There is MORE to BASTAR than Naxalism

Student working on 3D Printer at Aastha Vidya Mandir Geetham
  • Many of us associate Bastar with Naxalism. What few know that Bastar, the tribal district (it was one district when part of Madhya Pradesh i.e. till 2000) covers an area of 39,171 sq kms which is greater than Kerala and countries like Belgium. Today Bastar consists of seven districts namely Bastar, Kondagaon, Dantewada, Sukhma, Bijapur, Narayanpur and Kanker.

Those who have not travelled might believe that the entire Bastar region is naxal affected and there is complete lack of development. While I cannot comment on Bastar as a whole visited Dantewada in October 2018 and was impressed with the government’s focus on education. 


Just to give you a sense where Dantewada is. It is nearly 400 kms from the state capital of Raipur and about 90kms from Bastar’s biggest town Jagdalpur. Read on -----


Inside call centre YUVA, Dantewada


1 Call Centre Dantewada called YUVA


The call centre started in December 2017. Currently three I.T. companies operate having an employee strength of 457.


Candidates go through interview. If Human Resources feels they have potential get selected. After that they are put through about 45 days of training. Each company decides on nature of training - could be voice or non-voice process, digital marketing, English speaking and etiquettes. Training cost is picked by the government via Pradhan Mantri Kosal Vikash Yojna.


Every employee is paid Rs 8,000/ a month as on date of visit. If they live locally a government bus picks and drops them. If from outside they stay in hostel, i.e. part of Education City, where boarding and lodging is provided by the government at no cost. There are separate hostels for boys and girls.


At a training session I asked Megha, village Bacheli district Dantewada, if her family were ok her moving out to work. She replied family was supportive and wanted to increase income. Next I asked Santosh, village Gollaguda in Bijapur district, if parents were concerned about his well-being. He said koi bhi problem nahin since had a video call with family every night. Laughed - thanks to JIO. So also local girl Reshma wants to increase family income.


The way it works is that BPO infrastructure (internet, computers etc) is provided by the district administration and companies employ young adults, boys and girls. YUVA has three leased lines from Bastarnet, Tracknet and JIO.


YUVA has a capacity of 1,500 seats. Efforts are being made to attract more companies.


To see pictures of YUVA


Inside Aasthya Vidya Mandir Geetham, Bastar


2 Aastha Vidya Mandir Geetham CBSE


The school is about 12 kms before Dantewada. It is a CBSE English medium school that started in 2013. As on date of visit school has 1135 children of whom 561 were girls. It has classes from Upper Kg to Class 10 and is a residential school. App 84 % of the children are adivasis. Children come from all seven districts of Bastar.

How are children selected for Aastha? According to Principal Pradhan Sir, “In order of preference, first orphan child due to Naxal affected, second is homeless child due to being Naxal affected, third is fatherless child due to being Naxal affected, fourth is normal orphan child, fifth is normal motherless child and lastly normal fatherless child.”


Aastha has four Smart Classes. The girl student who took me through a smart class module spoke fluently, Hindi and English. The Science Laboratory has a 3 D printer too. The computer room was impressive.


It costs Rs 4 crores p.a. to run Aastha. Costs borne by NMDC Limited (National Mineral Development Corporation).


According to local sources the quantum of funds available have increased since the creation of a District Mineral Fund (DMF). “The DMF was created in 2015 by the Central government through an amendment in the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957. A  District Mineral Foundation Trust was to be setup in all mining districts as a mechanism to share mining revenue for the benefit of people in these districts. The mining companies are required to pay a sum, determined on the basis of their royalty payments, to the DMF trust of the district.” Source External Link


Star Performer Boys. Name and college of higher education where they got admission.


To see pictures of Education City Geetham


3 Chu Le Aasman


This scheme is meant for students in classes 9 to 12. They are provided extra coaching classes in order to increase the probability of their selection in professional courses like M.B.B.S, Engineering, Pharmacy, NIIT etc. It is a residential facility with all costs borne by the government, books included. There is a separate facility for boys and girls.


The girls section started in 2011-12.  Out of 307 girls, as on date of visit, app 75% are adivasi.


The boys section started in 2011. Out of 307 boys, as on date of visit, app 80% are adivasis. Entrance exam is held June-July every year. For 80 seats about 200-300 apply.


If a student secured admission in a medial course, entire cost of education would be borne by the district administration. 


4 School for Differently Abled Children, SAKSHAM


This facility touched my heart. It is a fully paid residential facility with separate premises for boys and girls. Every child has a bed with box below bed to keep belongings


The boys section has physio-therapy, ear-audio room, speech therapy, BRAIL classroom and a computer training facility. As on date of visit there were 84 kids, 29 had hearing impaired, 14 visually impaired, 29 orthopaedic and 12 mentally retarded.


Having started in 2015 the girls section has near similar but better facilities. As on date of visit there were 74 girls, 23 girls have hearing problems, 37 orthopaedic, 10 are visually impaired and 4 mentally retarded.


Construction of the SAKSHAM facility and annual cost of app Rs 2.2.5 crs borne by NMDC.


Do not know how many state governments pay similar attention to the needs of differently abled children.


Except Chu Le Aasman, other facilities are part of Education City Geetham. It houses Aastha, Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidhyalaya, Eklavya Sports complex, Auditorium, Polytechnic College, BPO, Govt Girls Higher Secondary school, SAKSHAM, DAV Mukhyamantri Model School, Govt Degree College & residential hostels amongst others.

Infrastructure for all these institutions are in one location. Teachers are provided with quarters on campus. Geetham town has grown by leaps and bounds and provides livelihood to thousands if not lakhs. Importantly Adivasi children are provided with quality education. The BPO seeks to provide locals with jobs.


The concept of ‘Education City’ should be replicated by other state governments esp. in backward areas. Education is the starting point for the backwards to move forward. 


Bastar Dussehra-Gour dance by Bison Horn Marias-outside Ma Danteshwari temple.


5 Bastar Dussehra


Any mention of Bastar would be incomplete without Bastar Dussehra. It is about worship of Ma Danteshwari. I found it different, interesting and captivating. All people, adivasis included, worship Ma Danteshwari. Gour dance by Bison Horn Marias left me spell-bound.


As a tourist destination Bastar has much to offer. Chitrakoot Waterfalls (Indian Niagara), Kutumsar Caves, Tirathgarh Waterfalls, Temples of Barsur, Haat (weekly) Market, Bastar Craft and lots more.


An airport at Bastar’s biggest town Jagdalpur was inaugurated recently. Flights stopped for certain reasons forcing tourists to enjoy a seven hour drive from Raipur to Jagdalpur. Regular flights would give a fillip to tourism in the region. 


Bastar nahin dekha, tho India mein kya dekha?


The Author is an Independent Columnist, Founder and Chartered Accountant.


Also read

1 Pictures of Bastar Dussehra

2 Bastar Craft and Culture

3 Pictures of Chitrakoot Waterfalls   

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