Residents on Monday blocked the Barnala-Mansa road at Dhaula village to press for their demand of upgrading Government High School, Dhaula, to senior secondary level. At least six protesters climbed atop a community water tank.
The police remained soft on protestors in the wake of the recent double suicide case at Jodhpur village in the district.
Even women and girls joined the protesters, braving the sweltering heat. The dharna was lifted in the evening after additional deputy commissioner (ADC) Amandeep Bansal assured the protesters of school upgrade without specifying any timeline.
The villagers, protesting under the banner ‘Dhaula School Upgradaton Action Committee’, had put banners announcing boycott of political parties till their demand was met with.
Action committee leader Beant Bajwa said, “Many of the protesters climbed the water tank and were ready to immolate themselves. We are frustrated with the administrative machinery remaining non-responsive to our long-pending demand. “The government is always ready to open liquor vends, but here we have to struggle to get a school upgraded.”
Gursewak Dhaula, another protester, said, “In case the government does not fulfill its promise to upgrade the school, we will resume our agitation.”
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Darbara Singh Guru said, “The state government in the recent budget had earmarked a sum of Rs 225 crore for upgrading 800 schools in the state. This school will be upgraded along with other schools. It may take time but upgrade is certainly on our priority. I have also talked to education minister Daljeet Singh Cheema on the issue.”
“People are after getting credit and are unnecessarily politicising the matter. The upgrade is on the cards,” said Guru.
Additional deputy commissioner (ADC) Amandeep Bansal said, “The proposal for upgrading about 20 schools in the district has been under consideration with the DPI (secondary) and Dhaula school is one of them. We are hopeful that the proposal would go through before the month-end.”
Barnala sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Amarveer Singh Sidhu said, “We do not have the jurisdiction to do anything on the matter. But the proposal for upgrading the school is already under consideration and it takes time for finalisation.”
Village sarpanch Ram Singh said, “The school, opened about five decades back, has two sections in Class 10 and three sections in Class 9. Those passing matriculation go to Barnala, Rureke Kalan and Pakho to take admission in Class 11. We are worried about our girls. Our village population is approximately 18,000. The protest is purely a publicity stunt.”
District education officer (secondary) Harkanwaljit Kaur said, “The school fulfills all norms for upgrade. It has 602 students and there is no senior secondary school in the radius of 5 kilometeres. Today I had a meeting with the DPI (secondary) and he has assured upgrade this month. Classes for senior secondary will start this session.”
DPI (Secondary), Balbir Singh Dhol said, “We have received about 350 proposals for upgrading high schools to senior secondary level. The entire lot of proposal will be cleared in a few days.” “The Dhaula school fulfills all requirements for upgrade,” said Dhol.