Thousands of students of government primary and secondary schools here have been drinking unsafe water, mostly from the hand pumps installed on the school premises, for years.
About 152 out of 254 samples of drinking water taken from government primary schools have been allegedly tested unfit for drinking purpose. Water samples from about 90 middle, high and senior secondary schools have also failed.
The samples were taken after the high court instructions and the government had submitted a report in this regard in April. This way, thousands of students studying in 242 schools out of the 420 were left to drink unsafe water which makes about 58% of the total.
"Though samples of drinking water have failed, yet the government is not taking any steps to provide clean drinking water to students. After sample results, the schools have been advised not to allow the children to drink hand pump water, but there is no any option before schools. Many schools have a large number of students, as for about 500 or above. Small ROs fall very short against such a strength and water works supply is poor," claimed a source in the education department.
"Most of the schools have been getting drinking water from hand pumps which are mostly polluted. The supply of the water from the existing water works is also not satisfactory and many schools do not have even connections of drinking water supply from the water works. The installation of deep bore wells to pump out water with the help of submersible pumps to supply it to ROs is also costly and requires funds. But, so far, no funds are available for the purpose," claimed the source.
In many villages of the district, the hand pump water is even not fit for any purpose and fit for animals too.
"The students studying in government schools are from economically backwards classes. They have to drink hand pump water in schools because they also do not have any ROs at home to bring pure water. Bad drinking water leads to many ailments among the children. Though, there were already reports that hand pump water is unfit for consumption, the government has not taken any steps to provide pure drinking water in schools," said Pirtpal Singh, who is running the Baba Farid centre for special children in Faridkot.
"The same water is being used to cook midday meal," added Pirtpal.
"The government should take it seriously and not play with the lives of thousands of school children. Pure drinking water is available only in a small number of schools so far," said Prem Chawla, senior vice-president of the government school teachers union, Punjab.
"The education department has sought a list of such schools form us in which drinking water is not fit for consumption. Some schools have got ROs from donors and 13 ROs to schools are being provided with the grant by the deputy commissioner, Faridkot," said Sukhchain Singh Gill, DEO, secondary, Faridkot.
"We are trying our best to get ROs, water from village water works and some schools have made arrangements to fetch water from village ROs. We also appeal to village panchayats to help us provide pure drinking water for school children," said Parminder Singh Brar, DEO, primary, Faridkot. However, they said that any government funds for the purpose are yet awaited.