Visually impaired seek help as Govt turns Nelson’s eye towards School for Blinds

Nishikant Khajuria

JAMMU, Apr 18: Boarders of the only Residential School for Blinds in Jammu and Kashmir, being run by the Social Welfare Department, are at the verge of starvation as the Government seems to have turned a Nelson’s eye towards the plights of these visually impaired students.
Since September last, no funds have been released to this Residential School at Roop Nagar Jammu with the consequent result that staff members were arranging for diet and other expenses of the student boarders either from their own pocket or on credit from market.
However, no release of salary of the staff members for the last two months and failure of the State Treasury in clearing pending bills of the school by March 31, have further worsened the situation and forced the visually impaired students to mull agitational path for inviting attention of the authorities towards their plights.
The callousness of the Government towards its only Residential School for Blinds in the State can be gauged from the fact that no senior officer has ever visited the school since months to listen to grievances of the boarders.
“We are visually impaired by birth but the authorities at the helm of affairs seem to have intentionally closed their eyes for the reasons best known to them and in the prevailing situation we are left with no option other than to take to streets to make the Government see into our plights,” said a boarder of the school on the condition of anonymity.
Pertinent to mention that this Residential School for Blind at Roop Nagar has strength of around 30 visually impaired students, which include a Gold Medalist in Music. Around ten students of this Residential School are pursuing higher education. Besides a Superintendent, a Senior Assistant, a Cook, Helper and an Orderly have been provided by the Social Welfare Department for running the school.
In addition to three permanent Blind teachers for taking regular classes, guest lecturers were being arranged for the students. Each boarder of the school was provided a diet of Rs 100 per day and Rs 40 pocket money for a month besides free medicines, uniform, stationery items etc.
However, because of no release of funds since September last, these Blind students are facing problem in getting their pocket money and other facilities while the situation has further worsened since March 31 after pending bills of the school were not cleared by the cash starved Treasury and the funds got lapsed.
When contacted, Superintendent of the School, Mohit Gupta admitted that they were facing difficulty in arranging diet of the students as well as meeting their other expenses because of non-release of funds and clearance of pending bills. “However, we are trying our level best to ensure that the students are given routine diet and they also may not face hardships in continuing their studies,” he claimed.
On the other hand, visually impaired students of the school alleged that they were without uniform, stationery as well as books while not even a penny has been given to them for pocket money since January.
Height of callousness of the authorities towards the school affairs can be imagined from a stranded brand new vehicle Winger, which was donated by then Member of Parliament Madan Lal Sharma for ferrying the visually impaired students. For the last two years, this Winger is stranded in the school premises as the Department neither released Rs 50 for its registration fee with the Regional Transport Office nor provided a driver for plying the vehicle. Similarly, a Maruti van of the school is also lying idle because of no driver notwithstanding the repeated reminders of the school authorities in this regard and personal assurance of the Director Social Welfare for arranging the driver.
On being contacted, the Minister for Social Welfare, Bali Bhagat, said that he was not aware of the crisis in the Residential School for Blinds and the problem, if any, would be resolved immediately to ensure that the boarders may not face any hardship.
Sanjeev Verma, Commissioner Secretary Social Welfare Department, also told the Excelsior that he would personally look into the matter and funds for smooth functioning of the school will be arranged within days. “I have talked to Director Finance for release of funds and also directed  my Additional Secretary to personally visit the school  for taking first hand account of the grievances of the students,” he said and added that the school vehicles, which are lying idle, would also be made operational by providing driver and necessary funds.


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