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Question mark over fate of 1,700 Delhi schools

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OPERATION DEMOLITION: While schools in the Capital face the prospect of sealing, demolition squads are targeting other illegal premises in many areas. Here is the scene in Rama Road Industrial Area at Karol Bagh on Wednesday. - PHOTO: SUSHIL KUMA R VERMA (see also page 4)
OPERATION DEMOLITION: While schools in the Capital face the prospect of sealing, demolition squads are targeting other illegal premises in many areas. Here is the scene in Rama Road Industrial Area at Karol Bagh on Wednesday. - PHOTO: SUSHIL KUMA R VERMA (see also page 4)

Sandeep Joshi

Shadow of Operation Sealing looms large as deadline set by Supreme Court approaches

NEW DELHI: With the Supreme Court ordering sealing of all illegal and unauthorised business establishments in the Capital from September 16, the fate of over 8 lakh children studying in more than 1,700 public schools across the city hangs in the balance. Despite being recognised by the Delhi Government and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, these schools have been functioning in residential areas in violation of the Master Plan.

In March this year when the civic body carried out its sealing and demolition drive, more than 70 schools were sealed before the Centre brought in the Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act, 2006, to suspend the drive for one year. But now the school owners are again in a bind as they have already resumed the new academic session. The school owners met Union Urban Development Minister S. Jaipal Reddy on Tuesday and were assured that the Government would make amendments to the Master Plan for Delhi-2001 before the expiry of the Supreme Court deadline.

The secondary and senior secondary schools that would be sealed are mainly in authorised, regularised and unauthorised colonies. They include some in the most congested areas of the city like Chandni Chowk, Okhla, Sadar Bazar, Karawal Nagar, Uttam Nagar, Karol Bagh and Laxmi Nagar and have been operating for decades. Interestingly, of the 2,000-odd non-aided public schools, the Delhi Development Authority and other agencies have provided land to just 382, while the rest are being run from residential and commercial properties, which is illegal according to the Master Plan for Delhi-2001.

Stating that all the affected public schools' management and staff will protest in the Capital on Thursday and also go on strike if the Government fails to help them before the September 15 deadline, Delhi State Public School Management Association president P. C. Jain on Wednesday complained that there was already a massive shortage of schools in the Capital and now the sealing would aggravate the problem, putting the future of lakhs of students in jeopardy besides rendering a large number of teachers and other staff jobless.

"As per the Master Plan for Delhi-2001, where Delhi's population is pegged at 1.28 crores, there should be one nursery school for every 2,500 population, one primary school for every 5,000 population, and one secondary school for every 7,500 population, that too within walking distance. Similarly, as per the Master Plan for Delhi-2021, the planning has to be done for 1.50-crore people besides taking care of the city's annual population growth of 4.29 per cent.

Hence we need 6,000 nursery schools while we have just 855; 3,000 primary schools against the current figure of 2,288; and 2,000 secondary school while there are only 1,576 schools," said Mr. Jain.

Arguing that when the Government failed to provide land for setting up schools they had no option but to set them up at other premises to meet the growing needs of the people, Mr. Jain said that on the one hand the Government was neglecting small schools, on the other it was auctioning land to big schools at exorbitant prices.

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