Kandhamal: Early in the morning everyday, around 140 Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) school children – 100 girls and 40 boys – of Gadiapada Abasika Sevashram in Kandhamal district of Odisha trek around 2 kms for their morning ablutions. The children, most of them below 10 years of age, follow the same routine in the evening hours too as the Ashram has no toilets.
The practice which has been going on for long, came to the fore after Human Rights activists Namrata Chaddha, Manoj Jena and Vice Chairperson of Mahila Adhikar Abhiyan [MAA] Dr. Rina Routray spotted children walking in a queue towards the forest near Khajuripada while on their way to Bhubaneswar. On inquiry, the hostel guardian accompanying them informed that the children were being taken to the nearby forests to relieve themselves as there were no toilet facilities in the school.
On further inquiry, it was revealed that the school also lacked basic facilities, including drinking water.
Namrata Chaddha filed a petition in this regard in the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which has taken cognizance of her plea.
“We saw a few children were entering deep into the forest while others were heading for a nearby stream though a slippery route. Casualty can’t be ruled out if some students sustain injuries due to the hilly terrain and the presence od poisonous creatures. We found that most od the children did not have shoes on their feet. Who will be responsible if any unfortunate incident happens due to the negligence of the authorities of our welfare govt?” Chaddha wrote in the letter to the NHRC.
“When the Government is hyping slogans like Beti Padhao Beti Bachao, Swachha Bharat Swachha Vidyalaya, open defecation free villages, the students of Gadiapada Sevashram School are being deprived of basic sanitation facilities,” she said.