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#2459, 3 January 2008
School Dropouts Deepen Naxal Problem in Bihar
Kamla Singh
PGT Teacher, Koilwar High School, ARA, Bihar
e-mail: kamlasingh30@gmail.com

The Prime Minister has declared that Naxalism has become the biggest national threat. There are many states under the influence of the red brigade, including India's eastern state of Bihar. One of the country's poorest states, Bihar is fraught with political violence due to the Maoist insurgency and has witnessed many massacres. Bihar is a traditional hotbed of Naxal violence and the Maoists are reportedly active in 30 of its 38 districts. One of the factors sustaining Naxal violence in Bihar is the massive dropouts from schools, who are easy targets as Naxal recruits. Bihar, along with Meghalaya, has the highest school drop-out rate in the country, with 77 per cent of students leaving school before completing their tenth class.

In Bihar, the majority of dropouts belong to the Dalit community. These children roam around aimlessly, with no social respect or dignity. Quite often they face the abusive anger of the landlords but their image changes once they become Naxalites. Upper caste elders now give them due regard and recognize them as important figures in the village. This sudden gain in social recognition encourages many teenagers to join the Naxalites. This short cut to social recognition creates a vicious circle, which ends in goonda raj. Being uneducated, they become a brute force. Their whole exercise is not related to bringing about social justice and establishing an egalitarian social order, but making their own life joyful and dignified. Charu Mazumdar's ideological orientation is non-existent in the Naxal outfits of Bihar. The existing Naxal outfits are not ideological social catalysts, but goons and terrorists.

For instance, the Naxalites force many Dalit families to hand over their kids to the party, or else face dire consequences. Hapless Dalits are sandwiched between police brutalities and Naxal violence. The police consider them as Naxals agents, whereas the Naxals torture them in their own interests. Many primary schools have been shut down because of the Naxal violence in Bihar. Schools have been either turned into a hub for Naxalite activity or into a police outpost. In either case, the schools remain closed.

Many developmental projects have also been targeted by Naxal outfits in the state. A recent report by the Indian Railway Construction Company (IRCON) sheds light on many road projects in Bihar being abandoned due to the threat of Naxals. The report submitted to the Rural Development Ministry reviews projects under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY). Under the PMGSY, Bihar has a target to connect 9,600 villages. Out of some 57 such road projects in the four districts of Arval, Gaya, Aurangabad and Jehanabad, nearly 23 have been abandoned due to the Naxal menace.

Since the merger of the two main groups of Naxalites, the Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCCI) and the Communist Party of India, Marxist-Leninist (People's War) to form the united Communist Party of India, Maoist or CPI (Maoist) in September 2004, Naxal violence has became more frequent in Bihar. Both groups were the most powerful ones, accounting for about 88 percent of the countrywide Naxalite violence and 90 percent of the resultant deaths. The succeeding years, however, have witnessed not just a consolidation of the extremists in their strongholds, but a further expansion into newer areas. Thus, apart from traditional strongholds in Patna, Gaya, Aurangabad, Arwal Bhabhua, Rohtas and Jehanabad in southwestern Bihar, there has been a spurt in extremism in North Bihar, bordering Nepal, including the West Champaran, East Champaran, Sheohar, Sitamarhi, Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga and Madhubani districts. The Naxalites have also extended their areas of influence to Shaharsha, Begusarai and Vaisali and areas along the Uttar Pradesh border.

The unity of many Naxal outfits has prompted them to create exclusive zones of influence where they collect ransom '' from officials, contractors and others." The Ministry of Home Affairs' Report indicates that they also force farmers to cultivate opium in their exclusive zones, and are involved in drug trafficking in and out of the country. Intelligence reports indicate that the Naxalite groups in India are the latest entrants to narco-terrorism.

Naxalism in Bihar has also promoted a gun culture. Spread across Nalanda, Nawada, Gaya and Munger districts, within a 110 km radius of Patna, a variety of arms and ammunition are now manufactured.

The state's development is thus caught in a vicious cycle: while the MNCs are not coming to Bihar because of Naxal violence and extortion, the continuing backwardness of the state generates more social inequality on which the Naxal outfits thrive.

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