Started as a home for destitute girls, Regina Pacis School in Byculla needs a new lease of life. The establishment is one of 480 properties in the city that have been notified by the administration that their contract with the government has run out, and they should either start paying a yearly rent or purchase the estates at one go. The notices were sent by the city collector’s office last month. Two more lessees from SoBo have denoted the purpose of agreement as educational.
The school has three choices before it: either vacate the place, pay Rs 20 lakh every year as rent, or buy the land for Rs 10 crore. The institute says it had received a similar notice in 2002 and had requested the government to renew the contract period, but there was no response. The sudden notice of lease termination has come as a shock, representatives lament.
When MiD DAY visited the school, a functionary, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “We have appealed revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat and have also planned a meeting with the CM to discuss the issue. We have also sent a request to the parents to generously donate whatever amount possible to save the school.
We have also gone on social media and WhatsApp, asking people for help. Since most of the kids are from underprivileged sections, it is highly improbable that they would be able to assist us accumulate a vast sum like Rs 20 lakh every year, let alone the Rs 10 crore required to obtain ownership of the land. We run a school and a hostel for girls. We hope the government appreciates our plight and helps us. Till now, we were paying Rs 1,000 as annual rent.”
Speaking to MiD DAY, one of the students from Regina Pacis, who did not wish to be named, said, “The school has made it compulsory for us to donate an amount between Rs 1,000 and Rs 10,000.”
Another student said, “Our guardians are aware of this issue and they have been asked to help save the school.”
When MiD DAY visited St Isabel’s High School in Mazgaon, which has also got the notice, headmistress Susan Fernandes said only that the management was taking care of the situation.
Mary Camilla, manager of Gloria Convent High School, Byculla, remained unavailable for comment.
Rs 10 cr
One-time payment government expects from the school against partial ownership of the land
Rs 20 lakh
Annual rent the school will have to pay now if it decides to renew the lease
Parents circulate angry messages
On the other hand, irate parents have been forwarding fiery posts through SMS and social media. “Shameless government. I have attended a meeting at Regina Pacis Girls School, which also runs an orphanage, a night school for maids and a girls’ hostel. I also realised that the school gives preference to poor children. Shocking to see that the school has received a notice of 99-year lease termination. Now to continue the school they have to pay Rs 20 lakh yearly, or buy the land for Rs 10 crore. On one hand the government is pressuring girls to take up education, and on the other it is asking for Rs 10 crore, which is pittance in front of scams like 2G and coalgate involving shameless government ministers. Is it not possible for the government to extend the lease for the sake of 500 schoolgirls and orphanage?” reads one of them.
“We have sent notices to at least 480 leaseholders in the city. The schools that are on the list have been asked to renew the agreement as per the government policy formed in December 2012. It’s up to them, whether they want to recommence the lease, or acquire the land on occupancy class II basis (means not full ownership). The rates depend on the area and the nature of property. We have provided the estimate to the schools in their notices,” said city collector Chandrashekhar Oak.