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Raising a stink: Kids wade through wastewater to reach school in Patiala village

The school has a student strength of 80, which includes 10 children enrolled with the anganwadi centre running on its premises.

punjab Updated: Aug 21, 2018 22:33 IST
Navrajdeep Singh, Patiala
wastewater,Patiala village,Patiala
Children walking through a ground inundated with overflow from a septic tank to reach Government Elementary School on the outskirts of Kalar Bheni village, 12km from Patiala, on Tuesday. This has been their routine for the past one month.(Bharat Bhushan/HT)

At a first glance it seems to be a murky pond, but on looking further a school building can be seen, surrounded by the overflow from a septic tank.

Located on the outskirts of Kalar Bheni village, just 12km from Patiala on Dakala road, Government Elementary School is a picture of complete neglect.

The ground in front of the classrooms is inundated with rainwater mixed with sewage for almost a month. There is no other way to reach the school, but to walk through this green wastewater.

The school has a student strength of 80, which includes 10 children enrolled with the anganwadi centre running on its premises.

The condition is so bad that many students have developed skin infections, especially on their legs, share villagers. Such administrative apathy amid the Punjab government’s flagship Mission Tandrust and Centre’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan raises more than just a stink.

One of the teachers, seeking anonymity, said the septic water from the nearby village pond overflows during rains, inundating the school ground.

“Not just reaching the school is tough, even teaching amid this unbearable stench is difficult,” said the teacher. “I have to hold a handkerchief on my nose all the while.”

Another teacher, who too did not want to be named, said the stagnant wastewater has turned into a breeding ground for mosquitoes, reptiles and other insects, and is an open invitation to diseases.

No end to apathy

Balbir Singh, 52, an ex-serviceman who has taken up the matter with the panchayat on multiple occasions, said no step has been taken to drain out the water or find a permanent solution to the problem so far.

The department of rural development and panchayats had suspended the village sarpanch, Harpreet Singh, over some anomalies last year. He apparently refuses to listen to the villagers. Attempts to contact him for this report proved futile as he did not respond to calls.

“We have also approached the block development panchayat office and education department recently to pump out the filthy water, but to no avail,” said Balbir.

Meanwhile, many parents avoid sending their children to school in such unhygienic conditions.

“What is the point of sending children to school when they have to sit and study in such an environment? Teachers visit and ask us to send our children, but we have refused to do so till the condition improves,” said Nachatar Singh, a farm labourer whose child studies in Class 7.

Meanwhile, Kulbhushan Singh Bajwa, district education officer (DEO, elementary), said he was not aware of the issue. “I will surely look into the matter,” he said.

First Published: Aug 21, 2018 21:19 IST