Red-hunters open tap to win hearts

If not with roses, gun-toting CRPF jawans manning the Maoist areas are trying to win the people over with basic necessities like water.

Call it compassion or a tack to gain confidence, the paramilitary jawans are exceedingly taking up social causes in remote hamlets that would help villagers live a decent life.

In one such move, the 131 battalion of CRPF's company commandant, Sandeep Singh, on Sunday donated a 1,000lt tank and a water pump to Government Primary School at Chatrahan Bagru under the civic action plan (CAP). The charity was a part of a colourful social camp organised at the CRPF's Belhar wing.

Hundreds of students of the school, located in Banka's rebel-torn Belhar block, around 105km from the district headquarters and 460km southeast of Patna, would now get access to clean drinking water on the campus, which, till today, was a distant dream. The children had no access to clean drinking water on the school campus.

The parents of the students walk 7-8km every day from their villages to fetch water for their households as well as their school-going children. Once the pump and the water tank are installed, the mothers of the children, too, would be able to fetch water from the school.

"We are at the mercy of the Maoists and the government. For the first time, we received such a valuable gift from the men-in-uniform (CRPF jawans). We were afraid of the jawans, who were synonymous to harassment," said Bipin Kumar, a social worker from Chatrahan Bagru. Bipin collected the gift from the jawans on behalf of the school on Sunday.

St Patrick School, a private school in the forest area at Dhobatard hamlet, also received a similar gift from the CRPF. The school, which is around 25km from Belhar, has 150 students.

School principal Binod Murmu said: "Such help from a government organisation like the CRPF has come for the first time in the area."

The distance from Belhar to Dhobatard is around 70km. But there is no road to connect the two hamlets. "One could easily understand what development means here. However, there cannot be a better gift than a water tank and a pump for a school, which is deprived of clean drinking water," Murmu said.

On the warm gesture, commandant Sandeep Singh said such charity is a way to tell the villagers that the government is working for them.

"We have been deployed in the village to counter the Maoist menace. We mostly remain on our toes chasing the rebels. Hence, people have a bad opinion about us in the region. But we are trying to address the problems of the innocent villagers under the civic action plan," Singh added.

According to him, the battalion had earlier organised several civic action plan camps for the villagers. "We intend to provide useful items that can generate income among the villagers. Unemployed are in abundance here," he said.

Gayatri Devi (27), a beneficiary of a CRPF camp and a victim of Maoist torture, said it was because of the CRPF she could earn a living after her husband was abducted by the Maoists in 2008.

"There's no trace of my husband, Chandan Das, who was abducted in 2008. No one from the government or any public representative came to me to know how I was managing with an infant daughter. The (CRPF) jawans donated me a plate-manufacturing machine. Now, my neighbours and I earn enough to run my household," she said.

Manoranjan Bharati, the station house officer of Belhar police station, appreciated the charity work undertaken by the CRPF.

"Such programmes not only help the destitute but also help in winning their hearts. Winning the hearts of villagers in rebel hot-bed is considered a major success for the police and other security agencies," Bharati said.

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