New Delhi, Oct 9 (ANI): The drive between Kanker district headquarters and Bhanupratappur is through lush greenery, the pride of Bastar, known for its verdant forests, its bio-diversity and of course the tribal culture that it supports and in turn is nurtured by forest wealth.
It is difficult to imagine, that a place of such infinite natural beauty, where human beings down the generations have lived in harmony with nature, celebrating its cycles, its various forms and seasons, can be a battle-ground, spawn a culture of strife, of growing violence. This is the Naxal affected region in Chhattisgarh where the government is determined on establishing the rule of law above all, but equally to bring peace and development to the embattled region.hat does this ongoing conflict do to the minds of the young; a generation that has grown up in the darkness of violence yet as the young everywhere has a hope for the future?
This generation has better access to news and developments beyond their immediate village or region. Television and newspapers are now part of village communities even in remote areas. What is the picture, these young people are forming and what is the road ahead? For it is squarely in their hands that the future will unfold.
It has in fact been a challenge but also a journey of courage and hope for V. Arun Kumar, Principal, Shaskiya Mahavidyalaya, Bhanupratappur, Kanker district, who has lived amidst this conflict zone for over two decades.
Talking about the profile of his students, Arun Kumar says many of his students are the first generation students in their families, who have not seen the traditional way of life and have very little exposure to the developments in the outside world.
"This is completely a rural area with majority of the local communities being tribals, mostly poor. Many of the students who take admission are first generation students in their families. They have seen the traditional way of life and have very little exposure to the developments in the outside world," he said.
Arun Kumar emphasizes that the thrust among the rural youth to be educated and seek further avenues inspires them to join a Bachelors degree course.
"There is a desire amongst rural youth to be educated and seek further avenues. hhattisgarh being a tribal dominated state, there is a lot of support to tribal students from the government and other state agencies for their education. The Tribal Welfare Department gives scholarship to SC/ST students," said Kumar.
"There are scholarships by the Government of India, the University Grants Commission (UGC) National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) has a scheme of Rs.500/- to these students of Bastar region, now divided into five districts, Narayanpur, Bijapur, Bastar, Kanker and Dantewada. Even at the school level, there are several incentives. BPL students are provided with full stationary items. Students of Class XI and Class XII are given Rs.250/- per month," he added.
Commenting on the mind-sets and aspirations of the students in the colleges, Kumar says they are shy and do not form friendships immediately. He. However, asserts that they need patience, handholding and someone who can listen to them.
"They are also very sensitive and once they open up, have a lot of insights. Given an exposure to individuals from different fields, new activities, they take interest and are keen to absorb these," he says.
Talking about the ways in which self-confidence and awareness is instilled among the students, Kumar says that he talks to each students applying in the college so that he can have a better understanding of the person.
He says that the process of interaction actually helps to guide the students during the course of their study period. We are an academic institution and have to follow the syllabus. But we also have extra-curricular activities like NSS which gives them exposure to social issues in villages and involves them in welfare activities like health camps," adds Kumar.
Throwing light on the new courses that are being introduced in the college to keeping touch with the changing times, a positive Kumar says mass communication and media studies are today an established field and a powerful tool in the democratic process and in tune with this a three-year Bachelors Degree in Journalism (BJ) was introduced in the college in 2007.
"Kushabhau Thakre Patrakarita Evam Jan Sanchar Vishwavidyalaya based in Raipur has given the affiliation for the BJ course. The present Vice-Chancellor, Mr. Sachidananda Joshi has been very supportive of this maiden course," says Kumar.
An extremely elated Kumar further says that the awareness of the world outside has also grown in the remote rural areas, and the role of the media in linking this is now being understood.
"This is a self-financing course. The salary of the faculty does not come from the niversity's coffers but from the student's fees. It has to stand the test of scrutiny, of being relevant and the student community decides that. In the first year, it was difficult to get students to enroll. Neither they nor their families could see the point of a journalism course. We had to go house to house to promote this concept. But after the first batch has passed out, it has caught on," says Kumar talking about the scope of such a course growing in a remote rural area.
He adds that several of his students have got admission in the Master of Journalism (MJ) course in Raipur, and terms it to be a big achievement.
The Shaskiya Mahavidyalaya Principal says the visiting faculty and links with Charkha Development Communication Network, an NGO, which transfers communication skills and knowledge of grassroots reporting to these students, is all a remarkable progress and contributing significantly in the overall development of the students.
"We also arrange to send these students for exposure visits in villages. Recently, they participated in a consultation by Rajendra Singh, the noted social activist in water conservation from Rajasthan Niranjan Kumar takes the initiative to take them out to local fairs and melas to pick out stories," he adds.
Asked to comment on the future of the youth in Naxal affected areas as this, an extremely confident Arun Kumar said that given a chance, an exposure to knowledge both within the college curriculum and beyond, rural youth in this tribal area have the potential to grow and create new spaces for themselves in the world both within the region and outside.
According to Charkha Development Communications Network, the exposure to the world outside and the zeal to do something big in life can enable those putting up in the Naxal-affected areas to cross all barriers in life and achieve their goal. By Sujata Raghavan(ANI)