Sharing wall with industrial unit, staff, students at Sangrur school wear masks to breathe
Pollution that has blackened the walls, trees and floor of the building and students and teachers wearing masks to breathe. This is the daily lesson that one gets, for free, at Government Senior Secondary School Jitwal Kalan, 46km from district headquarters, in Ahmedgarh sub-division (near Malerkotla) for years now.
The school authorities hold an industrial unit making tyres, Ralson Goodluck Carbon, responsible for the state of affairs. The unit, here since the 1980s, shares the boundary wall of the school and its chimneys spew out smoke and ash with alarming regularity, impinging on the health of over 200 students and 12 teachers. The school admits students in Classes 6-12 and wards come in from eight surrounding villages. The school authorities also claim that they have not seen a blue sky for as long as they can remember, with darkness enveloping the area even during the day; pollution is to be blamed, they claim.
TEACHERS SEEK TRANSFERS
Teachers are better-off than students as they can afford to wear masks every day. Most students, who are from the middle and the poor sections, make do by just using their handkerchiefs and dupattas. The situation is so grave that teachers are seeking transfer from the school on the grounds of air pollution.
“It is difficult to breath in the air, but we have no other option. The smoke and ash are destroying our lives. However, the authorities do not even dare to think about closing the unit, as it is owned by influential people,’’ said Sohail Khan, who has been studying at the school for the past four years. Another student Amandeep Kaur, of Class 10, said, “It is like a gas chamber. We are unable to breathe in here and conditions are miserable.”
A teacher said on condition of anonymity, “It is a political matter and political parties are not ready to resolve it. Our job is to teach students and we are doing our duty. Most teachers are seeking transfer.”
Before Parliamentary elections, locals had apprised Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann of the issue, yet nothing has moved. Mann could not be contacted for this report.
SDM IS HEARING THE ISSUE
Locals have approached the SDM and filed a complaint. Ahmedgarh SDM has been holding hearings on the complaint and had summoned officials of the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) as well as the industrial unit.
“I am concerned about the health of students and locals due to environment degradation. Officials of the company and the PPCB are regularly attending hearings. The issue will be resolved soon,” said SDM Vikramjeet Singh Panthey.
Ralson Goodluck Carbon has denied all allegations. “The company has not polluted the environment. We are installing new infrastructure of our factory; this will take some time,” said Pawan Kumar, the representative of the company, who attends hearings at the SDM office.
PPCB district officials could not be contacted despite several attempts. PPCB chairman Satwinder Singh Marwaha said he ‘would revert soon’. Later, neither did he call nor did he respond to messages on his mobile.
Education minister Vijay Inder Singla, “I will talk to PPCB officials and a team will be sent for inspection of the environment near the school,” said Singla.