Heartrending scenes were witnessed at Basti Jodhewal in Ludhiana as schoolchildren and their parents protested against the demolition of a government school on Saturday.
The school building in which 300 students were studying has been demolished to make way for the construction of a project to widen the National Highway passing through the area.
Prior to the building's demolition, municipal corporation (MC) officials and policemen armed with batons and teargas arrived in the area, they faced resistance from the schoolchildren's parents protesting against the demolition drive for the past few days. Fifteen shops in the area were also razed during the drive.
The police and district administration had made foolproof arrangements to quell any opposition to the MC action. Anti-riot vehicles were also deployed to ensure peace.
A parent described the MC action as a hurdle in the studies of her child. "My child used to study here. He will be forced to go elsewhere and his studies will suffer," Mamta Kumari, the mother of a student of the school, said.
MC officials along with the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) personnel reached the spot at 9am. The MC had requested the police to deploy at least 100 police personnel to avoid any untoward incident.
MC assistant town planner Harpreet Ghai, who was leading the anti-encroachment drive, said there were 120 police personnel deployed. "After the orders from court, the MC was asked to demolish the parts of the structures that were coming in the way of the alignment of the six-lane highway," Ghai said.
He, meanwhile, added that none of the shop owners protested against the drive. "We had already served notices to the 15 shops."
The biggest opposition to the drive came from the Parent-Teacher Association of the government school. Association president Lakshman Singh said the administration should have allowed the school to continue at the same place. "Why are they playing with the future of the students?" Singh said. "Are roads important than the future of our children?"
The administration, meanwhile, said it had made elaborate arrangements to ensure the students were not affected by the demolition drive. "The students have been shifted to Sakhwal Secondary School. Their studies won't be affected," deputy commissioner Rahul Tewari said.