A handful of students from class 1 to 5 sit on the ground and stare at the fan inside their classroom at Government Primary School, Dhanansu. The fan does not work as electricity supply to this government school was disconnected a year ago due to lack of funds to pay power bill.
A bill of around Rs 19,000 had been pending for more than eight years and the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited removed the meter almost a year back.
In the absence of power, students have to bring buckets of water from nearby houses and taps to drink; water has to be fetched to cook midday meals and clean toilets. To beat the heat, the students use books as hand-held fans and sit outside classrooms to get some fresh air.
“It is so hot and suffocating inside classrooms without the fan that small kids cannot bear. When it is too hot, they do not study. Our meter was disconnected almost a year back as bills have been pending since 2007. The panchayat has refused to help as they say it is not their responsibility,” says Rajinder Singh, in-charge of the school with 51 students. An aanganwadi centre with 20 kids also runs in the same building. That too without power.
Computers but no power
In the neighbouring village of Buddhewal, the computer lab of Government Middle School with six computers sees no long queues of students these days.
Power to middle and primary school was disconnected in March this year as a bill of almost Rs 36,000 has been pending for one year. Now 65 students of middle school and 45 students of primary school, the majority of them being from extremely poor families, study without power.
“The children studying here are so poor that we cannot ask their parents to help us in paying bills. We personally requested the engineer not to disconnect the meter as the school will be crippled but on March 31 our meter was disconnected,” says Avtar Singh, incharge of middle school.
A teacher adds that the matter was also raised during sangat darshan of minister Sharanjit Dhillon last year.
Sources say that primary school at Dhanansu arranged for a ‘kundi’ connection for almost six months to run fans and get drinking water before PSPCL employees came and disconnected that too. Similarly, schools in Buddhewal too resort to ‘kundi’ supply when some urgent mails have to be checked or students fail to bear the heat.
No provision for funds
Buddhewal sarpanch Balvir Singh of the Congress says, “It is not the responsibility of panchayat to arrange money for school bills. School is under government, not panchayat.”
The education department clearly says that there is no provision for any funds to pay electricity bills in primary and middle government schools and teachers have to arrange on their own or get help from village panchayats.
Earlier, schools took Re 1 or Rs 2 per month from parents as a fee component but now that fee cannot be taken as per the RTE.
Block primary education officer Bhushan Kumar says, “We have no funds to pay power bills of schools and thus supply has been disconnected by PSPCL.” Pradip Aggarwal, DGSE Punjab, says, “We are not aware of any such schools where power has been disconnected.”