Mumbai schools not fully equipped to tackle Peshawar-like attack

  • Puja Pednekar, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Dec 16, 2014 22:21 IST

Closed circuit televisions (CCTVs) inside the school and its periphery, a few security guards and a gate: these are the only things protecting Mumbai's schools from criminal or terror strikes.

This is despite a ministry of home affairs circular issued by the education department and police in 2011 which mandated the schools to increase the security and deal with a possible threat.

Reviewing Mumbai schools' security measures in light of the Tuesday's attack on an army-run school in Peshawar, Pakistan where Taliban gunmen killed 132 children, Hindustan Times found that most schools in Mumbai have ignored the security measures.

Though the security guidelines had asked the schools to have a centralised alarm and security systems, compound walls, CCTVs covering the outer periphery among others, very few schools have taken the measures.

To begin with, schools do not have automatic alarms that could alert them of any intruders. "We have alarms in the school but they don't triggered automatically, they have to be set off manually," said Meera Isaacs, principal of Cathedral and John Connon School, Fort. "We have even put up CCTVs. Nothing can prepare any school for a situation like the one that happened in Peshawar."

Though many private schools have installed CCTVs inside the premises after the number of rising cases of sexual assaults in schools, only a few have installed them outside the schools to monitor the surroundings.

Utpal Shanghvi School, Juhu, is among the few schools to install an Internet protocol (IP) camera that provides real time feeds, on the periphery of the school.

"We have put the cameras on the round around the school after receiving a directive from the police to prevent people from keeping a watch on the school," said Abha Dharampal, CEO, of the school. The school had also consulted with the police on the exact locations to install the camera.

But schools with large campuses say that it is not possible to install cameras on every inch.

Schools admitted that CCTVs will also not be of much use in case of a criminal or terrorist attack and that stricter guidelines were needed.

"We had received the circular few years ago and even trained our students to keep an eye out for unidentified objects lying around the school," said Anjana Prakash, principal, Hansraj Morarji Public School. "But these things will not help in case of a terrorist attack."

Many civic-schools and government run schools, far from affording high-end gadgets, do not even have compound walls surrounding the school. "During the RTE audit we had found several schools not having compound walls, we had asked such schools to build them soon," a senior education official said.

The incident has worried the parents for the safety of their children in schools. "We do not mind paying a bit extra but schools need to beef up security to protect students," said Bindu Corriea, a parent from Bandra. "Installing metal detectors, CCTVs, armed security guards could be the solution," she said.

Some of the guidelines mentioned in the circular:

* Every school should have a compound wall

* Anybody entering inside the school compound should have an ID card with them. There should be check on access control.

* Outer periphery of the schools should be covered by CCTVs

* There should be a centralised alarm and security system in the schools

* Adequate lighting arrangements should be there in the school campus during the night time

* There should be a hotline system which can connect gate watchman to either the chief security officer of the school or principal in case of any emergency

* The watchman should be from a licensed security agency and his antecedents should be verified

* Details about the school bus drivers and temporary workers should be there with the school and their antecedents should be verified

* If there is any tree outside the school compound wall, whose branch enters inside the school, then details about this should be given to the police and adequate monitoring should be done to ensure it is not misused by any criminal elements.

* There should be a visual inspection of compound by guards, before opening and closing of schools

* School gates should be closed during working hours laying down security arrangements for schools.

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