13 years on, schools in Red zone open

Congress tries to build confidence among tribals; electricity connections being given.

New Delhi: In a move aimed at undoing the damage inflicted by the Dr Raman Singh government’s promotion of the Salwa Judum movement, the Congress government in Chhattisgarh has decided to reopen schools in the extremist-affected Sukma district of Bastar region after 13 years of closure.

The move comes as part of Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh Bhupesh Baghel’s attempts at initiating confidence-building measures in the tribal population of the region.

Salwa Judum was a militia movement launched in 2005 to tackle the growing Naxal violence in the state. Though, backed by the then Congress leadership it has been facing opposition from several quarters, including human rights groups.

Mr Baghel, when he was in the opposition, had repeatedly expressed his strong opposition to the Salwa Judum movement.

Sources stated that as part of the first phase of the project, five educational institutions and hostels have been reopened and made operational this Monday, coinciding with the start of the new academic new year in the state.

Bastar has been facing violence during the operation of Salwa Judum; villagers evacuated their villages and started living in relief camps, while most were left deserted, sources stated. Students from the region used to study in nearby port cabins, as no schools were operational due to Salwa Judum.

Sources pointed out that several of these school buildings were used by security forces, camping in the area to fight the Maoists.

In a move aimed at ending violence and allowing tribals to resettle in their villages, the Congress government has decided to reverse this policy in a phased manner. “Owing to the demand made by students of the area, schools and hostels were reopened and made operational with the constant efforts made by the district administration and the state government, ” sources added.

Chhattisgarh industry minister Kawasi Lakhma inaugurated and restarted a high school, higher secondary school, educational ashrams and residential hostels for boys and girls of that area after a hiatus of 13 years.

The state government feels that the reopening of schools will create a positive effect on surrounding villages and people from nearby villages will also come forward with a request to open similar schools in their region. “The administration with the help of the state government will soon start government schools in other villages. We will also work towards opening a hospital and sub-tehsil at Jagargunda.

Electrification of nearby areas is under process, Sukma collector Chandan Kumar said.

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