Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Corporation didn’t pay Rs 2, schools hang in limbo

Corporation didn’t pay Rs 2, schools hang in limbo

Shreya Roy Chowdhury, TNN Aug 20, 2012, 04.06AM IST

NEW DELHI: Years of campaigning did nothing; 4,000 signatures failed to draw a response; over 150 RTI applications got them to first base but only that far. The struggle for two municipal primary schools — part of plans for Blocks F and H of JJ Colony, Bawana — is singular both for the strategies employed and civic agencies' deft dodging of enquiries.
Residents may lose out due to the corporation's failure to deposit Rs 2 (you read that right) with DDA. The schools are urgently needed but the corporation is in no hurry. The first 60-day deadline to claim the plots allotted passed a fortnight ago. If it doesn't pay (with interest) in the next two-and-a-half months, the allotment will stand cancelled and campaigners will have to start afresh.

By the time it was the corporation's turn to play deaf, residents had already gone through several rounds with DDA. The last involved bulk RTIs. In February 2012, after they and NGOs had seen their appeals being ignored for five years, a barrage of RTIs for DDA was chosen as the method of attack. The civic agency hadn't transferred land to the corporation despite six requests from October 2007 to February, 2011. A common format was circulated; support was sought in the galis and at the local PDS shop. "Over 150 RTIs were filed asking DDA for a status report on action taken on the corporation's requests," says Mohd Anzar of NGO ActionAid.
Nokhelal's had to admit his six-year-old in a private school in another village when the plot for the F-Block school is a few metres away from home. He filed. Existing schools, even senior-secondary ones, are over-crowded. "At the Government Boys Senior Secondary School (GBSSS) 2 where my son is in Class VI, kids have to attend classes standing," he says. Established with the girls' school in 2009, the boys school has the kind of teacher-student ratio (1:73.5) that makes the RTE Act-prescribed 1:40 seem a hopelessly remote target. There are 691 students in Class VI alone. "Kids can't sit, many roam outside," says Hargovind. On August 18, 193 sixth-graders were absent from the boys' school.
The deluge of RTIs galvanized DDA into action and a demand letter for transfer of land was issued to the North corporation on May 4. This small victory came after years during which residents learnt to use every avenue they saw. Till 2006, the Bawana JJ Colony had five blocks and five MCD schools. In 2006, six blocks — but no schools — were added.
"When we first moved here," recalls Mohd Ansar, "I was in Class X. I finished school elsewhere but my siblings had to be admitted." "Teachers told us to demand schools," adds Mustafa, another community-worker. Some kids now attend NGO-run "alternative schools"; Prayas teaches about 200.
Residents discovered the provision for the two schools in layout plans and started visiting MCD, but were organized in early 2010 when NGOs active in the area (including ActionAid, Jagori, Prayas and Navjyoti) formed an alliance.
The first RTIs filed in 2010 revealed that DDA was holding up the process. Next, about 4,000 signatures were collected in a signature campaign and copies sent to DDA, MCD, lieutenant governor and chief minister. Nothing happened.
Another round of RTIs filed in October, 2011, netted them six letters from MCD to DDA requesting land transfer (till then, MCD was in the clear) and one from DDA saying they can't as "the site under reference is encroached by the JJ Colony." The removal of encroachment was the only action taken.

Once the demand letter was issued, all the corporation had to do was deposit Rs 2 with the DDA within 60 days. Officials proved unequal to the task despite prodding from the community and are still dragging their heels. "It's because of trifurcation," says Rekha Gupta, education committee chairperson, North Corporation. "Files are moving slowly. People don't know what their responsibilities are."
"They say there's no authority," says Anzar, "Apparently, there is no DE (education director) there either."

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