Water has swamped the school playground that once hosted the morning assemblies while classrooms are damp and littered with damaged furniture. All this,however,hasnt stopped children from attending school in the waterlogged villages of Muktsar. The villages may differ,but the conditions are similar. There has been no let up for the educational institutes that have to grapple with the waterlogging with little or no help from the government.
The high school at Ude Karan village is an example of the problems being faced by schools in the region. Water is everywhere and the temporary wall,that school Principal Kanwaljit Singh says was built when the flooding began,has been of little help. While efforts have been made to pump it out,they have met with little success. For 20-25 days,the school remained shut and no classes were held. Since the teachers were expected to attend,we used to gather at the gate as there was no space to enter the school. Five of our classrooms have become unsafe and we have locked them. The classes are being held in the corridors, Principal Kanwaljit Singh says.
Its a similar tale at the primary school that is adjacent to the high school. Classrooms have been damaged and Principal Keshav says that while sand has been spread on the school grounds and the classrooms,they are yet to find workmen to conduct repairs. The workmen demand a lot of money and the school does not have adequate funds. With the number of classrooms having decreased,two classrooms have been combined into one and the teachers are continuing with the lessons,though it is difficult. There is a need for additional funds to be provided to the schools, she adds.
At the primary and high schools,that share a compound in Haraj village,the waterlogged playgrounds have become a breeding ground for mosquitoes with the fear of disease ever present. The schools toilet is located across the inundated playground making it inaccessible unless students wade through the water. The school has now made alternate arrangements; in fact classes were held in a gurdwara for a month before the school building was reopened a few days back.
The head of the government primary school,Ajit Ram,says: I reside in adjoining Khokhar village. The road from there to Haraj was completely submerged and it was difficult to commute. One of our teachers came to school on a tractor trolley. We kept teaching children at the gurdwara complex as there was extensive damage to the school building. We could not save the wheat that was given to us for the mid-day meal scheme though we managed to shift the rice to a drier location. Students,however,continue to sit on damp floors as the mats that were used earlier have became too wet to use.
Gurdeep Singh,the principal of the high school,says that one of their main concerns is to ensure that the students stay away from the stagnant water which is very deep. He says that the staff has been instructed to ensure that no one goes near the water as it could lead to a tragedy. He also blames the problems created by the waterlogging for being behind the internet not functioning. To retrieve circulars of the Punjab School Education Board,they had to go to Muktsar to access the internet. In these conditions exams were held at the gurdwara.
Even higher education hasnt been spared. The government college at Ude Karan provided shelter to villagers affected by the floods. The college was non-functional for several days before students returned. A nursing institute in the area re-opened a few days back with the students still trickling in.
* After waterlogging wreaked havoc in the region,the Punjab government has submitted a detailed report to the Planning Commission with a demand of Rs 3,277 crore to implement solutions to the problem. Among the proposals is realigning of drains,increasing their width and construction of new ones
* Another important proposal is relining of the Rajasthan and Sirhind Feeders. One of the causes of increased water levels has been the seepage from these feeders. Construction of new causeways and bridges is on the cards
* Another proposal envisages emptying village ponds before the monsoon and hence making space for rainwater. Fish farming is to be encouraged while trees,that soak water from the ground,are to be planted
Punjab Chief Minister
Parkash Singh Badal had toured the flood affected areas to assess the situation recently. He has been demanding the Centres intervention due to the problems magnitude. Badal also met deputy chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia along with Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Sunil Jakhar. They had demanded funds to solve the problem. Badal had also issued a statement that if the Centre does not allocate the funds,the state would start work on its own.