Kalyan school dances to band baaja after its protest forces road work to resume
The school has often taken up this very issue and forced the work on the highway to be done so that students are not inconvenienced or endangered. On Tuesday, the school administration and staff called a protest outside the residence of state Public Works Department minister Ravindra Chavan to bring to his notice the fact that the work had stopped yet again
KALYAN: In the face-off between citizens and city authorities, a hard-won victory can be sweet. But few people have demonstrated this in the way the staff of Kalyan’s Sacred Heart School did recently: they hired a band and did a merry jig after their protests forced the authorities to resume the work on National Highway 61 which had been stalled for the last two days.
The school has often taken up this very issue and forced the work on the highway to be done so that students are not inconvenienced or endangered. On Tuesday, the school administration and staff called a protest outside the residence of state Public Works Department minister Ravindra Chavan to bring to his notice the fact that the work had stopped yet again. Chavan met the school administrator Albin Antony, gave instructions to the concerned authorities, and assured the school that the work would be completed by May 31.
Antony, who returned to the school after the protest, called up the band baaja to perform in order to mark their victory. Work on the highway had resumed, and one of the oldest guardians of the school and other women staff danced delightedly on its tunes. “The reason we showcased the win is because today we are forced to take all these steps to get work done,” said Antony about the unusual celebration. “The national highway is in such a bad state, with most of its portions dug up, that students are unsafe. When the work stops even for a day, it leads to cascading delays. We cannot tolerate any delay in the work now as the monsoon will be here soon.”
Located near Mharalgaon on the Kalyan-Murbad-Malshej National Highway 61, the school has nearly 2,500 students arriving by bus or private vehicles. There are four more schools on the stretch. Earlier, a 14-year-old student was injured when the two-wheeler he was on skidded right outside the school due to drain leakage. This had forced Antony to plonk himself on the muddy road outside the school and protest in January. The protest had forced the contractor to immediately fix the leakage.
“This time when we inquired why the work was stopped, we were told that the old contractor was not co-operating and a new contractor had to be appointed in January. The new contractor did not get payments on time, which led to the stoppage of work,” said Antony.
One of the vital stretches connecting Kalyan, Dombivli, Bhiwandi and Thane city to Murbad-Malshej-Ahmednagar, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) had taken up the widening and concretisation of a three-km stretch in October 2021. Even after the work was started, it was stalled on several occasions. The cost of the road work is over ₹40 crore.
“Presently, the road is dug up at several spots and there are no proper safety measures followed there,” said Suhas Gupta, 38, who takes the stretch on his two-wheeler to reach Murbad for work daily. “Many school buses also use this stretch. The work is carried out at a very slow pace, and this leads to traffic congestion at times. This stretch was in very bad condition with huge, deadly potholes. Once concretised, it will be a major relief.”
Santosh Shelar, Chief Engineer, National Highway Authority, Maharashtra, said he had no idea about the protest. “There might have been some issue leading to the work being stalled,” he said. “It has resumed now and will continue smoothly.”