Kalam’s school in darkness; power supply suspended

Late President A P J Abdul Kalam often recalled that his days at the primary school showed the light to his future, but the institution where he had his early grooming is now engulfed in darkness.

Electricity supply to the Mandapam Panchayat Union Middle School, where Kalam gained his primary education in the tiny island of Rameswaram, was cut off last week due to non-payment of bills for the last two years. Kalam had a special place in his heart for this school as he visited the modest institution that gave wings to his dream twice after he ascended Presidency.

The bill amount is mere Rs 10,500 and the district education authorities “forgot” to pay the bill for the school. On Thursday and Friday, students of the school, which boasts of facilities like a full-fledged library and projectors thanks to philanthropists, plunged into darkness, causing severe inconvenience to them.

Though the district administration says power supply was restored almost immediately after the issue was brought to its notice, the school’s management committee contradicts the claim and says the institution is now functioning only on the power generated through a solar plant in the campus.

The school, which is quite popular in Rameswaram, has received several donations from many NGOs and individuals who wanted to celebrate the ‘son of the soil’.

“It (discontinuation of power supply) was a mistake done by a junior officer. The mistake was immediately corrected and power supply was restored. We did it on the same afternoon (Thursday afternoon). We will ensure such incidents don’t recur in the future,” Ramanathapuram district collector S Natarajan told DH.

However, A Ashokan, member of the school management committee, said this was not the first time that the power supply was disconnected. “A couple of years back, the power supply was discontinued and we got a new connection. The union education office is responsible for paying the bills, but they have not paid the amount leading to disconnection. This shows the governmental apathy towards schools in rural areas,” Ashokan told DH.

The school is quite popular among children in Rameswaram island since it has all facilities that would put any private school to shame.

Kalam’s family said the issue was more of a miscommunication than perceived governmental apathy. “The school has a solar plant and maybe officials thought there was no power connection to it. Once the issue came to their notice, they pressed into service people to sort it out,” Sheikh Salim, Kalam’s grandnephew, said.

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