WANNABE MAOISTS, NOW REGULAR MIDDLECLASS FOLKS OF MUMBAI, PUNE, NAGPUR
By Munish Pandey, Mumbai Mirror | Dec 19, 2016, 11.15 AM IST
45 young men from Chandrapur-Gadchiroli belt, who were lured by Maoists, have been brought into mainstream with regular white-collar jobs, by the training programs of BVG India Ltd, India’s Largest Integrated Services Company.
Till a few months ago, Manoj Maruri Asutkar, a 27-year-old man from Usgaon village in Maharashtra’s Chandrapur district, would routinely venture deep inside the jungles where Maoists would hold training camps. Scores of jobless young men and women, struggling to find two square meals a day, would be brainwashed into picking up weapons at these camps. Today, Asutkar is part of a 45-strong group that’s found employment in Mumbai, Pune, and Nagpur — white-collar jobs that earn these youths five-figure salaries a month.
The police have termed this a ‘revolution’ in Maoist-hit areas of Maharashtra, where more and more youths are discarding the easier option of picking up a gun, and opting to carve out a normal, middle-class life, thanks to an initiative undertaken by Pune based firm called Bharat Vikas Group.
“Most of us are school dropouts. The Bharat Vikas Group and other corporate houses launched skill development programmes in our villages and also ensured we found jobs in cities. I completed a two-month training programme and found employment with the DY Patil Hospital in Nerul,” said Asutkar, a 12th pass who works as scientific supervisor and earns Rs 18,000 a month.
“Before this initiative, there were zero opportunities for people like me,” he said. “Without jobs and infrastructure, it is very easy to feel disgruntled and angry… Maoists use this anger to turn people from our areas into rebels,” Asutkar said.
The Asutkars are a family of five, and a money order every month is like a blessing. “We are emerging from terrible poverty. The fact that I am able to send money home every month makes me feel I’m doing something massively positive for my parents,” he said.
While the Bharat Vikas Group workers and volunteers travel to villages in Chandrapur and Gadchiroli districts, which have borne the brunt of Maoist activities, infrastructure for the training programmes are provided by ACC Cements.
Suraj Thackrey, 20, also from Usgaon village, said all these years, the men from his area slogged in coal mines and limestone reservoirs.
“When it comes to survival, a person can do anything, including take someone’s life. And this is what has been happening in our area,” Thackrey, a 10th pass who has found employment in Pune and earns Rs 12,000 a month, said.
Hanmantrao Gaikwad, chief managing director of Bharat Vikas Group, a firm that bids for cleaning large buildings (it won contracts to clean the Parliament building, the Rashtrapati Bhavan, and the Prime Minister’s residence), said the company has made it a mission to bring Maoists into mainstream.
“It is difficult to survive in big cities without a proper income. Not only are we training youths in skill development, we are also ensuring they complete graduation,” Gaikwad said.
The state police, encouraged by the response, said they will do whatever it takes to ensure more such initiatives are taken up. Former cops point out that the Mumbai/Pune/Nagpur darshan events organised by the police were also complimenting these initiatives.
“Young men and women from Chandrapur, Gadchiroli and Gondia districts are vulnerable because development has not touched their areas,” said former additional director general of police PK Jain.
“We started an initiative called Maharashtra Darshan wherein we took these youths to Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Aurangabad and made them aware that there was a sea of opportunity waiting for them, if they were willing to give it a shot,” Jain added.