Hundreds of schools in Delhi may be working out of unsafe buildings, endangering the lives of their students, since a structural stability certificate — needed for these institutions to remain functional — comes for as little as Rs 3,000, no questions asked.
On hearing that engineers and architects at Tis Hazari court complex were “selling” these certificates, HT decided to test the theory — and found it to be true.
This correspondent managed to get a fake certificate from one such engineer. A six-minute conversation and a 10-minute wait later, the fictional ‘Little Angles School’ — with Angels wrongly spelt — was born at the fictional address Plot A/58, Trilokpuri. All for `3,000.
The engineer, who produced a licence showing he was empanelled with the south Delhi municipal corporation and hence authorised to issue the certificates, didn’t ask for an inspection or even the building plan. He asked when the building was constructed, if it was strong, and how many rooms the school had.
“It was properly built, so see for yourself,” HT answered, a response that satisfied him. The entire conversation was recorded.
At least three other vendors there promised to have certificates ready within minutes.
The Right to Education Act, 2009 mandates that no school can run without a structural stability certificate from a competent authority.
And after the 2010 Lalita Park building collapse incident in east Delhi that left 71 people dead, the municipal corporation set up a panel of engineers authorized to issue these certificates to all buildings, including schools, in the city.
In June this year, the Delhi high court asked government authorities to close down all unrecognised schools that may pose a risk to students’ safety. The Directorate of Education (DoE) in Delhi subsequently notified all such schools, asking them for structural stability certificates. While 800 schools have submitted these, 300 more have been put on notice, DoE sources said. One source said many of the certificates submitted by schools had been issued by the same engineer HT met. A senior department official said other engineers had also complained about this practice.
While issuing the certificate, the engineer at Tis Hazari assured this correspondent that many people had taken such certificates from him. The focus is currently on unsafe schools, but the problem could have larger ramifications as these empanelled engineers grant certificates to other buildings too.