In a unique gesture, the residents of Kular village near Shutrana have started a chain hunger strike demanding that their village school be upgraded to the senior secondary level.
Girls of the village, who have passed their Class 10 from the village school and are stuck at home as the nearest senior secondary school is 10 km away, have forced the panchayat of the village, with a population of around 10,000, and its residents to start the strike, as successive governments have turned a blind eye to their demand.
“For the past 20 years, successive elected leaders, irrespective of the party, have promised to upgrade the school, but it never came to pass. Thus, we have been left with no option but to start a democratic protest,” said sarpanch Sukhdev Singh.
“We are tired of our voice not being heard. We have sent nearly two dozen representations after ensuring that every pre-condition like availability of rooms and space is met, but to no avail. Nearly 300 girls are sitting home after completing their Class 10 and they forced us to undertake the strike as many wanted to study further,” the sarpanch said.
The strike began on September 17 by panches Raj Singh and Hansa Singh, whose wife is also a panch. Later, Paramjit Singh Virk joined them and today 21 others sat on the strike on the school premises.
“As a pre-condition, the government wants 14 rooms while our school has 22; we have four-acre land against the condition of two, besides all other basic infrastructure. The government just has to appoint teachers but is not doing so. It is a deliberate attempt by elected leaders to keep villagers uneducated,” said Virk, adding that the day the school was upgraded, around 100 girls would enrol themselves for senior secondary classes. The government must say why they were depriving the children of their basic right, he wondered.
Hansa Singh said, “As I didn’t find a solution from the government, I decided to sit on strike. My family and neighbours will join me in the next few days.” He said the village had decided to start a fast unto death from Monday. The school was a madrasa before Partition and became a primary school in 1952; in 1983, it was upgraded to a high school. Since 1990, locals are trying their best to upgrade it. During the last academic session, local MLA Vaninder Kaur Loomba had promised to upgrade the school on March 31, but it never happened. Around 85 girls who passed were forced to sit at home, though some of them are meritorious.
While the other parties remained away, the Aam Aadmi Party on Sunday joined the protest. Party leader Balbir Singh said their party would start a districtlevel signature campaign besides sending volunteers to join the strike.
When contacted, Loomba said she had taken up matter with the education minister and the orders were likely to be issued in the next few days.