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Over 2,000 ashram students died in 17 years in state

Thursday, July 12, 2018
By Raju Vernekar

Over 2,000 students of 1,048 ashram schools (the tribal residential schools meant for the underprivileged tribe communities) located at Thane, Palghar, Nashik, Amravati and Nagpur tribal divisions, died due to various reasons, including sexual harassment, snake bites, accidents and drowning in the last 17 years, Minister for Tribal Development, Vishnu Savara, informed the state legislative assembly.

In reply to a starred question raised by NCP MLA Vidya Chavan, the minister stated that the above figure included 53 students who died in 2017-2018 and added that 2,43,188 students are studying in the ashram schools in the state and a new code of conduct has been devised to fix the responsibility of employees of these schools in such cases.

An NGO 'Samarthan' had also submitted a letter to Savara in April this year demanding information about the measures taken by tribal welfare department to prevent students’ deaths due to mismanagement of these schools.   

In response to a question on improvements made to tone up the school administration, as per the recommendations of the Salunkhe Committee, the minister stated that the improvement includes: supply of nutritious diet, supply of clean potable water, implementation of cleanliness measures, to beef up security of students, grievance redressal etc., have been included in the new code.

Savara stated that most of the time employees shrug off their responsibility in case of unfortunate incidents. As of such now the accountability of every employee will be fixed. Other measures include: health check up of students time to time, maintaining their health cards, to make available Auxilliary Nursing and Midwife (ANM) services near the school, to admit students to private dispensaries in case of emergency, to prevent consumption of drugs near school, to set up the Vishakha Committee in school, fill up the vacant posts of superintendent in the schools, to carry out inspection of ashram schools by district level women’s committee, to strengthen school management committee, to implement school repair campaign and to impart training of skill development to students and teachers etc.

Savara had put forth the plan of action before Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao in December 2016, stipulating some of the most basic measures at the ashram schools, after the death of over 1,000 students and the rape of dozens of girl students shook the state.

The plan included: regular visit of women officers’ team to tribal schools to establish confidence among girls, reduction of the 16-hour gap between dinner and morning meal for better growth and nourishment, posting of ANM and 108 ambulances at schools to provide timely health facilities, and mosquito nets to save kids from deadly malaria and dengue. However ironically the number of students’ death doubled between 2016 and 2018.

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