For one week, students at Mirambika Free Progress School, have been studying in hallways, stairways and converted dorms at the Aurobindo Ashram in South Delhi after the school was shifted overnight into the adjoining Aurobindo ashram premises. School authorities said that the building was vacated to make way for an engineering college, in the middle of the session, something that has left parents flummoxed and confused.
“About three weeks ago, we had noticed construction happening. The children’s gym was cordoned off and was being used as a place for keeping machine tools. Then on April 14, on Ambedkar Jayanti, the school along with children’s furniture and cupboard was carted and shifted to the Ashram premises. Parents and a few children who came that day, saw in horror as the premises was shifted,” Deepak Gopinath, a parent, said.
“There is a vague plan of shifting the school to a location near the ashram above a shopping arcade known as the Maitri Store, which is an ashram shop that sells groceries and the like. We believe that the ashram is not Mirambika. Parents have been left helpless. We have no option but to do what the school says. Children are currently studying in corridors and stairways. We have written to AICTE, DDA, education department and the education minister, but to no avail,” parent Surajit Nundy said.
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Officials from the school have admitted to the school committing the mistake on account of not being aware of the contents of the original lease deed. “In 1982, when we got the land, it was for the construction of a college and not school. But somehow, we were not aware of this. So we were running a school here for the last 25 years. Last year, when the head of the institution died, did the matter come to our notice. Post that, the decision was taken pretty swiftly by the management,” Sulochana Di, founder diyas (teacher) of the school since 1982, said.
She also added that the decision to move the school to the Ashram was taken because ‘the Ashram wanted to continue with the good work the school was doing’.
In its official communication to parents, the school has given ‘advice’ from senior legal counsel and ‘negative atmosphere created in the last few days’ as reasons for shifting to the Ashram.
“Positive growth, the well being and safety of our children is Mirambika’s topmost concern. In response to advice received from senior legal counsel and the negative atmosphere created during the past few days, we are shifting our classes into the ashram environment,” reads the communication sent out by the Principal K Jayanthy to all parents.
“In meetings with parents, management has made unsubstantiated claims about an illegal imminent threat to the land Mirambika occupies that requires them to immediately construct an engineering college on the premises. An external legal opinion suggests that there exists no threat to the land,” a mother, on condition of anonymity, said.
The Mirambika Free Progress School, is a recognized private unaided school which was founded in 1981 and is run by Sri Aurobindo Education Society. The school has 170 students in classes KG-10, and is located in a landmark building on grounds adjacent to the Aurobindo ashram and Mothers International School.
Pranjal Jauhar, Chairman, Aurobindo Ashram, refused to comment on the issue.
Sources in the DDA said that the original lease agreement signed between the DDA and the school permitted the school to construct a college as per its request. However, soon after, the school administration approached the department for a No Objection Certificate (NOC) to construct a school instead of a college in the same premises. The NOC was reportedly granted and Mirambika then constructed.
“The issue has now been forwarded to the legal department of the DDA which is being examined,” Vice Chairman DDA Balwinder Kumar said.