Srinagar: There seems to be no end to the miseries of landlords who have offered their buildings to the school education department to run schools sanctioned under centrally sponsored scheme-SSA.
Despite tall claims of the government to clear the rent liability of the owners, there has been no movement forward on the issue from the past many years, forcing building owners to run from pillar to post.
“At the time of establishment of SSA schools we were assured that we will be given rent on time. But that agreement remained confined to papers only,” said Abdul Salam, a resident of Srinagar who has given his building to school education department years ago to make run a school.
“The school was clubbed in 2015 with another school but department didn’t pay the rent of previous years,” he said.
Given the delay by the government, the rent liability has piled up for past more than five years.
According to officials, the rent liability has piled up from past years as the planning department as well Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has not released funds to clear the rent for the schools functioning from hired accommodations.
“The planning department of state didn’t release funds for rent due to which the liability has swelled up in the department,” an official said, wishing not to be named.
He said the planning department had earlier committed to allocate funds for rent of the SSA schools, but it was never released.
“We have huge liabilities of previous years but government didn’t release any amount. We projected the cost with planning department in every meeting but all in vain,” he said.
The official said the rent of the buildings hired to accommodate schools setup under state plan is fixed by the rent assessment committee headed by the concerned Deputy Commissioner (DC) as its Chairman, Chief Education Officer (CEO) and Assistant Executive Engineer of PWD department as its members.
“The rent is fixed on basis of the accommodation available in the building. But the funds have not been released,” the official said.
After the inception of the SSA scheme, MHRD used to release Rs 200 per month for each SSA school functioning from rented accommodation.
“But later, funds were stopped after government failed to construct government buildings for these schools,” he said, adding that MHRD squeezed funds citing poor performance of the government in completing the annual target of civil works.
Also, the government had decided to complete the construction of left out or incomplete buildings in collaboration with centrally sponsored scheme-MGNREGA wherein the labor component was to be covered under NREGA and construction part was to be handled by education department itself.
“The decision remained confined to papers only. There was no coordination between the two departments and later everything was put on the back burner,” the official said.
Meanwhile, following the failure of government to clear the rent liability, the owners of the buildings in some areas threaten to seize the infrastructure of schools.
“The owners have not been paid for years and now they have started seizing school lockers and other items as well,” an official said, wishing not to be named.
Interestingly, the department in 2015 clubbed over 1500 rented schools under the rationalization process but the owners are yet to receive the rent of previous years.
Director School Education Kashmir (DSEK) G N Itoo admitted the failure of government to clear the rent liability saying the finance department didn’t allocate funds for it from the past many years.
“But we have recently convened a meeting with finance department and we are hopeful to receive funds in April and all the rent liability will be cleared,” he said.