Another Dhoni in making

BJ Mirror Correspondent

Ranthu Munda

Ranthu Munda has all the promises to beanother Mahendra Singh Dhoni of Jharkhand. His half century (not out) off 21 balls against a Delhi school team in the Eyeway Challenger Cricket, Kingsway Camp, New Delhi, showed the potential in this 17-year-old Adivasi lad from a remote Khunti village. He is blind; having lost his vision to an infection at the age of two.

Ranthu is an ardent fan of Dhoni.In addition to the cricket features, Ranthu Munda has another commonality with Dhoni. Both have their schooling at Ranchi. While former was a student of Rashtriya Netraheen Madhya Vidyalaya, Harmu, the latter read at Ranchi Zila School. The biggest dissimilarity between the two idols is that Ranthu is blind. Their backgrounds too aredissimilar. The blind genius has a humble beginning. His father is marginal peasant of Haldigara village and the family’s sole earner. He toils hard to spend Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500 a month on the education of his prodigal son.

Ranthu Munda and Mahendra Dhoni are like banks of a river. Munda is an aboriginal and Dhoni a migrant. Moreover, Dhoni is a celebrity, a cricket icon; Ranthu is a non-entity struggling to be an icon. The ‘Jharkhand’ bridges the two. The cricket star is a role-model for him. ‘Ekalabya’ hopes to meethis ‘Dronacharya’. “I want to ask him how he got interested in cricket and how he got his skill We keenly follow the commentary on the radio. Though we are blind, we understand everything – fielding positions, spin, and style sab kuch”, the tribal boy giggled.

Ranthu does not expect any special favour from Jharkhand Chief Minister Arjun Munda, but his wishis that the government should provide more facilities in the blind schools in the tribal state. “We need computer training institutes. If these are there then many more blind children can progress and earn a living”, he said. Jharkhand has two government schools for deaf and mute students at Ranchi and Giridih and six state-aided ones at Ranchi, Dhanbad, Chaibasa, Dumka and Hazaribagh. Ranchi has two privately-run schools, St Michael’s Blind School and Braj Kishori Netrahin Blind School at Bariatu.

Ranthu had to move out from Harmu’s Rashtriya Netraheen Madhya Vidyalaya to the Delhi government’s institution for the blind in Lajpat Nagar in 2006. “I wanted to study. The Harmu school doesn’t have facilities like recordings and other aids to help the blind students” and teaches up to class VIII only. (A few months earlier the Jharkhandgovernment has installed 11 disabled-friendly computers at the Ranchi blind school (read Ranthu’s former alma mater) with the information technology department’s aid and plans to upgrade this school to secondary level from the next academic session).

The young Munda rues: “There has been no effort by the state government to help us”. The blind genius takes a deep breath and goes on to add: “It’s tough for my parents, but they don’t let me feel the pinch. They asked me to study whatever I like”.

Ranthu’s aunt had got him into the Harmu school, but by the time he finished Class eight he knew that his only chance of succeeding in life was to move to Delhi. “Other blind students told me of the Delhi school. Education there is free, but we have to pay for books and some other fees. But our hostels are good. We also learn computers”, he revealed.

The Delhi school receives public funds as well as charity. Most of 130 students go to college after they finish schooling. The students seem naturally attracted to cricket, chess, javelin-throw, discus, shot put and running. Ranthu himself has competed in long jump at national level athletic competitions. He also won the Indira Award for topping South Delhi in the CBSE in 2010.At the Eyeway Challenger Cricket, Munda, an all–rounder, also took four wickets giving away only 30 runs. The tournament for the blind is also open to the partially blind. Six teams compete. The ball makes a sound like a rattle, helping the batsman and fielders to place it and the wicket-keeper claps to direct the bowler. He gets a runner.

Ranthu is at sea to imagine his fate after he finishes his school the next year. He plans to study politics or history at Delhi University but he does not “know where the money will come from. “Par prayas karne se raste khul jaate hain” (I shall do my best, roads will open). The physically challenged students, however, have some hopes. A newspaper report has quoted Chief Minister Arjun Munda having said that the state government would consider giving him a ‘direct job’ once Ranthu finished his studies from New Delhi. The government is in the process of formulating a policy for disabled persons to minimise their plight. “My government will ensure transparent and effective implementation of schemes meant for the disabled as well as their schooling”, he said.

The state’s draft disability policy envisages all education and technical institutes, private or government; allocate three per cent of seats for physically disabled persons at any cost. Some 777 special teachers would be appointed for block-level schools to help disabled students admitted to regular schools. An overhaul at the grassroots is on the cards. Departments like education, health, social services, among others, will also be asked to spend three per cent of their budget on welfare for the disabled. The Jharkhand government is also looking at private aid. Corporate houses, which get land and other facilities from the government, will be prodded to give jobs to the differently abled.

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