In J&K, Govt 'abandons' 600 under-construction school buildings!

Most of the school buildings constructed under erstwhile Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) in J&K are lying abandoned as the state government has failed to come up with a plan for their utilisation despite spending crores of rupees on the projects. Take the example of Government Middle School (GMS) Buchoo in education zone Pattan of Baramulla district. The school education department constructed 10 school buildings for the institution. Out of these 10 buildings only three are in use while as rest of the buildings are either unutilised or left abandoned after the construction was left midway. The school is spread over 20 kanals of land and maximum portion of it has been occupied by these buildings which are not in use for the past seven years now. “We have three schools clubbed here and the aggregate enrolment is 76 including KG classes. Only three school buildings are in use,” an official said. He said the construction of three buildings was left midway either due to cost escalation or some kind of “nexus” between zonal authorities and the contractor. “The construction on these three buildings was stopped due to the additional requirement of funds which was not more than one lakh,” the official said. The project cost of these buildings varies between Rs 8 lakh to Rs 15 lakh. “The department has invested around 90 percent of the funds on these buildings, ironically the work was stopped for a few lakhs and ultimately these buildings were abandoned,” the official said. Surprisingly, the department has constructed additional four single storey buildings in the premises which have not been put to use given the less enrolment of the students. “These buildings were constructed during past few years,” said another official. This is not the only institution where the government has brazenly wasted resources, but there are hundreds of such cases which expose alleged deep rooted nexus in the department between zonal authorities and the contractors. In most of the cases, teachers were allegedly hand-in-glove which resulted in wastage of resources. The Government Middle School Wagila in zone Wagoora is another school where the department has left three buildings abandoned.

The contractor has completed 90% construction but stopped it later for unknown reasons. As per official figures, around 624 buildings have been abandoned by the education department after the contractors stopped the construction midway. These buildings include 215 primary schools, 171 middle schools and 238 additional classrooms. “The reason behind the cost escalation is that the building is approved by MHRD with a specific project cost. But the department consumes more than a year in completing the procedures to start execution of work. By the time rates go up and contractor leaves the building midway,” said an official from planning section of the education department. He said the department wastes years for identification of the land for construction of the school buildings. In some cases, the construction gets halted due to land disputes. The buildings have been constructed just to pave way for opening of new SSA schools and gaining political mileage. Given the scenario it can easily be concluded that funds worth crores have gone down the drain in education department in the name of opening schools under the scheme. Till date, however no official inquiry or departmental inquiry has been ordered against the officials and contractors for leaving the constructions midway. Few years ago the school education department constituted engineering wings in the department to execute construction works. This wing was constituted to avoid delay in completion of the projects and cost escalation. It has four divisions – two each in Jammu and Kashmir including Ladakh. Each division is headed by an executive engineer who is on deputation from R&B department. Division first includes the areas falling in central and north Kashmir district while as division second has jurisdiction over south Kashmir districts including Leh and Kargil. Division three and four includes Jammu, Sambha, Kathua, Rajouri, Poonch and Doda. In division first, 83 primary schools, 21 middle schools and 169 additional classrooms (ACRs) have been abandoned while as 11 primary schools, 4 middle schools and 29 ACRs have been abandoned in division second. Similarly, 92 primary schools, 2 middle schools and 106 ACRs are lying abandoned in division third while as division 29 primary schools, 06 middle schools and 40 ACRs are abandoned in engineering division four. Given the present scenario it seems that the department has dumped these under constructions buildings. “If department puts in little efforts, most of the abandoned schools will be made functional and students will get proper accommodation in their respective schools,” an official said. Director school education Kashmir, Muhammad Younis Malik said the department was aware of the issue and steps were being taken to complete these buildings. “We have already convened several meetings to discuss these issues with executing agencies,” he said.