Two years ago, Sawargaon village in the Dhanora tehsil of Gadchiroli made international headlines when a bomb blast in front of a government school for tribal students killed five people. Three students — Sunil Halami, Mukesh Kottore, Nangsai Hidko — and a 35-year-old cook and a 50-year-old villager were killed in the blast.
The villagers alleged that the blast was caused by a grenade fired by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel during an encounter that day. But the ITBP refuted this charge and blamed the Maoists instead.
More than two years after the incident, nothing much has changed for Sawargaon, especially for students of the Sawargaon Ashram Shala who saw their classmates and fellow villagers die a grisly death.
Though there are 173 tribal students in the school, 93 boys and 80 girls, it has not been provided with a proper building yet. The hostel and school function in dilapidated buildings provided by the villagers.
Water seeps down the ceiling of the buildings during rain. Some of the classes are even conducted in a ramshackle cowshed.
One of the teachers said: “Classes are conducted at five different locations because the villagers could not provide a single building for the school.”
“We have given many proposals for the school building. Many villagers are ready to donate their land for it but there has been no response from the government authorities yet” said another, while a student said they use oil lamps when “electricity plays hide and seek with us.”
Moreover, the condition is exacerbated by the lack of teachers. There are only seven teachers, of whom only four come to teach on a regular basis. The other three appointed on a temporary basis are paid a meagre salary of Rs. 60 per day, “that’s why they don’t come to teach in this Naxal hotbed.”
The condition in the hostels is also as bad. “There are only four rooms for the 80 girl students, with 20 girls sharing one room each. There are no toilets or bathrooms,” a hostel official told The Hindu.
Media coverage no use
“After all the media attention which Sawargaon received after the 2010 blast, we expected the situation to improve. But nothing has changed in the last two years,” said one teacher.
All the teachers asked this correspondent not to quote them, “because the government doesn’t wait to suspend us for our small mistakes but it’s not ready to provide at least the basic facilities which an ashram shala needs.”
Maharashtra has a full-fledged department for Tribal Welfare, and crores of rupees are allotted to these the ashram shalas annually.