The Karnataka High Court on Thursday, 13 April, slammed government officials for their "apathy" in rebuilding a school that was demolished in 2020 to give way for the Bengaluru-Mysuru expressway project.
Stating that "it shocks the conscience of the court looking at the state of the children and the lackadaisical attitude of the State," the high court then directed the concerned authorities to rebuild the government Agaralingana Doddi School in Maddur taluk of Mandya district within four months from 1 June.
For the last three years, the primary school students, have been studying in a small room, given by farmers of the village. The Quint spoke to the petitioners from the School Development and Monitoring Committee (SDMC) to understand the struggle faced by the young students.
Photo of the government school that was demolished for the road-widening project.
(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)
‘It Is Not a School But...'
Speaking to The Quint, Bomme Gowda, a member of the SDMC from Agaralingana Halli village, said, “The farmers had built this building for agricultural activites. It is not a school. But since the school was not being built, so we requested them (villagers), for the survival of the children’s education, to help us out. During rainy days, the building leaks."
"There are around 18 students - both boys and girls. Earlier there were around 25 students but a few have left to either go to the government school in the next village or their parents have shifted them to English-medium convent schools," Gowda added.
The government authorities had directed the students to go to a government school around 500 metres or one kilometre away from their village.
Reasoning why this was not possible, Gowda said:
"The students, aged 6 to 11 years, can’t go to the government school in the neighboring village, because there is a wide state highway in between. The students will have to be accompanied and gotten back. But their parents are busy in their work, in their agricultural activities. So, because of safety concerns, they can’t go there."
The petition states that the children have no benches to sit on. They occupy the floor both inside the room and outside the room.
"There is no place to cook food despite it being a mandatory requirement. There is no washroom/toilet to be used by both boys and girls. Without these amenities, the school is functioning in a rented building taken by the Committee with the sole intention that the education of children should not suffer," it adds.
‘Apathy of the State’: What Did the High Court Say?
Noting that the case at hand demonstrates "apathy on the part of the State towards children," Justice M Nagaprasanna, said in his judgment:
"The issue before this Court is not "just one school," it is "even one school." This Court would not permit the State to reduce the fundamental right of children under Article 21-A of the Constitution of India, to a "mere rope of sand."
After around 752 sq mtrs of the land was acquired by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), the compensation amount of Rs 66.95 lakh was given to the head master of the school and the SDMC. That amount is now Rs 72.40 lakh, adding the interest.
Though many villagers had volunteered to donate the land for the new school building, there was no response from the authorities to the several communications submitted by the SDMC.
Considering that government officers will be busy with the upcoming elections, the High Court has ordered state authorities to identify the land till 1 June and have the school building constructed within four months after the date.