Saturday, February 26, 2011

Dalit school's wait for power ends after six years

AHMEDABAD: A school for dalits and underprivileged in a village near Rajkot got electricity connection on Friday, six years after it had applied for the same. And the students would have sweated much longer in wait but for the Gujarat high court, which rebuked and fined the power company for its apathy. The school is managed by a trust working for upliftment of scheduled castes.

The court has slapped fine of Rs 25,000 on the state-run Uttar Gujarat Vij Company Ltd (UGVCL), for denying power connection to Navsarjan Vidyalaya and its hostel in the outskirts of Rayka village of Rajkot.

The high court said, "It is not only unfortunate but shameful that in a country with democracy, where the right to education has been promoted and is made a fundamental right, such an attitude is adopted by the State organ or the company in providing necessary electricity."

The school authorities have been repeatedly applying for a connection since 2005, but power distribution company (discom) denied the facility even after teaching began and the students, ranging from 10 to 15 years of age, started living in the hostel that had no lights or fans.

The power connection was denied on technical grounds. What's more, even when the issue reached the high court last month and Justice RR Tripathi asked UGVCL to provide a connection within 24 hours, the company defied the order.

The case then went to the bench of Justice RH Shukla. The court was angry on learning that the discom did not comply with its order and observed, "It is required to be mentioned that in fact it would have a bearing on the human rights of the children who are studying there by not providing such minimum requirement of the electricity, which may be necessary in a country like ours, where the climate is hot. Not only that, even the State or such a licensee, which is supplying the electricity under the Electricity Act, is under an obligation to have a sensitive and reasonable approach rather then hostile approach in such matters."
Asking the company to provide electric connection within two days, the court further observed that education has the effect of transforming the society with more awareness and more empowerment to the children who are future citizens. The country has made legislation for free and compulsory education. "It is in this background, such an attitude adopted by the company has to be condemned."
The school's advocate, Shilpa Shah later told TOI that electric connection was provided to school and hostel on Friday.

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