|An open-air class outside the school, one of the rooms occupied by the families.|
Pictures by Chayan Majumdar
ALAMGIR HOSSAIN, Nowda, April 16: Around 60 students of a Murshidabad primary school are being forced to attend classes under the open sky in the summer heat as two rooms of the institution have been occupied by two families for the past four months.
The two families, who had been living on government land in Nowda for the past three decades, were evicted in December last year following a high court order. A group of villagers had demanded that the families be rehabilitated, prompting the block development officer and the officer in charge of the local police station to request the headmaster to allow them stay in the school for around a week.
Jayanta Mondal, the headmaster of Sankoa Primary School, said he had been requested by block development officer Liton Saha and Utpal Biswas, the officer in charge of Nowda police station, to allow the families to stay for a week in the first-floor rooms where students of Classes III and IV take their lessons.
"On December 3 last year, the OC called me to the place where the eviction was taking place. I found the BDO and the OC standing there along with about 200 villagers. They requested me to accommodate the two families in my school for a week during which they promised to find an alternative. Over four months have passed, but nothing has happened. The students of Classes III and IV are being forced to study under the open sky in this heat. I went to the BDO, but he is trying to skirt the issue now," Mondal said.
According to agriculture department officials in Behrampore, the maximum temperature hovered around the 40°C mark in the district today.
The BDO said the two families, comprising 15 members, were given the rooms on humanitarian grounds.
"We had told the families that if they had land of their own, the administration would help them construct a house. But the families have not contacted us till now. They can't occupy the classrooms indefinitely. I will conduct an inquiry into the matter. How can the students be forced to study under the open sky?" the BDO asked.
Das, who was the OC of Nowda police station when the eviction happened, was transferred to Bhagabangola police station a few days later.
"We had requested the headmaster to allow the two families to stay in the school to avoid law-and-order problems. The BDO and I had consulted each other and taken the step," Das said.
A district official said there were several attempts to find vested land for the families but no plot was available.
The chairman of the district primary school council, Debasish Baisya, said: "I did not know about the matter. I will seek a report from the local sub-inspector of schools. After that, I will take up the matter with the administration."
One of the occupiers, Imarul Sheikh, said: "We were evicted from a government plot where we had stayed for three decades without any notice. The BDO told us to stay in the school building for a week and assured us rehabilitation. But the BDO is trying to avoid responsibility now. We will shift as soon as we make some arrangements."