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NHRC notice to the Govt. of Punjab over reported lack of proper access to the education facilities

The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, India has taken suo motu cognizance of a media report about the plight of students, in Kaluwara village of Punjab, especially the girls, who have to first walk on foot in slushy banks of the river Sutlej then board a Berhi (a wooden boat) and cross the river to walk for another 4 kms along the border with Pakistan before finally reaching to the Government Senior Secondary School in Gatti Rajoke area of the district Ferozpur of the State.

The news report further reveals that Kaluwara is surrounded on three sides by river water and by the border fence on the fourth. It is also stated that during the heavy rain, the river floods fields and homes, forcing the residents to spend days together on their roof tops. The village houses 50 families and has only one primary school. Most of the girls studying in the primary school, drop out after Class-V due to the extreme difficulties in getting to the schools for higher education.

The Commission has observed that the contents of the news report, if true, raise issues pertaining to the apathy of the state authorities towards the Right to Education of the students as well as the Right to Life and Dignity of the people residing in the area. The State has a responsibility to ensure their safety and to safeguard their human rights by providing them an environment to live with dignity.

Accordingly, it has issued a notice to the Government of Punjab, through its Chief Secretary calling for a report along with the action taken report about the steps being taken or proposed to be taken to provide for better and hassle-free access to the students to the school in the area, either by creation of a new school at a nearby place or by providing better access, avoiding the river Satluj/Berhi, while reaching to the school.

Issuing the notice, the Commission has observed that it becomes imperative that the State Government makes it possible for every child to get an access to the education system, without much hindrance or difficulty so that the fundamental significance of the life of an individual can be achieved.