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HindustanTimes Mon,22 Sep 2014

OPEN LETTER
Who ruined my school, Mr Badal?

Vishav Bharti, Hindustan Times   October 06, 2012
First Published: 00:08 IST(6/10/2012) | Last Updated: 16:46 IST(6/10/2012)

Dear Mr Sukhbir Badal,
Hope this letter finds you well.

From media reports, I have come to know that you have "donated" Rs. 1 crore to your alma mater, The Lawrence School, Sanawar, from public money.

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Everybody has love for his school. So, it was an obvious gesture on your part of 'giving back'.
I, too, have love for my school. But unlike yours, mine is not "famous" or "prestigious". My alma mater was neither established by colonial masters nor does it have a one-and-a-half-century-long tale to tell.

My school is one of the 18,000-odd schools being run by the government, of which you are the deputy chief minister.

It was built by those who believed "knowledge is freedom" and dreamt that even the poorest of the poor in independent India had the right to that freedom. Sadly, the dream has been shattered, the vision seems to have become tunnel vision.

Sir, my school doesn't have pretty faces as yours has. The idea of uniform arrived in my school recently. The students still shy away from the colonial language. Unlike yours, my school doesn't have any names to boast of. Not even a single noteworthy student in the past two decades has come out of my humble institution.

Present-day teachers say that there are hardworking students, but not "intelligent" enough to become engineers or doctors. Most of them who study in the school run by your government, Mr Badal, are the poorest of the poor, children of Dalits, rural labourers and landless peasants.

The situation seems to have turned worse than it was one-and-a-half-decade ago, when I was a student.

A fresh query reveals that students up to Class 8 in my school don't have benches to sit. The luxury of benches comes only when they enter Class 9. In our time, we enjoyed this luxury in Class 8. Till then, students used to be responsible for managing their own seats, which were often discarded white pesticide bags.

From my batch, I was the only one to reach the graduation level. No, I was not better than the others in any way. It was easy for a mediocre child of a schoolteacher to attain that level.
However, when you were questioned about the gesture, you counter-questioned, "What is the duty of heads of governments? We give grants to schools, hospitals."

My school also needs an alumnus who could "care" for it. But from where would it get one? Is anybody even ready to send their children to those schools? Are you ready, Mr Badal, to send your own children to schools which your government owns. Those times, too, have long passed when teachers would admit their children in the schools where they taught.

Who is responsible for this mess, Mr Badal? You? Your father, Parkash Singh Badal, or Capt Amarinder Singh? Who is guilty of ruining my school, Mr Badal?

We know the answer! It is not one or two governments. Government after government has betrayed the rural students of Punjab.

Sir, my school also begs for your attention. It is asks, whose 'duty' is it to save it.
However, this "duty" which you recently fulfilled reminds me and my classmates of the feudal age and the emperors who would shower jagirs on sycophants, darbari artistes and writers of the palace, while their own praja (public) starved. Your Rs. 1-crore "duty" towards your super-rich school comes at a time when your own schools are dying, Mr Badal.

Vishav Bharti
A rural school passout( Now Senior Reporter with Hindustan Times)

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