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Home Modernization Reports Khetan Jee's Report

Netarhat Trip


We (I, my wife Neeru, my sister Shanti and her husband Shankar Baboo) reached Netarhat at 7AM on 10/21. We went straight to the Palamau Dak Bungalow. We had all 3 rooms reserved for us. Room #1 is a special room reserved for senior IAS officers only (since Narendra Bhagatji was originally expected to come with us, the room was reserved. for us). The rooms are nicely equipped, big airy rooms. However we saw a lizard in room #1, so Neeru refused to be in that room. Both rooms had non working toilet flushes and Geysers also. Otherwise they were comfortable, except there was no electricity most of the times and very little oil for the backup generator. In Bihar/Jharkhand, it is not just the common people, but even the most powerful administrators too have to live with these realities.

Our 24 hours in Netarhat were the most memorable in my life!

I had previously spoken with the new Principal, Sri Binod Karnji and expressed the desire to relive 24 hours as a student (except for sleeping, where I needed AC or a fan even on the hill station). And the principal and the whole school more than obliged. They made us feel like the most honoured guest...I felt like the President of India!

Karnji came and picked us up at 7:45, when we went to have breakfast with him in Vikram Ashram (Hostel). We also had lunch and dinner at Vikram too. The whole system is the same as it was in 1960's. Kids take turn doing all the chores in the ashrams (assignment wheel was active). No servants are used to clean the ashrams. 2 kids each have the duty to serve the food to the rest (other kids, housemaster called Shrimanji and guests). After everyone eats, these two kids eat. Other 4 Kids have the job of cleaning up the dining area (Raised stone padestal used as a platform for eating while siting on floor..see picture), and all the utensils. The whole day's routine is structured. All work has to be done completely and promptly so as not to get late for the next scheduled event.

One thing we noticed on our way to the breakfast was that the students were well disciplined, in tidy uniforms and greeted us with namaste when they saw us. In the ashram all of them came and touched our feet and asked for blessings.

From breakfast we rushed onto a special session of daily assembly, which now takes place in the workshop area. The stage is used to seat the Principal, guests and announcements. The back of the hall is used by teachers (see picture).

Assembly routine was the same old while waiting, school song (Vande he sundar mam sakha Netarhat sada by Saxenaji), welcome by the Principal, one kid reading the days' headlines and special items. Well the whole day was special. The assembly took two and half hours instead of half hour. It started with a very warm welcome by the Principal, where he honored me by asking me to distribute the trophies for the just concluded Inter set athletic competitions (how nostalgic!!). During my Netarhat days, being somewhat weak in sports, I had never received (or touched) a I was distributing them to the best...I was deeply touched. Then came my turn to address the school and I shared with them the feelings of being special that all ...old and new...NOBs (Netarhat Old Boys) have. I told them they were indeed privileged to be a part of such a special family and this privilege burdens them to give back something to the less lucky ones. My message was that "Being from Netarhat" was an introduction in itself, which at once raised the expectations of others and that put a special responsibility on us to live upto the words of our school song (Sadhak hain samta ke, satya, nyay, karuna ke; Hind Prem Sambal hai, vishwa prem sadhya bana. We are seekers of equality, truth, justice and compassion. Love of our motherland is our strength, love of the whole world our goal and ideal..). The students and teachers were very curious about our activities since getting out of our school. They were also very inquisitive about our brothers who have chosen to live in the utterly materialistic western world called USA. They wondered how we are able to balance our sense of idealism living in THIS COUNTRY. I told them that America is a VERY GOOD country. Indeed there is a lot for us to learn from here. Having been exposed to both the cultures, we can chose the best of both.

The Q & A sessions was interesting, emotional, arousing, intellectual and very intense. It was very very gratifying. The courtesy and respect shown throughout was most impressive. The welcome was absolutely straight from heart. Netarhat still turns out graduates with solid brains along with hearts of Gold and resolves of steel.

