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Friday, September 4, 2015

Odisha Govt forced to close schools ~ Dhanushkodi destroyed by tidal cyclone in Dec 1964

How does your kid commute to school … many of us are not in a position to drop them to school…. Most make arrangements with private autos; vans and cycle rickshaws….. and feel that they have done their duty….. not many care  to see the way their children commute in the vehicle arranged….. many a parents would keep on making calls to their van driver … just to know where the van is, whether their delay in preparations  could impact and whether their children is safely travelling…….. all ‘without ever thinking that they are imperilling their own and other children travelling in that van’……… see some small boyish driver driving the van rashly ~ speaking on the mobile phone all the time !! and he could well be answering your call….. duty does not stop with that… after all you are paying for that van, can’t you care to check whether the vehicle is properly maintained and whether it is being driven by a person, who possess valid DL and is in a state of mind to drive it properly….. ???

On a different plane, did you occasion to the school you studied a couple of decades ago to see how it is now ?  If you had studied in a rural village / in a Govt school, it could not longer be the heaven that it was when  you studied ! Modern schools charge a fortune [most parents pay without a grumble], have great premises, good looking comfortable classrooms [best education may not be guaranteed though !] Today’s The Hindu reports that - Odisha government has closed down 196 Government-run schools those that could not manage to enrol more than five students.

Replying to a query in State Assembly, School & Mass Education Minister Debi Prasad Mishra said 196 schools, primary and upper primary, in 26 districts of the State were found to have five students and less than that.While Kandhamal district has 18 schools failing to enrol more than five students, Gajapati follows with 17 such schools and Sundargarh and Jharsuguda six each.Mr. Mishra,  said, however,  no high school has reached a stage wherein it has to be closed down due to want of requisite number of students. “We are taking a number of steps to increase confidence of students on government high schools.”

Earlier in the ongoing monsoon session, the minister had admitted that there had been consistent fall in student enrollment in government primary schools.According to information sheet, in 2012-13 academic year, 43,41,046 have taken admission in government primary schools. In the next year (2013-14), the number of students dropped to 42,77,710 and last year (2014-15) it further fell to 42,23,628 students in government primary schools. In a clear indication of parents preferring private schools over government school, in urban centres of 10 districts, students studying in private schools have outnumbered their counterparts in government schools.

There are 53,455 primary and upper primary schools in Odisha. Of these, 373 schools do not have their own buildings, 4397 schools have no separate classrooms for all classes and 1691 schools operate from a single room.Mr. Mishra also pointed out that National University of Educational Planning and Administration was considering giving 10 days of special training to 150 headmasters who will be tasked to improve quality of education in their respective schools.

While those in Cities may never understand, there are many villages and rural areas, where schools lack the basic infrastructure resembling those classes held under trees in open. 

Our Hon’ble Dr APJ who passed away recently, hailed from the beautiful holy island of Rameswaram-  not sure whether there is a college at his birth place [seemingly none !].  There are a couple of Government high schools, one each for boys and girls.  There are seven other schools in Rameswaram, of which he studied at  ‘ Mandapam Panchayat Union  school’  at Traders street.  

The island of Rameshwaram in Ramanathapuram District of Tamilnadu is a very religious place housing the famous Ramanatha Swamy temple – the place where Lord Rama worshipped Shiv in linga form. This is on Pamban island separated from the main land – the Gulf of Mannar.  Inside Rameswaram island, as you go further – the south-eastern tip is :  Danushkodi (Danush would mean the bow and kodi means the end). Hindu legend has it that at the request of Vibeeshana, Lord Rama broke the Sethu (the bridge) with one end of his bow and hence the name Danushkodi.

Cyclone and heavy weather are not unheard in the southern States of India.  Something worst happened on  23rd Dec  1964 – a cyclonic storm wiped out part of the Nation and took away Dhanushkodi from the Indian map.  A severe storm  crossed Vavunia of Srilanka with a wind velocity of 150 knots (280 km/h), moved into Palk Strait and crashed into Dhanushkodi of Rameshwaram island on the night of 22–23 December 1964. It was estimated that tidal waves were 8 yards high when it crossed Rameswaram.  Those days, it was well connected and there was a direct train service from Madras called Boat Mail Express. Fatefully, train No.653, Pamban-Dhanushkodi Passenger, a daily regular service with 110 passengers and 5 railway staff, was hit by the massive tidal wave near the Dhanushkodi station and was washed away killing all its passengers.

The high tidal waves ruined and devastated the entire town. Following this disaster, the Government of Madras declared the town as Ghost town and unfit for living after the storm. Only a memorial pillar lies there now. The railway track got covered by sand dunes and was abandoned – no body lives there and the train services were no longer considered viable.Today in the forlorn place, some fisherfolk live.

When we visited this place, reaching was only by a Jeep beyond the checkpoint – it was no road, but sand and only 4WD would move on.  The locals fix a special hub enabling the vehicle movement on sand, driving along beaten path.  There is nothing on the way at many places, as one could see Bay of Bengal on one side and Indian Ocean on the other. It is around 22 kms approx from nearer the Temple.

On our way back from the southern tip of the island, we saw a small school and some students happily playing inside the school.  A couple of teachers boarded our rickety vehicle, travelling  back to residential locality around the Temple.  One wondered their commitment travelling in such vehicles to reach the school, educate the children who do not dream of any facilities.  Appreciable is their work indeed ! ~ and here below are some photos taken at Dhanushkodi during our visit in Apr 2011.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
28th Aug 2015.
The mangled remains of what once was a rail track at Dhanushkodi

Jeep being modified to run on sand

Beaten track

Sea as seen here
Little school and happy students !!

The vehicle and a  boat at the tip of land

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