The ‘Gudia’ gangrape and murder case in Shimla district has not only brought a bad name for Himachal Police and the state for the alleged ‘cover up’, the incident has torn apart the ‘social fabric’ and has shaken the faith, leaving the parents fearful in Himachal Pradesh as a whole.
In HP, the children in interior areas, either go walking around the secluded hill terrain or take ‘lift’ in vehicles, sometimes from strangers, as a normal phenomenon as public transport is not available on time in many areas.
It happened in the case of 16-year-old Gudia also, who studied in a Government Senior School, over five kilometres away from her village.
On the day of crime in Kotkhai area of Shimla, she took lift from an acquaintance, a driver, Rajinder Singh, alias Raju, engaged with a local orchard, after school on 4 July that proved ghastly.
Gudia’s brother, also in tenth standard, used to accompany her to school, which took them more than one hour to reach from paths through the forest area.
They, along with other children, sometimes took lift in the vehicles driven by locals, including Raju, in all innocence.
Gudia came from a poor background and her father would always tell her to be watchful of wild animals on the way, but never thought on these lines.
“The incident is unfortunate. Apart from the gaps in the Police investigation that has led to resentment and protests, it has raised questions on the social faith as well as the positioning of schools. There are so many government schools in
Himachal Pradesh, but the children still have to walk so long, involving all such fears,” Chief Parliamentary Secretary, Rohit Thakur told The Statesman.
HP has around 15,000 government schools and over three thousand private schools. As per a report, 30 per cent of government school going children in state have to walk more than four kilometres to reach school every day.
As per the Right to Information Act policy, for children from small villages where no school exists within the area or limits of neighbourhood, the state government or local authority may consider making provision of free bus passes or payment of distance allowance at such rates as it may fix from time to time. And in areas with dispersed population, the state government, instead of opening a school, may establish a hostel in some suitable school where, students of such areas may be admitted.
In HP, however, the government has focused on schools and colleges in rural areas, there are gaps in planning, particularly in interior of Shimla, Sirmaur, Kullu, Chamba, Mandi and some tribal areas, where distances are long and students have to walk through tough and secluded terrain to reach schools.
The provision of hostels is rare and while the government has arranged for free travel for school children, the buses are either not available, or their schedule doesn’t match with the school timings.