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Uttarakhand Polls: Sainik School Planned 10 Years Ago in Rudraprayag yet to Take off, Villagers Angry

Mukund Jha |
Villagers feel cheated as the farm land donated by them for the school, for a secure future for their children and development in the area, lies barren.
sainik school

Rudraprayag: The people of Thatti -Badma village of Jakholi block of Rudraprayag Assembly have threatened to boycott the elections as they feel betrayed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the previous Congress governments for the past 10 years.

The reason for their anger is the proposal for a Sainik School that was passed in this village in 2013, but till date not a trace of the school is there. This is despite several chief ministers doing Bhoomi Pujans and inaugurations.

This was a dream project for the people of more than a hundred villages in the Badma region, for which they had donated their farm lands free of cost. Yet, no school has been built yet because of which the villagers are angry. Therefore, this time in the Assembly elections, the Sainik School in Jakholi development block is turning out to be a big issue in Badma region.

When NewsClick reached Thatti-Badma village, people said in one voice that they would not vote for both national parties – BJP and Congress -- as both had cheated them. Many prominent people in the village informed us that they were in talks with nearby village heads, and would boycott this election.

In 2012-13, the then Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre had approved this Sainik School in Uttarakhand. At that time, there was a Congress government in the state as well. After that, the BJP-led government has also completed its term, by till date the proposed Sainik School has not been built. In fact, work has not even started.

It is said that the idea for the school was proposed by the then Military Welfare Minister Harak Singh Rawat, but when he broke away from Congress and joined BJP, the then Chief Minister Harish Rawat halted this project. However, after that his government too lost power. Harak Singh Rawat again became a cabinet minister in the BJP government and has almost completed his term. He has now rejoined Congress, but it is difficult to say when this school will be built or whether it will be built at all.

The then state government had allocated a budget of Rs 10 crore, of which about Rs 9 crore has already been spent in levelling the land and building a wall. In this matter, an FIR has also been lodged against many officers regarding alleged construction malpractices.

A hostel and teacher/staff accommodation was to be constructed along with the main campus in the Sainik School to be built on land donated by farmers. Apart from this, seminar halls, sports ground and other resources were also planned. But the land remains bare till date, on which local youth and children play cricket and other sports.

Deepak Singh Rawat, who donated his land for the school, said: "The government is saying there was some malpractice, as also some technical reason for the school not being constructed so far. We gave our land to the government to ensure a future for our children and youth and for the progress of the district. We didn’t donate agricultural land for this.  We need a school."

Two years ago, under public pressure, the then Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat had reassured people and had also announced that construction would start, soon after he laid the foundation stone. But, no construction has begun. Since its approval, the foundation stone and ground worship of Sainik School has been done twice. The current Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami also promised villagers that construction would start, but nothing has moved yet.

Sushila Devi, a villager, said: "Our MLA Bharat Singh Choudhary gave us many assurances that he would start its construction. He even said that the government had released Rs 1 crore for this. When we asked him to show us the allocation letter, he refused to do so. He was lying outright."

Madan Singh Negi of  the Sainik School Sangharsh Samiti said: “The villagers of Thatti-Badma and other villages had donated agricultural land to the government unconditionally. We hoped the Sainik School will rejuvenate the area and a new wind of development will blow. But now it seems that destruction is happening."

The village youth also seemed angry. Arjun Singh, 25, said: "Had the school had been built, students from afar would have come to live and study here. People of this area would have got employment, roads etc. Now we have neither the school, nor any development. We will not vote for any party in the elections this time."

The village head Trilok Singh Rawat showed NewsClick a pile of government orders, both from the state and Central government, and a file with correspondence that he had dome on the matter and the assurances given. “We have got only assurances from Delhi to Dehradun, not justice,” he said.

In its election campaign, the BJP is saying that in its five-year term it has done tremendous work, but its statements on Sainik School seem vacuous. At the same time, Congress leader Harish Rawat is trying to describe himself as ‘Vikas Purush’, but the truth is that both these parties have kept the issue hanging. The Union Defence Ministry has clearly stated in its letter that as soon as information about the construction of the building is received by it, they will start Sainik School there.

The largest area in the Rudraprayag Assembly segment is Jakholi, where about 70% of the voters reside. This whole area is angry due to government betrayal on the school proposal. Therefore, this issue carries a lot of weight in these elections, as it concerns the sentiments of the people as well as is related to development.

In this Assembly election (voting on February 14), Congress has fielded it young block chief Pradeep Thapliyal, while BJP is laying bets on its sitting MLA Bharat Singh Chaudhary. However, Matbar Singh Kandari, a rebel BJP leader, who has been minister and MLA, is contesting as an independent, and has made the contest triangular.

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