IN 5 YEARS, JUST 18% SCHOOL INFRASTRUCTURE REBUILT
* OFFICIAL REPORT INDICTS REVENUE, EDUCATION, R&B DEPTTS FOR NEGLIGENCE *SUBSTANDARD CONSTRUCTION MATERIAL USED * SOME BUILDINGS MISSING ON GROUND, EXIST ON PAPERS
Srinagar, Feb 8: In a glaring instance of official apathy, the Jammu and Kashmir Government has been able to restore just 18 percent of the school infrastructure damaged in north Kashmir districts of Baramulla, Bandipora and Kupwara in October 2005 earthquake, despite spending Rs 17.92 crore on rebuilding educational institutions under the National Calamity Relief Fund (NCRF), an official survey has revealed.
The survey, conducted by the state’s Directorate of Economics and Statistics in November 2010, has picked holes in the reconstruction programme, clearly pinpointing gross negligence in the reconstruction programme. It also mentions that many buildings are still at the plinth or slab level while the material used in most of them is sub-standard, thus risking the lives of students. The report also brings to fore the fishy details that the departments have furnished with regard to the reconstruction programme.
“The Earthquake occurred in October 2005 and after a lapse of five complete years the construction programme is still in doldrums, rendering all the stakeholders—students, teachers and parents—in a miserable condition. The concept of ‘relief’ in itself implies immediate, early and war-footing action but all the concerned departments—the Revenue, Education and Roads and Buildings—seem to have shown lethargic attitude towards the reconstruction programme and no one has route to escape responsibility and accountability,” reads the survey report titled “Evaluation/Status Report on Damaged Infrastructure of Education Department Re-constructed under the NCRF (Earthquake 2005).”
The 37-page report, a copy of which is with Greater Kashmir, mentions that the R&B and Education Departments should have managed the construction programme within the allocated resources in such a realistic manner which would have ensured the completion of at least half of the proposed school buildings by the end of 2007 itself.
“But the concerned departments have preferred to go for indiscriminate construction programme within the allocated resources with the result almost all the taken up school buildings are incomplete, greatly to the disadvantage of students. The unspent balance of Rs.3.33 crore by the end of 2008-09 suggests that the executing departments had, in particular, acted apathetically and unrealistically, otherwise the utilization of this amount would have resulted in the completion of at least 20 more buildings and would have easily been handed over to the Education Department for use. This is an ample proof of the Education Department not monitoring the programme effectively,” the report, prepared by the Director (Economics and Statistics), GA Qureshi, reads.
The report has been presented to the Planning Department—which had actually called for the survey—in January 2011, for further necessary action.
Referring to documents made available by the Education Department, the survey report mentions that school buildings approved for construction under NCRF were 84. Besides, it says, 16 prefabricated structures at an estimated cost of Rs 3.60 crore were also to be erected.
“An amount of Rs 1.42 crore was provided to the Chief Education Officers Kupwara and Baramulla for completion of primary school and middle school buildings. The document is silent about the spots/ sites where the prefabricated structures were to be erected. In respect of completion of primary school and middle school buildings for the purpose of which an amount of Rs 1.42 crore was put at the disposal of the Chief Education Officers Kupwara and Baramulla, no sites were provided. As such no physical verification could be launched in respect of these two items. The Revenue/Education Department may like to go for separate verification exercise in respect of these two items of expenditure,” the survey report reads.
WHERE ARE BUILDINGS?
The report mentions that from the verification of the 84 school buildings, only 77 could be located while the remaining seven school building could not be seen on the ground.
Among the 77 verified school buildings, 52 were Middle Schools, 19 High Schools and 6 Higher Secondary Schools. As on the date of survey (November 2010) the enrolment in respect of these under-construction NCRF schools was 13931 constituting 7033 boys and 6898 girls.
“All the verified constructions were entrusted to the Public Works Department (R&B). The total estimated cost of the 77 verified and identified constructions was Rs 33.57 crore against which an amount of Rs 15.59 crore was utilized which constitutes 46 percent of the total estimated cost,” the report reveals, bringing to fore that only 18 percent buildings were completed and handed over to the Department of Education till date. “The remaining 82 percent buildings were at different stages of progress.”
The report reflects that in respect of 9 school buildings which constitute 12 percent of the verified schools, work is yet to be started owing to land disputes, change of sites and non-identification of appropriate sites by the concerned. “Maximum constructions were at the slab level and roof level constituting 35 percent and 21 percent respectively. Some of the handed-over buildings were still not finalized in terms of release of balance cost. In view of the peculiar circumstances the building constructed for boys High School Chukar Baramulla was handed over to the Education Department for schooling in spite of its incompletion,” the report mentions.
‘SUB-STANDARD MATERIAL USED’
The verification teams, on the basis of their personal observations, have also reported about the present status of structures together with the quality of construction and construction material used.