In the afternoon, I met almost all the teachers as a group. Most of the questions there revolved around several concerns, namely:

a. Crumbling Netarhat infrastructures, buildings in disrepair, Chalet shut down (I did shed a tear...gone is the tennis court, Pradhanji's garden full of Guavas, The flower garden where we used to celebrate the Netarhat Diwas), Arun Ashram (my first ashram) shut down etc. Lack of electricity, water etc.

b. Very low staff level....24 teachers to be hired (due to reservation most have to come from tribal areas, where it is difficult to find this many qualified teachers), many karmacharis (gardeners, cooks, dhobi, Nai etc.) positions are open. The beautifully landscaped front of the old assembly building has grass upto 5 ft in length due to non-maintenence.

c. Buzz about making the school "autonomous" and its effect on teachers. Apparently a proposal by Ranchi NOBA to allow the school to maintain its character and Government funding, but be governed by an autonomous"Board of Directors" consisting of well wishers of Netarhat (Old teachers/principals, Old students, educationists, Key administrators like Education secretary, some parents etc.) was modified by the education ministry and a copy was sent to the school and teachers unilaterally without any background or communication.

In the afternoon, Pradhanji and a few teachers were kind enough to take us to the magnolia point. We enjoyed the view, but heavy clouds prevented us from seeing the gorgeous sunset.

In the evening, the Principal had arranged for a special cultural program (on Tuesday!). The 1.5 hour program consisted of some (well rehersed and practiced) Chorus songs, Instrumental Orchestra and a well choreographed funny play. Again the quality of presentation , both in form and content reminded me of old days. These kids don't seem be to be less in any aspect from the kids of old days. Indeed I was told that even academically, Netarhat still gets a huge majority of top positions in the annual Board exam.

There was no power from 5 PM onwards.....even till the next day when we left. Pradhanji, I and a teacher had negotiated all the hills in going from his office to the workshop with the help of a flashlight in the stark darkness.

The cultural program was staged with the help of a backup generator. We spent the night in the Dak Bungalow ( Almost aptly named…should have been called the Dark Bungalow). Even though there was no power, it was not bad due to the pleasant weather.

We left the next morning at 7 AM.

I parted with the following thought:

..Netarhat's spirit...the alive and preserved. Its culture is intact. It is a tribute to the teachers, the students and the principal that it is so despite all the adversities and lack of support. The body....the infrastructure, the support system were hurting and crumbling, but fixing them and strengthening them would be a very worthwhile...albeit a uphill battle..task. Netarhat must be supported and nurtured......Even though difficulties are overwhelming..

..No students have been admitted in last 3 years. this year 200 students have been brought in without proper entrance screening...50% acceptance rate. When 100 of these are admitted in 3rd year..what happens due to the lack of first two years of indoctrination? Are these the right kind of students to be admitted? Is the Sacred entrance exam. process being tampered with?

..How would low teacher morale help? What about their feeling of being treated like dirt...what with receiving a note from the powers that be, without any explanations and any inputs into the concept.

..Is the current staffing level sufficient to handle the numbers..

..No power, water problem,

..No outings due to threat of terrorism around. Kids have not gone to the beautiful falls in years

..No internet or computerization. Semiworking phone lines. No fax. In this information age..Netarhat can be completely cut off from civilization for days.

..Principal being treated like a low level peon by every Bureaucrat in power. Any one can order him to abandon his charge and rush off to Ranchi (12 hours ride two ways). I wish the administrators were forced to come to Netarhat to see the road.

I will discuss these with the Netarhat well wishers tomorrow..(Ex teachers/Principals and Ranchi NOBA) and with NOBA USA upon my return...I thought as our Sumo left Netarhat and we bade goodbye!

to be continued.....


giving out  trophies
trophy giving out
SK giving out prizes
Netarhat Assembly
SK%20addressing%20Netarhat%20assembly,%20Principle%20BK Karn in background
In Pradhanji's GARDEN at Vikram
Pradhanji's garden
Lunch at Vikram Ashram, Karnji, SPB, Shanti

Netarhat Assembly building
SK, Neeru and the Netarhat assembly building.JPG
Netarhat Orchestra
Netarhat logo in Assembly

singers and players

Last Updated (Monday, 18 January 2010 02:04)

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