The controversy surrounding the fate of the disputed building leased to the Aksharnandan School on Senapati Bapat Road has taken another twist following the civic body’s second evictionnotice.
Earlier this month, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) had issued the notice asking the school authorities to vacate one of the two buildings, so that it could start its own school. But, contrary to their claims, the civic body’s education board is undecided on starting a civic school in the same plot.
PMC education board Chairperson Pradeep Dhumal said, “I have called a meeting tomorrow wherein the PMC Deputy Commissioner and education board chief will discuss the future course of action. I think the final decision in this regard will be taken in education board’s general body meeting scheduled for this Thursday.”
Mystified with the PMC’s request, the school management is saying that if the education board is unsure of starting a new civic school here, then what is the point in asking Aksharnandan to vacate the building.
The school authorities are also questioning the civic body’s flip-flop on the issue. “After the school strongly protested against the PMC’s first notice sent last year June, asking to vacate one of the buildings, PMC officials had given public statements assuring that they will not ask the school to evict the building in future,” said Vidya Patwardhan, Trustee of the school.
“The PMC has been cooperating with us since the beginning. But, we have unexpectedly received the notice asking us to evict one of the buildings by the end of ongoing academic year. Out of two buildings, the main building has been allotted to the school on 99-year lease period. The other building, which was let out to the school, is wanted back by the civic body,” Patwardhan said, adding the school is already running out of space and it would be difficult to shift students to another location. Patwardhan also added that the 22-year-old school operates on a principal of inclusion and students from all socio-economic strata of society secure admissions here.
Following the Right To Education Act (RTE), the school has admitted 10 students belonging to Economically Weaker Section(EWS) this year. Even though Aksharnandan has set an example in the education sector by introducing experimental education, PMC Commissioner Mahesh Pathak, in a news article published in MiDDAY on September 13, said that the school has no option but to vacate the PMC-owned building. “If the school has such a reputation, it must find its own land. After all it’s a commercial venture,” municipal commissioner Pathak had said earlier.
In a limbo
Located in Shivaji Housing Society, the school currently operates from two buildings. While the main building, taken from PMC on a 99-year lease, holds classes from Std I to VII, classes for remaining standards (VIII to X) are conducted in the building the PMC wants. A total of 160 students are taught in this building. Back then when the PMC served eviction notice in July 2012, the school management with the help of stakeholders, renowned personalities initiated a campaign against the civic body following which the PMC and the education board ended the matter.