Harishpur, one of the 26 villages that have refused to donate land. Picture by Chayan Majumdar
Behrampore, Sept. 13: The government has walked into a land block in Murhsidabad where it wants to set up primary schools in 26 villages but residents are not ready to donate plots as selling them would fetch several lakhs of rupees, they say.
In some villages, such as Harishpur, there is no primary school and children have to walk or cycle several kilometres to study, but villagers are unwilling even then.
Yasin Sheikh, a resident of Harishpur, said: “My grandson walks 2km to school and sometimes takes a bus. I understand a primary school in my village would be beneficial to many. But we can’t afford to donate land.”
The question of donating plots arises because land for primary schools has to be either government-owned or be donated by residents.
The education department sanctions teachers and funds for the building only after the land is acquired.
Sagir Hossain, the chairman of the Murshidabad district Primary School Council, said work for 27 primary schools had been sanctioned in January but till now, land for only one had been donated by villagers in Udaynagar.
“The villagers are not willing to donate their plots. Government land is also not available. Once we get the land, there will be no difficulty in getting the funds for the buildings. Teachers will also be posted,” said Hossain, also the vice-president of the Trinamul Congress state committee.
The primary schools have been sanctioned in Farakka, Suti, Nabagram, Hariharpara, Khargram, Shamshergunj, Murshidabad and Jiaganj blocks.
The district has over 3,100 primary schools.
Quoting the rules, the district inspector of schools (primary), Abdur Rauf, said: “There is no provision to purchase land for primary schools. A minimum of five cottahs is required for a primary school building. But in this case, we are yet to find villagers who are willing to donate plots.”
Chairman Hossain said he had written to the sabhapatis of about a dozen panchayat samitis and the chief of the CPM-run zilla parishad, requesting them to help the primary school council get the required land. “But we are yet to receive any positive response.”
The sabhapatis also pleaded helplessness. “We had sent our officials to the villages but residents refused to donate land beside roads saying it would fetch them lakhs,” said Abdul Kader, the sabhapati of Farakka panchayat samiti.
Villagers said they would prefer selling their plots because of the skyrocketing land prices.
“The price of land, particularly those beside busy roads, has shot up in the past 10 years. In our village, any plot beside a metalled road will cost Rs 2 lakh a cottah. So, its better to sell the land than donate it,” said Yasin Sheikh, who is a farmer in Harishpur.