An upcoming Kendriya Vidyalaya, tucked away on the Indo-Pak border in Barmer district, has ripped open an internal fault line within the BJP with the local MP Sonaram Choudhary and Sheo MLA Manvendra Singh pitching for different locations for the school. Even as the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS) posted teachers in the upcoming school in Jaisindhar, nearly 100 km from Barmer town and initated the admission process, Choudhary wrote to HRD Minister Smriti Irani and Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje following which the district collector issued orders to stop the admission process.
However, on Thursday, villagers from Jaisindhar filed a writ petition in the Rajasthan High Court against stalling of the admissions citing “political interventions” and alleging “arbitrary proceedings by collector”. The court directed the KVS to continue admissions and issued notices to the collector and the state government.
In 2010, the then Barmer collector had recommended setting up of a Kendriya Vidyalaya in Jaisindhar saying that it would help the local community and various central and state government departments which might develop their residential colonies at Jaisindhar, which is only 10 km from the international railway station of Munabao. The Army too backed the proposal and wrote to the collector that they will be “more than happy to have a KV in Jaisindhar so that along with local children, Army personnel’s children can also avail the opportunity of quality education near border areas of Munabao and Jaisindhar.”
Following a feasibility study, the school was set up, teachers posted and the admission process was initiated for the current academic session that drew 400 applications. However, local MP Choudhary took exception to the location of the new school and shot off a slew of letters to the HRD Minister, Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and the new district collector Madhusudan Sharma.
In a letter to Irani, he wrote: “The site selected was politically motivated because the then MLA of previous Congress government resides in border area and as such he selected Jaisindhar near his village. It is a fact that Jaisindhar is a small village at a distance of more than 100 km away from the district headquarters in Barmer and near the Indo-Pakistan border. The habitation in the radius of 60 km of Jaisindhar is thin. I was shocked to know that a site for opening a new KV has been selected based on the whims and fancies of an individual and as such it is not in the interest of the people.”
In a following letter to Raje, Choudhary requested for a “suitable piece of land in Chohtan, 45 km from Barmer, so that students of the whole district can avail the facilities of this premier institution.”
However, Choudhary’s party colleague Manvendra Singh (son of Jaswant Singh), in whose constituency the school is situated, did not agree with him and countered the argument by writing, “…Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan has been doing yeoman service by taking quality education into the remote parts of the country. For precisely this reason, the location doesn’t matter, but taking the facility there matters most. I have come across KVs functioning in the remotest parts of the borders, including areas far more volatile than the placid Rajasthan-Sindh boundary.”
Meanwhile, district collector Madhusudhan Sharma, who took charge in November, told The Indian Express: “Right from the beginning, I had insisted that the location of the school is not appropriate. There is a sand dune and the approach to the school is not proper. So we decided to shift it to Chohtan. There is no pressure from the MP. In fact I told him that the location was not feasible.”
Meanwhile, with the admission process stalled, villagers led by Teja Ram, pradhan, Gadra panchayat samiti, filed a petition in the high court in Jodhpur on Thursday. A division bench of Justices Govind Mathur and Jaishree Thakur, observed that there was no reason for the collecter to stop the admissions.
Teja Ram’s counsel, Sandeep Shah, said, “Teja Ram had given away his personal land for setting up the school. He had donated the land so that a school could come up in the area for the villagers. A school that would have a strength of 200 students has got a large number of applications already, which in itself shows that there was a requirement for it.”