Catholic bishops and Religious of West Bengal have decided to promote education among youths living in the eastern Indian state’s “sensitive areas.”
A four-day joint meeting of the prelates with priests and nuns that ended on October 28 decided to open four high schools and two technical schools in the eastern Indian state’s Maoist-affected areas and tea estates.
The regional unit of Conference of Religious India (CRI) and the state’s bishops would soon meet to work out the formalities, Sister Gracy Sunder, an organizer of the meet, told ucanews.com.
The Holy Cross of Chavanod nun, who is CRI’s regional president, recalled that a similar meet last year had decided to study the plight of tribal people in Midnapore district because of Maoist infiltration and those living in tea estates at the foothills of Darjeeling.
That meet had formed two teams to study the problems and propose suggestions.
Some 75 people, including six bishops, attended the latest meeting at Our Lady of Happy Voyage Basilica, Bandel, 45 kilometers east of Kolkata, the state capital, that discussed the theme, “Working towards justice, peace and reconciliation/ harmony in the context of struggle of our people in West Bengal and Sikkim.”
Claretian Father Michael Pandian, who coordinated the committee to study the problems in Maoist areas, said people there need qualitative higher education to stop the youth joining the ultras. He wants the Church to train the young in leadership skills through its educational institutions.
Father Pandian also noted that many people suffer from lack of medicare facilities and malnutrition.
The joint forum of bishops and Religious has gone ahead with schools with hostels even if it does not get government aid.
Jesuit Father Joe Victor, who coordinated the other study, noted that many people have lost jobs because of the closure of tea estates. The Midnapore district has some 360 tea estates.
He wants the Church to educate the workers about their rights, while continuing with its pastoral, educational and healthcare works.
Most workers in these estates are tribal and Nepali people.
The joint forum has decided to open an office with full time staff to coordinate Church intervention in the area.