Around 8 to 12 visually-impaired students of Shivasharana Haralaiah Residential School for Blind reportedly attempted suicide following alleged harassment by school chairman Ashok Dodmani.
According to the students, they were being beaten with sticks, besides abused in filthy language by Dodmani for the last four years. Surprisingly, Dodmani himself is born blind.
“We could not tolerate the torture and decided to end our lives by jumping into an open well. We left the school in the morning in search of a well, as we had heard there was one near Gacchinkatti Colony, but on the way some locals took us back to the school. We don’t want to live here anymore,” said Vishal Joguli, a fourth standard student of the school. He said he was facing harassment almost every day since he joined four years ago. “Dodmani sir beats us, often makes us stand under direct sunlight as punishment for silly reasons,” he said.
Another student, Shrishail Meti, alleged that Dodmani sold donated items such as bathing soaps to students. “Our parents give us some pocket money, and we are often forced to use it to buy soaps from Dodmani sir for Rs. 5 and Rs. 10. He is supposed to give them to us for free as they donated to the school by philanthropists,” he said.
Most of the students, who spoke to the media, said they would continue in the school only if Dodmani was sacked.
Meanwhile, though Dodmani admitted that he punished some students, he, however, maintained that it was only for their good. “Some students are mischievous and do not follow discipline. I punish them, but not with bad intentions,” he said. However, he did not give a satisfactory reply on the allegations of misuse of funds and donated materials.
Speaking to The Hindu , District Disabled Welfare Officer Upadhaya said he was away on official duty. He promised to take necessary action to help the students.