Rain reduces roofless Ludhiana school to rubble, students have narrow escape

The Education Department of Punjab, for two decades, has been citing a ‘court case’ as an excuse saying that no new construction can be done on disputed land. It did not even shift children to some other building to save the school land from encroachers.

For two decades Government Primary School, kucha number 16, of Field Ganj in Ludhiana has been operating out of a structure without a roof. But the worst happened on Monday when even the walled structure of the school collapsed after rain poured over it for hours. At least 10 students had a narrow escape as the walls and the iron girders came down with a loud thud.

Teachers said the accident was imminent. For years students studied under a plastic sheet which teachers tied to the iron girders and the weak walls every day before classes got underway. The plastic cover would be untied at the end of each day.

After Monday’s incident, the head teacher said, “Children here are from extremely poor families. Their parents are labourers. But that doesn’t mean they will let their children study in a school which has no roof and walls. Now there are just 22 kids. The way children cried today after the structure collapsed, we don’t think they are coming back tomorrow at least. Even a thought of what would have happened had structure collapsed and harmed the kids shake us.”

She added, “I was about to call some students to help me put the plastic sheet when there was a loud thud and entire structure collapsed.”

The Education Department of Punjab, for two decades, has been citing a ‘court case’ as an excuse saying that no new construction can be done on disputed land. It did not even shift children to some other building to save the school land from encroachers.

“Just for a piece of land, lives of children were being risked. Walls were very weak and it was clear that they will collapse. Were we waiting for them to collapse?” the head teacher asked.

In 2014 when The Indian Express reported about this school, Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered his maiden Teacher’s Day lecture and orders were issued to schools to arrange a radio or television. This roofless school had arranged a television. It rained so hard that children were made to hold umbrellas to cover the television set.

In 2015, there were 43 children now reduced to just 22. A neighbouring ‘Janjh Ghar’ (a community hall) claims that school land (1,660 square yards costing almost Rs 18 crore) belongs to them. The case is in court.

Krishan Kumar, Secretary, School Education, Punjab also did not pick calls but sources said he has called for a report. Kuldeep Saini, Deputy DEO, Ludhiana, said that it has been decided to shift children to a nearby school but ‘such incidents can happen anywhere’.

“From tomorrow they will be sitting at government primary school on Shahpuri road nearby. A room has been arranged for them,” he said. Asked why they weren’t shifted for two decades, he said, “Such incidents can happen anytime and anywhere.”

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