“The aggregate results suggest that the construction process was carried on without any effective supervision and monitoring, with the result some structures have undergone damages during construction process itself,” the report reads. “While grading the constructions, the verification teams have rated 52 percent of them of average quality and 9 percent of below average quality. Only 39 percent have been graded as of good/acceptable quality. Almost the same analysis has been reported about the material used in the structures.”
In respect of 74 percent buildings, construction material used has been verified of average quality and in respect of 7 percent it was of below average quality. “In respect of just 15 structures (19%) the material used has been reported of standard quality. Thus the verification exercise established the fact that slackness has been shown in the construction process by the executing agency. The Monitoring Department (Education) has also not taken any note of this slackness with the result the quality parameters have been compromised in most of the cases,” the report mentions.
RULES ARE FOR FOOLS
As per official documents, a site (for school construction) must fulfill all the minimum requirements of schooling in terms of access, connectivity, space for playground, moderately off the habitation and more importantly the land must be suitable for construction to ensure safety of children.
“In respect of the school buildings taken-up for construction under NCRF, the verification exercise regards the sites of construction for schools are appropriate in respect of 81 percent of schools. In respect of 12 percent of schools the sites are either yet to be identified or are running in dispute,” the report mentions. “In respect of only 48 percent sites there is provision/space for a play ground. The provision for sanitation has not been included in the building plan of schools. However, space for construction of bathrooms stand provided in majority of schools. The executing agency has also reported that there was no provision kept for constructing bathrooms in the Approved Administrative approvals.”
The reports mentions that here again it seems the laxity on the part of R&B, Education Departments by not keeping provision for sanitary system within the school complexes being constructed approximately at an estimated cost of Rs 40 lakhs to Rs 68 lakhs per school.
“The provision for drinking water supply was also reported only in case of 18 percent schools. However, 54 other school sites were having water supply nearby which could easily be made available once the school buildings are completed and handed-over for schooling,” the report mentions.
The Earthquake of 8 October 2005 which struck heavily in the northern area of Jammu and Kashmir destroyed among other buildings the infrastructure of School Education Department in a big way.
As per the estimates of the Department concerned as many as 404 school buildings were fully damaged and partial damage was reported in case of 442 other school buildings in Kashmir Division. The destruction of school buildings rendered the schools non-functional, particularity where the buildings suffered heavy damages and the school management was also reluctant to continue schooling in relatively low damaged buildings on account of an element of risk. At certain places, however, temporary alternative arrangements were made for carrying out schooling activities. These included construction of tin and timber structures, pitching of tents of appropriate size and specifications consistent with the climatic conditions.
Out of 404 damaged school buildings, the report says, the Education Department was to reconstruct 84 school buildings under National Calamity Relief Fund (NCRF) in the districts of Baramulla, Kupwara and Bandipora as reported by the Revenue Department.
The Revenue Department had provided an amount of Rs 21.24 crore for the purpose during 2007-08. Out of this, an amount of Rs 17.91 crore was utilized by the executing agency (R&B) by the end of 2009-10 leaving an un-spent balance of Rs 3.33 crore. The concerned executing agency through the Education Department sought revalidation of the un-spent balance of Rs 3.33 crore under the construction programme, besides additional amount of Rs 15.11 crore as spillover cost for completion of the works taken up under the programme.
The Revenue Department vide their communication No: Rev/ER/14/2009(p-24) dated: 21-06-20101 while terming the physical and financial position at variance and mismatching requested the Planning and Development Department to have an evaluation study of the construction programme conducted through the Directorate of Economics and Statistics. The Planning and Development Department entrusted the job to the Directorate vide No: PD/DPA/P/Evl/227/10 Dated:28-9-2010 and the study was conducted.
One among the stipulated objectives of the instant study was to determine whether the physical and financial position reported by the R&B/Education Department was at variance. “The objective approach for reliable and realistic estimation of approved cost estimates, expenditure and physical performance require the services of engineering based subject matter specialists. But the evaluation agency have no such subject matter specialists within its organization, as such the cost estimations, wherever made, could be of subjective nature which may require further verification by the subject experts,” the report reads.
According to the report, the reconstruction work under, whatever programme should have started forthwith. Instead the school buildings taken-up for construction under NCRF were provided funds in the financial year 2007-08 and as of now only 14 buildings stand completed and handed-over to the Education Department. “This shows laxity on the part of all concerned Departments within their assigned jurisdiction,” it mentions. “All the three involved Departments seem equally responsible for delayed construction of the schools which should have been accomplished on war-footing basis in view of peculiar circumstances.”
CHILDREN AT RISK
As per the report, the system is running as such for the last 6 years now and the concerned Departments are involved in shifting responsibilities and escaping accountability. “The schools pursuing studies in the old damaged buildings are always vulnerable to mishaps and those accommodated in Community Halls have no option but to go for multi-grade studies. This adversely impacts the quality dimensions. In unusual hot and cold seasons the children in general are finding it difficult to stay in the schools which had affected the attendance of children as reported by the school management. These unfortunate schools have been forced to bear these hardships for 6 continuous years now. The concerned Departments are required to adopt a prioritized precise policy to ensure that the taken-up school buildings are completed/ finalized within the shortest possible time-frame,” the report reads, while calling for release of balance funds by the Revenue Departments—the justification, which, however, has evoked sharp criticism.
