“The Government’s insensitivity is glaring as Govt. Schools yearn for rooms, electricity, toilets as well as drinking water,” the Punjab and Haryana High Court has observed.
Justice Vinod Bhardwaj noted that while the Central government is vigorously pursuing ‘Swachh Bharat’ Mission and wanting setting up toilets for every household, in Haryana the picture is absolutely marred amid “repeated instances of girls being sexually harassed and assaulted in schools in Haryana, absence of toilet in 538 girls schools.”
In October 2022, noticing a large number of anomalies and inaction by the officials in providing the basic amenities to the students in Government Schools in Haryana, the Court had sought an affidavit from the Director General of Secondary Education.
The affidavits revealed that Rs.1,176.38 crores could not be utilized over a period of 10 years while the budget allocation of Rs. 13,420.97 crores by the State Government remained unutilized for the same period. Stating that the Court is “perturbed by such heavy non-utilization of the allocated budget,” further details were sought.
Justice Bhardwaj noted that the affidavit filed by the Director was nothing more than “jugglery of statics” with no commitment to addressing the core issues.
“There is a complete silence maintained about the timelines within which such basic amenities like toilets in the boys and girls schools as well as the electricity connection and drinking water facilities would be made available apart from the fact that the additional class room requirements and additional other room requirements has itself been assessed by the respondent-department at more than 13000,” added the Court.
It pulled up the officials in the Department of Education for “shifting the burden” rather than “shouldering the responsibility” to meet the obligation to the society by providing quality education.
It recalled that an assurance was given during the course of previous hearing that expeditious steps would be taken to resolve the basic issues, “Despite a lapse of more than 8/9 months, there seems to be no improvement in the statics that are being filed by the respondents before this Court.“
Adding that there is not much scope for the Court but to require personal appearance of the officials, whose presence had been exempted, it directed the Principal Secretary, Department of Education as well as the Director, Secondary Education remain present in Court on the next date of hearing.
The Court directed them “to file their affidavit giving the timelines within which the pending approved works of infrastructure and basic amenities shall be completed by the respondents” and to file a compliance report.
A cost of Rs. 5 lakhs was also imposed by the Court, “as a mark of anguish and displeasure.”
While listing the matter for December 15, the bench said, “the question of fixing administrative responsibility for the lapses committed shall be kept open.”
Appearance: Advocates Pardeep Kumar Rapria, Ripu Daman Boora for the petitioner.
Shruti Jain Goyal, Sr. DAG, Haryana.