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Mumbai: Safety directives confuse heritage schools

mumbai Updated: Dec 27, 2014 21:33 IST
Puja Pednekar
Puja Pednekar
Hindustan Times
Mumbai schools

Security directives issued by the Mumbai police, in the wake of the deadly attack on a school in Peshawar, have left schools housed in heritage structures in a fix.

Among a host of instructions, the police have asked the city schools to raise their compound walls to 8 foot high and fix barbed wires or concertina wires on top to prevent intrusion.

But a number of schools are unsure whether they will be allowed to make these changes to the age-old structures.

Cathedral and John Connon School, Fort, for instance, was established in a Gothic style building.

It is now consulting the city’s heritage committee on the alterations it has been asked to make to the boundary wall. “We have asked the heritage committee to clear our proposal for a taller compound wall as per the police directives,” said Meera Isaacs, principal of the school. “The police have given a long list, but we do not know how much of it is doable as ours is a heritage building.”

She also said the school did not have much space on its campus to create an assembly point for children and parents in case of an emergency. “We are also seeking police advice on how to go about the changes with the current restrictions.”

St Xavier's School, Fort; St Mary's School, Mazgaon and St Stanislaus School, Bandra, are also facing similar problems. "We received the directives from the police on Tuesday, but we do not know how many of them we can follow," said Father Francis Swamy, manager of St Xavier's and director of Jesuits Board of Education which runs several schools in Mumbai.

"Many of our schools have now received heritage status as they are one of the oldest buildings in the city. We cannot even touch the compound walls without prior permission of the heritage committee," he added.

Abha Narain Lambah, a member of the Delhi Heritage Committee and a former member of the heritage committee in Mumbai, said raising the compound wall should be allowed even for heritage schools so that safety was not compromised.

“I have a school-going daughter and it is a scary proposition that she may be unsafe in school. Security is of utmost importance. In case of heritage structures, changes can be done with sensitivity, while maintaining the essence of the building,” said Lambah.