The Education Department, the report says, must equally monitor the programme closely, besides settling the land dispute cases at the earliest.
EXPENDITURE UNDER SCANNER
The verification teams were also asked to ascertain whether the expenditure claimed booked by the executing agency commensurate with the physical progress of each individual work.
“In fact this exercise needs the services of engineering, subject matter specialists to establish the phenomenon,” the report mentions. “In some cases nothing concrete has been erected due to land dispute or non-identification of land but expenditure has been shown booked against the work. This includes purchase of store items as reported by the R&B Department,” the report reads.
The verifying teams on prima-facie evidence have reported that the physical progress of 66 (86%) structures does commensurate with the financial expenditure booked in respect of the school buildings keeping in view the approved estimated cost. “This estimation/judgment is subjective and the departments concerned may like to go for objective assessment by involving the subject matter experts, if required. On the basis of original approved cost, the teams have justified the release of an additional amount of approximately Rs 15.00 crores plus the revalidation of un-spent balance of Rs 3.33 crore to enable the (R&B) department to complete the buildings and handover them to the Education Department.”
MORE PROBE REQUIRED
Among the 84 school buildings reportedly taken up for construction under NCRF, the detailed enquiry report stand presented in respect of 77 located structures. The remaining 7 school buildings could not be verified/ located due to varied reasons which may involve/require further investigation to establish the real picture.
“The evaluation study is basically conducted on the information provided by the Departments concerned which is then substantiated in the field. The evaluation agency possesses no mandate to scan through the records of the department, to establish the real picture of the works/schemes. However there seems prima facie evidence that in case of these non-verified 7 school buildings there exists confusion or may be cases of overlapping/multi-source funding. The Education/Revenue Department owes the responsibility to go for in-depth enquiry into all the 7 school buildings to clear the clouded-over situation and establish the real picture,” the report mentions, asserting that there is need for all the concerned departments to work in complete co-ordination and instead of shifting responsibilities and escaping accountability, should do its part of assignment so that the infrastructure is put in place at the earliest to ensure proper operationalization of the damaged schools.
‘CM MUST INTERVENE’
According to officials in the Education Department, the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah must order a full-fledged inquiry by an investigating agency into the issue. “The surveying agency has justified release of additional and pending amount only to ensure completion of the buildings. But the probe raises grave questions on the performance of various departments, the construction material used and the violation of other norms. This naturally calls for an inquiry by a team of experts or an investigating agency so that it is ascertained why 80 percent of buildings are still incomplete despite spending of million of rupees,” said an official in DSEK, insisting not to be named. “There is also a need to rectify the problem of use of substandard material. It is risking the lives of children. God forbid, if there will be another earthquake, the buildings will crash in no time. It is criminal to use substandard material in construction of buildings, particularly those of schools.”
The official said the state government must not release the additional amount until the matter is thoroughly probed.
THE fact-finding report recommends further enquiry at appropriate level in respect of the seven school buildings whose details are quite fishy:
*Middle School Muquam (Baramulla): “No information received from CEO Baramulla and SE R&B Circle Baramulla regarding the school hence the school could not be evaluated / verified.”
*Girls Higher Secondary School Bijhama (Baramulla): No information received from CEO Baramulla and SE R&B Circle Baramulla regarding the school hence the school could not be evaluated/verified.
*Girls Higher Secondary School, Uri and Girls Higher Secondary School, Lagama Uri, are not two separate schools.
“This is a single school and no building stands constructed for this school under NCRF. However, a six roomed double storeyed building adjacent to Boys Higher Secondary School Uri (used as Lab block) was shown to the inspecting team by the Executive Engineer R&B Special Sub-division Uri which needs to be re-verified as the evaluation team was not satisfied with the report received from Executing Agency and Education Department.”
*Girls High School Lachipora does not exist
*SP Higher Secondary School Srinagar: “The Principal of the SP Higher Secondary School Srinagar reported that no funds under NCRF have been received for re-reconstruction/repair of the school. As per the documents made available by the Revenue/Education Department the building was administratively approved for completion at an estimated cost of Rs 29.10 lakhs. The building stands completed by utilizing the whole amount of Rs 29.10 lakhs by the end of 3/2009. The contradiction needs to be verified by the concerned departments.”
*Girls Middle School Shivpora (Srinagar): “As per school authorities neither any damage has been caused to the school building during 2005 earthquake nor any assistance under NCRF has been received by the school.”
*High School, Gund Hasibhat: “With reference to the school building the Zonal Education Officer Batamaloo vide his letter No: ZEO/B/884 dated:23-10-2010 has reported that his office has not received any amount for reconstruction under the NCRF scheme as per the records available in his Office.”
Lastupdate on : Tue, 8 Feb 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 8 Feb 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 9 Feb 2011 00:00:00 IST
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