Mumbai school could win its fight against illegal shanties

Ten-year struggle of Khar school to clear illegal encroachments that crowd the school’s entrance might see results after BMC assures action following Saturday’s protest

It’s been 10 years that teachers and the management of the 175-year-old St. Elias High School in Khar West have been complaining about the illegal shanties that have swallowed the footpath outside its gate, leaving little room for parents and kids to manoeuvre traffic on their way out at the end of classes.

The civic authorities say that in fact, some of the shanties that crowd the gate of St Elias School in Khar West are authorized and hence, their residents will have to be offered alternate accommodation
The civic authorities say that in fact, some of the shanties that crowd the gate of St Elias School in Khar West are authorized and hence, their residents will have to be offered alternate accommodation 

On Saturday, a silent protest was held by over 2000 students and school authorities, who marched to BMC’s H West Ward office. If civic authorities’ recent assurances are to be believed, the students, parents and teachers will finally see the footpath adjacent to their compound wall free of encroachment.

The protest that was held outside BMC’s H West Ward by parents, students and teachers on Saturday. PIC/SAYYED SAMEER ABEDI
The protest that was held outside BMC’s H West Ward by parents, students and teachers on Saturday. PIC/SAYYED SAMEER ABEDI

Owing to a blocked footpath, they had been forced to use the road to walk leading to chaos during the start of school and end of day. Last week, Ruchit Gupta, a class 6 student from the school met with an accident that left him severely injured.

The school authorities said Sharad Ughade, AMC of H West Ward, had assured immediate action.

Ajay Gupta, the parent of the injured class 6 student, said, “This could have happened to any child. Authorities should take cognizance of the issue. The school is doing its bit to ensure children’s safety. But with increasing extensions of the shanties on the footpath adjacent to the school campus wall, it is getting dangerous.” Ruchit has been discharged from hospital after surgery since he suffered multiple fractures on his legs and has been advised bed-rest for two months. His parents are worried because the doctors have not been able to conclude whether he will be able to
walk again.

The school has close to 2,000 students. Ruhi Kapoor, who teaches in the primary section, said, “How are we expected to plan the entry and exit of so many students? Every day, close to 1,000 parents come by to pick or drop their children outside the gate. This is not the first accident outside our school. After the unfortunate accident, we approached the BMC again. But all they did was put a speed-breaker outside. How is that a solution?”

Another primary school teacher, Vijaya Shetty, said although the school had three gates for entry and exit of students from primary, pre-primary and secondary, at noon, when primary school winds up and secondary classes start, it is nothing short of chaos.

“To add to it, there are vehicles zipping by since the road sees two-way traffic.”

Ughade said, “While inspections will begin to locate unauthorized extensions for demolition, it is also important to note that some of the shanties are authorised structures. If we have to ask them to move, we have to offer them alternative place. We are working on a plan to accommodate them in a nearby SRA scheme.”

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