Uttarakhand gangrape: State govt lacks specific policy for boarding schools
An education hub with some of the best-known boarding schools in the country, Uttarakhand has no specific policy or guidelines to establish and maintain these institutions. The details have emerged after alleged gangrape of a 16-year-old girl by four boys at a boarding school in the state.
A no-objection certificate (NOC) from the state government is mandatory to set up a school, and get affiliation to an education board, such as the CBSE. The Indian Express accessed the NOC norms of Uttarakhand and found that they have no mention of rules specifically to set up a boarding school.
Director (Secondary Education) R K Kunwar said, “Since Uttarakhand was part of Uttar Pradesh before 2000, the norms for granting NOC in Uttarakhand were taken from the existing norms in UP. We have made a few updates in the norms, but there are no specific rules for boarding schools.”
Uttar Pradesh has no specific policy for boarding schools. Neither does neighbouring Himachal Pradesh, which also has several boarding schools.
Haryana has norms in place for boarding schools to get NOC from the state government.
Uttarakhand School Education Secretary Bhupinder Kaur Aulakh said, “I am unsure about the existence or non-existence of norms for boarding schools, but we have issued safety guidelines. They are for all schools, including boarding schools. If schools do not follow the guidelines, we can withdraw the NOC.”
An official from Uttarakhand’s Education Department said on condition of anonymity, “The state government gives NOC for a school to be established. If school authorities want to make it a boarding school, that’s their prerogative — the government has no say.”
Due to a lack of a government policy for boarding schools, issues such as safety and security in hostels, food, lodging, rules for boys’ and girls’ hostels, etc, are issues for each institution to handle.
Uttarakhand, however, has a list of norms that a school must fulfil to get the NOC.
Among the well-known boarding schools in Uttarakhand are The Doon School, Welham Boys’ School, and Welham Girls’ School in Dehradun, Woodstock School in Mussoorie, and Sherwood College in Nainital.
The Uttarakhand Education Department’s data shows the state had 420 private schools in 2016, of which 380 were affiliated to CBSE. These include private boarding schools. “Since the department does not have a different policy or provision for boarding schools, we have no specific record of the number of boarding schools in the state,” an official said.
No CCTVs, irregular warden In the backdrop of the murder of a student of Ryan International School in Gurgaon last year, the Uttarakhand government had issued orders on October 23 last year, specifying that all school campuses must install CCTV cameras “in sufficient numbers”.
But both the girls’ and the boys’ hostels in the boarding school where the gangrape occurred on August 14 have no CCTV cameras.
As for administrative monitoring, The Indian Express found that the boys’ hostel, which has 33 boys of classes VIII to XII, has only a temporary warden, who is the school’s physical training instructor. The girls’ hostel, which has 18 residents, including five students from classes VIII to XII, had only a caretaker and no warden for the past month-and-a-half. A warden joined the hostel only on Sunday.
The victim and the accused boys were all hostel residents.
The alleged rape took place in the school building during school hours. But the school building also does not have CCTV cameras.