No drinking water for 2300 schools in Kashmir

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No Water

Srinagar, June 22: What can be termed as a sorry state of affairs, over 2000 schools in Kashmir, both in private and government sector, are without drinking water despite the direction by the Supreme Court last year over the issue. J&K government is in a fix as it has to provide potable water to leftover schools within nine days as the deadline set by the apex court ends on June 30.

According to Supreme Court order issued on October 2, 2012, all schools across India should provide basic infrastructure facilities like drinking water and toilets to school children. The order was passed on a petition filed by an NGO Environmental and Consumer Protection Foundation. “All schools, including private and government, will have to implement the order within six months and failure to implement will be viewed seriously,” reads the order issued by SC bench headed by Justice K S Radhakrishnan. According to the order the deadline was supposed to end in March 2013. However, the J&K government claims that it was given grace period till June 30.

Talking to Greater Kashmir, Commissioner Secretary PHE and Irrigation, Dr Pawan Kotwal said the apex court direction was applicable to both, government and private schools. “The deadline actually ended in March 2013. Later, we were given a grace period. The final deadline is June 30,” he said. He admitted that some habitations including some villages were without potable water in some rural areas of Kashmir. “When a village is without water the schools in that area would also be without such facility. We have directed officials to meet the deadline,” he said.

As per the official figures, at least 2342 schools including primary schools are without drinking water in Kashmir. “The total number of schools (as per 2011 figures) is 11628 in Kashmir of which 9286 have been provided with the water supply,” a PHE official said. He, however, admitted that in Srinagar also, some schools located on the city outskirts are without water. “But the number of schools in Srinagar district is very less,” he said. The issue was discussed threadbare in the crucial meeting chaired by PHE and Irrigation Minister Sham Lal Sharma on June 21 in Srinagar.

Sources privy to the meeting said the PHE officials cited shortage of water pipes and location of schools in private buildings, as the main reason for delay in implementing SC order. “We have many schools operating from rented buildings. At the same time, we face shortage of water pipes leading to delay in providing water supply to schools,” PHE Engineers of districts like Baramulla, Kupwara and Pulwama, according to sources, told the meeting.

The PHE Minister, however, termed the reason expressed by the officials as an “excuse.” “I am not going to accept this. You have to work. If you don’t meet the SC deadline, then be ready to face action,” Sharma told the officers.

Sources said the PHE officials informed the meeting that in Baramulla district out of 308 institutions, 30 were still without water while in Bandipora out of the 334 institutions, 67 were having no drinking water facility. Sources told Greater Kashmir that Shopian district is the worst hit as far as supply of safe drinking water in schools is concerned.

The PHE Minister told Greater Kashmir that he has pulled up all the officials during the review over the issue. “I told them that no excuse will be tolerated. This is an irony that we are not able to provide water to our children studying in schools,” he said. “I am hopeful that the officers will work overtime to ensure all schools are provided with drinking water by June 30.”

Source: Greater Kashmir

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