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Unmasked! Chhena water threat to 700 schoolkids

- Odour most foul, or perhaps the stinky truth of campus encroachment by sweetmeat shop

Chandan Kumar Singh (14), a Class X student at Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel Smarak High School in Govindpur, finds it impossible to do chemistry practicals. Chandan can’t balance test tubes in one hand and a handkerchief to his nose in another

nKajal Kumari (15), also a tenth grader, uses the dupatta of her school uniform to block her nose during class but finds she concentrates too much on the foul smell outside at the cost of her studies

Chandan and Kajal are not alone. Hundreds of students at Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel Smarak High School, a state-aided institution at Chhota Govindpur near Telco, suffer putrid smell for hours.

Given the status of a high school in 1981 by then Bihar state government, it is facing a peculiar problem since months. Everyday, water drained from cottage cheese forms a stagnant puddle on campus, its odour making children nauseous.

The culprit is a newly opened sweet shop, Sweet Treats, near the school. As the school has no boundary wall, encroachment is rife.

The single-storey school with 15 rooms runs from 6.30am to 11.30am. It has 700 students on rolls with 60 per cent being girls. For the record, the school legally has 1.64 decimal land. Minus a wall, homes and small buildings are coming up, hemming in the grounds from all sides.

The stench kicked up by cottage cheese water — liquid residue of basic raw material chhena — has taken encroachment to the level of a health and education hazard.

Durgandh ke chalte padhna aur padhana dono mushkil hai. Humlog do bar police ko bol chuke hain. Mithai dukan ke malik ko bhi request kiye par abhi tak kuch nahin hua. Boundary wall ke liye sikhsha padhadhikari ke saat baat hui hai par jab tak funds nahin aa jata boundary wall nahin ban sakta (Teaching and studying are both tough due to foul smell. We verbally told police twice and have requested the sweet shop owner also but no corrective step has been taken yet. We have written to the district education officer for a boundary wall but till funds come nothing can be done),” Jitender Prasad, school in-charge-cum-headmaster.

From its own end, the school sprays bleaching powder. “We buy bleaching powder from the school’s miscellaneous fund at Rs 25 per kg a week. It reduces the smell for one or two days. Then, it gets unbearable,” Prasad said.

Principal of the middle school section, Jai Kumar said they had asked students to bring handkerchiefs.

When The Telegraph contacted Sweet Treats’ owner Raju Giri, he admitted to the problem. “We sought permission from the school to build a 15ftx15ft soak pit so that waste water doesn’t spill on the grounds. But, school authorities are apprehensive we may encroach on their land,” Giri, seeing no irony in his solution, said. He added his shop was opened less than a year ago.

East Singhbhum district superintendent of education-cum-in-charge district education officer (DEO) Indu Bhushan Singh said they asked the school to lodge a case at the thana and with the circle officer against encroachers. “For the boundary wall, we need funds under Rashtriya Madhyamik Siksha Abhiyan as this is a high school. Money should come this year. Once the wall comes up, these issues will end,” Singh said.

Ratnesh Mohan Thakur of Govindpur police station said they could initiate action only after receiving a written complaint from the school principal. “They (school authorities) may have spoken to some policemen. But no written complaint has come to me. I can take legal action only after getting a written complaint,” Thakur said. Till then, let hold your breath.