By Divya Goya
It was a dilapidated, old building that dates back to the 1960s. The former Congress government painted and plastered its exterior surfaces. Now, the AAP has declared it the “School of Eminence”. Work is underway to build more floors, repair the existing infrastructure, but it couldn’t handle it any longer.
Mandeep Singh also lost his wife when Ravinder Kaur, a 45-year-old social studies and English instructor from BRS Nagar in Ludhiana died.
To come to grips with this tragedy, which changed the life of both his and his son’s forever in a matter of seconds, the father wants a magisterial investigation ordered by the Government to determine the responsibility of all those who were involved in renovation work that was being done in the school. He also demands that each of these people receive the harshest possible punishment.
Mandeep, a civil engineer by training who is currently a director at a civil service coaching institute in the private sector, said that “the building was old.” My assessment was that it was an old load-bearing structure, with the entire weight of its burden resting on its walls rather than beams or columns as in more modern structures. Even then, the contractor continued to pile old construction materials on the terrace. This already weak structure could not take the weight on its walls, and collapsed the whole structure on top of the staffroom on the first floor. It is compulsory to consult a structural engineering firm before starting any work on a public structure. This is the norm. “We want the probe to find out whether this was actually done, or if renovations were started in violation of all norms.”
Mandeep stated that he and his son’s lives were changed in seconds, despite his gratitude to local authorities, NDRF, and ITBP who had arrived on the scene quickly and pulled out his wife, three other teachers, and the debris.
Mandeep commented on the AAP Punjab government’s claim that education and health are their top priority sectors: “I only can say that they should make sure that these incidents do not happen again.” Then, put in basic infrastructure and logistics. Otherwise, all the other projects they are claiming to launch for education seem superficial. If you cannot provide a safe environment for your teachers and students, then all other claims of development are superficial.
Ravinder Kaur was only transferred from Nurpur Bet to Baddowal two months prior. She is a master in English, and teaches social studies. She was originally from Patiala and loved cooking, calligraphy, and other arts. Around eight years earlier, she had been working in the state education department. Uday is her son, who studies commerce in class 11. The father and son lit the pyre together on Thursday, as they bid her farewell.
“Tragedy would not have been possible if the structure had collapsed in the classroom”
Teachers who were in a panic say they are shaky just thinking about what might have happened if the building had collapsed onto a classroom. At least 70% of the students in the class were there on Wednesday, and the school functioned when it happened.
The Democratic Teachers Front (STF), a group of teachers from the Democratic Teachers Front, visited the school on Thursday to demand that all four teachers be compensated. Vikram dev, DTF state president, stated that the government’s attitude of declaring the school “School of Eminence”, just to gain political publicity, was “insensitive”. The school was built in the 1960s. This AAP government has declared the school School of Eminence, without checking whether or not its basic infrastructure is safe. Construction work for the revamping of this school as a School of Eminence began without checking whether old structures were able to support new constructions. “We demand an investigation by a retired High Court judge and compensation for the teachers.”
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