SRINAGAR: The 73 battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has occupied more than half the area of Srinagar’s only school for the disabled in uptown Srinagar for almost three decades now.
Worse, the CRPF has withheld the rent for the space for all these years to the school management.
One of the oldest schools set up in the city in 1941, Modern High School or the erstwhile ‘Abhenandan Home’ for the disabled and poor children in uptown Srinagar’s Solina was originally established on over 14 kanals of land.
However, with the CRPF camp there occupying “more than 7 kanals” of the school land the institution has shrunk to less than half the area, a school insider told Kashmir Reader.
The school management is still awaiting the rent from the CRPF, as per the insider.
“The rent amounts to lakhs. They have occupied even a school building there as well,” he said.
While the CRPF has been occupying the school area since 90s, but they have told the school management recently that they would pay the rent “only from 2008 onwards” another insider said.
“They told us that they could not find the records of them occupying the school right from the 90’s,” he said.
With the CRPF withholding them the nearly 3 decades’ rent coupled with the school’s already scant financial resources, the liabilities of the school including the teachers’ salary “have touched 20 lakh rupees”.
Citing the “poor financial condition” of the institution, Principal of the school, Shamim Noor said that the salary of the staff was pending “for the last 16 months”.
Noor however said that the decision to vacate the CRPF camp from the school or to resolve the issue of rent lied with the government.
With the Department of Social Welfare taking over the institution on April 28 this year, Noor said, “It is upto the government now to take care of the issues faced by the school”.
The takeover, Noor hoped, would resolve the school’s financial problems.
“There was no board for the school so far, but things are in motion now. We have submitted our requirements to the social welfare department recently,” she said.
Although the adjacent CRPF battalion is seemingly innocuous to the staff and students at Abhenandan Home, locals Kashmir Reader spoke to, raised objections over the presence of a CRPF battalion inside an educational institution like Abhenandan Home.
“It is a school right? What is the CRPF doing there then?” asked Abdul Wajid Bhat, a local resident.
Bhat said that the women in the vicinity “fear to walk near the CRPF camp”.
Ghulam Rasool Dar, an elderly, also raised questions over the armed forces putting up in an educational institution.
“They used to assemble us at the camp during crackdowns in 90’s,” Dar recalled.
Director Social Welfare Kashmir, Mohammad Qasim told Kashmir Reader that they had written to the DIG Central Kashmir over the pending rent.
Qasim said that the rent from 2008 onwards, which the CRPF has agreed to pay to the school, amounted to “around Rs 25 lakh”.
“We will do whatever we can for the school,” he said. He said that they have submitted a proposal to the government for the school’s funding.
Deputy Inspector General of police (DIG) Central Kashmir Range Srinagar, Vidhi Kumar Birdi told Kashmir Reader that the school administration needed to “complete the codal formalities”.
“We cannot give the rent blindly to anybody. The school has its own internal administrative issue. They have conveyed to us,” Kumar added