 and July 2018 by the Centre for Adivasi Research and Development (CARD).

The CARD survey across 1,700 students in 32 hostels of Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, released at the national convention of the SFI, Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch and CARD, on August 18 in New Delhi, indicted the boys hostel in Mandar, Ranchi, as the worst.

Funded by the Centre and state, these tribal hostels - nine in Jharkhand, eight in Rajasthan and 15 in Madhya Pradesh - cater to students from Classes I to XII from tribal settlements too far from schools.

Overall, Jharkhand hostels were found to have the worst infrastructure. Researchers Smita Gupta and Vikas Rawal found 29 per cent of all Jharkhand inmates defecated in the open.

"Several hostels in Jharkhand have toilets only in name, since they are unusable. The toilets are filthy and choked, with no water supply, forcing teachers and students to defecate in the open... children wake up as early as 2am to get ready.

"The percentage of girls bathing in the open within hostel compounds is 23 per cent in Jharkhand and 17 per cent in Rajasthan. There is a shortage of water throughout the year either because there is no tank or no motor or neither. Mosquito nets are not given," says the report.

The report describes the "worst hostel" in Mandar as nothing short of a hellhole. "This hostel had no warden, caretaker, guard or cook. Students lived in a dilapidated building all by themselves. They brought rice, potatoes and other provisions from home and cooked food. They consumed no milk, curd, eggs or meat. A child wrote, 'I had milk when I was a baby, never after that.' They hooked electricity to run heaters and bulbs, for which they had to continuously bribe linemen," says the report.

The premises had no water supply and the boys had to fetch water from a hand pump outside, which had to be filtered and boiled before drinking, the report added. The building lacked doors and windows and rubble fell off the roof. "All roofs leaked, and students had to brave cold winds from open windows during winters," it said.

Toilets were "unusable" and "everyone" had to defecate in the open.

Overcrowding in rooms is the norm in all three states, with an average of 1.5 to 2 children per bed. Nutrition, especially protein, was inadequate in all hostels, with fund allocations much lower than market rates of edibles. Sanitary napkins were not available for girls. Doctors made "perfunctory" annual visits, the survey quoted teachers and students as saying.

Other thorny realities emerged. In Jharkhand, many hostels were run by Vidya Vikas Samiti with RSS links. "Students are made to sing communal songs and wardens are forever prodding girls to keep fasts and the like," alleged the report.

In Maharashtra, a Class XII tribal boy from Surgana, Avinash Gavit, said the government was switching to direct benefit transfer (DBT) and closing mess facilities. "The money sent to us is too less to buy food and we aren't allowed to cook in our rooms. Students from all over Maharashtra are coming to Nashik on August 28 to protest against DBT."

As a long-term solution, Brinda Karat, vice-president of the AARM, told The Telegraph that Tribal Sub Plan funds had to be released for these schools and hostels to function effectively.

Tripura legislator Jitendra Choudhury, the president of rights outfit AARM, was also present at the event.