By Nivedita Singh
New Delhi, Aug 13 (IANS) The lack of control over land in the national capital has affected the Delhi government’s election pledge to build 500 new schools. Only 25 new schools have come up and an equal number may be constructed by March 2020.
Known for its reforms in the education sector, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government has constantly blamed the lack of control over land for its inability to build new schools.
But the government has approved construction of about 21,000 new classrooms, out of which some 9,000 are already functional and the remaining are expected to be ready by the year-end.
Education Minister Manish Sisodia told IANS that the government wanted to build more schools, colleges and hospitals in Delhi. “But land has always been an issue.”
According to an official from the Education Department, seeking new land for a new school is a complex process as land in Delhi — apart from some other issues — is controlled by the Central government. Also, the cost of land is very high in Delhi.
Long bouts of turf war between the AAP-controlled Delhi government and the BJP-led Central government, to whom the Lt Governor reports, have affected many projects.
According to government data, 25 new schools were built since 2015. Nineteen of them became functional by March 2018.
“The government is aiming to increase the number of new schools to 51 by March 2020. The PWD has submitted drawings for 17 to the Directorate of Education,” according to information provided by the Delhi government.
Earlier this year, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said there were 1,100 schools in Delhi with about 24,000 classrooms when he came to power.
He said his government was building 21,000 more classrooms, “so we can say 1,000 new schools are going to built”,
“Since Independence, only 1,100 schools with 24,000 classrooms were built in Delhi, while in the last four years the AAP government constructed 21,000 classrooms or 1,000 schools,” Kejriwal said.
A Delhi government official said: “For maximum utilization of the available land in the existing schools, we are building new classrooms on a large scale so that the number of students admitted can go up.”
In its 2015 Assembly election manifesto, the AAP promised to “build 500 new schools with a special focus on secondary and senior secondary schools to ensure that every Delhi child has easy access to quality education”.
After the AAP took power in 2015, the lack of control over land and decision making impacted most of its projects, including the promise to build new schools.
Sisodia had raised the issue in his Budget speech of 2019-20, saying Delhi’s elected government does not own land and that if Delhi had been a full-fledged state, the government would have taken the initiative to set up new schools and colleges.
(Nivedita Singh can be contacted at [email protected])