The Punjab and Haryana high court has directed the Punjab government to take immediate steps for supplying safe drinking water in schools through reverse osmosis (RO) system or otherwise.
The HC order came following a submission of the state government that water samples in 2,922 government schools have failed the purity test. “This is a very serious matter. Every teacher and student has the right to pure and safe drinking water. The government is directed to take immediate steps for supplying pure and safe drinking water to them through RO systems or otherwise,” the HC said in its order.
During a resumed hearing of a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by advocate HC Arora, the division bench of justices SK Mittal and HS Sidhu was informed by the state government through an affidavit by director general, school education, Punjab, Pardeep Kumar Aggarwal that testing of water samples in the government schools (primary, middle, high and senior secondary) was conducted and completed with the help of the department of health and rural water supply and sanitation, Punjab.
Water samples were tested in 13,182 primary schools of which samples in 2,035 primary schools failed the purity test. Similarly, drinking water samples of 6,487 upper primary schools were taken of which 887 samples failed, the affidavit stated.
Instructions have been issued to all schools, where samples have failed, to take necessary action as per requirement like treatment of water, arrangement of supply through water tanks and by the water supply and sanitation department. Furthermore, RO systems are also being installed out of welfare funds or with the help of the public health department, wherever there is requirement, the HC was informed.
FUNDS FOR TOILETS RELEASED
The government also stated that funds for 13 boys’ toilets and 283 separate toilets for girls had been released. The construction of 98 toilets (seven boys toilets and 91 girls toilets) had been completed and the remaining 198 (six boys toilets and 192 girls toilets) was in progress and was expected to be completed in three months.
During the hearing, assistant solicitor general of India Chetan Mittal apprised the HC bench that the project approval board of the Central government had approved funds for 1,296 new classrooms in the place of demolished rooms and funds would be released to as per requirement. Regarding status of reconstruction of demolished unsafe classrooms, funds for construction of 269 such classrooms had been released to the district education officers concerned in October 2014. Seven such classrooms had been completed so far; 45 classrooms were nearly ready and only furnishing was pending, and 79 classrooms were at plaster level.
The next date of hearing has been fixed for July 17 in which the government has to file a status report.