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School building with history burnt down; Suit threat; Tea offerings dip in last week's sale

By Various Sources on March 26,2009

School building with history burnt down

The burnt walls of the school; (Above) students console each other after seeing the fire-ravaged building on Wednesday. Pictures by Suman Tamang

Darjeeling, March 25: A school building more than 160 years old and the second to be registered with the government in this hill town was razed to the ground by fire today.

The fire in the main building of Sardeswari Government Girls’ High School seems to have started around 12.45am. “When we reached the spot, we could see that a portion of the building which was very near to the electric pole was up in flames,” said Bimal Sharma, a witness. It is suspected that sparks from the electric pole from where the school draws power may have started the fire.

mar26nbldarj4The school has over 400 students. The building was constructed by an Englishman, T.E.M. Turton, said Nayan Prakash Subba, a writer and a historian. “It is a very sad day for us as it was the second building to be registered in Darjeeling. It was registered in 1845 and its registration number was 2,” he added.

Darjeeling as a hill town is nearly 170-years-old. In 1835, the Chogyal of Sikkim had handed it over to the British. Darjeeling hardly had any human settlements then.

The school was set up by Swami Prabhuddhananda after buying the property from the Maharaja of Cooch Behar in 1946.

As soon as the building caught fire, the local people joined hands with civil defence and the fire department personnel for almost three hours to control the blaze from spreading further. The building which was razed to the ground housed all classes except, VIIIB, IX and XII. “The school has classes from V to XII and the building that was razed had the entire administrative wing, library, computer classroom and other classes,” said Seema Pakhrin, the English teacher.

Even though the state government is building a new structure it has only four rooms and a hall which is not big enough to accommodate all students. “We have lost almost everything, right from the desks and benches to computers. Only two shelves and a few benches could be recovered,” said Arati Chhetri, the teacher in-charge.

The school authorities along with district officials are trying to find a new place near the present premises where classes can be held for the time being. Given the historic importance of the building, a large number of well-wishers including leaders from most of the political parties today visited the school.

Many students who were unaware of the incident reached the school at the usual time. Finding the main building razed to the ground, most of them started crying.

“We are determined to start classes from Monday,” said Chhetri who along with other teachers decided to hold assembly in the school hall. The teacher in-charge delivered an inspiring speech to inconsolable students urging them to look forward to building a better structure.

Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung, now in Delhi, has asked the DGHC and district officials to construct a new building of the school as early as possible. “I have told them to expedite the work,” he told The Telegraph.

The school, which is named after Ramakrishna’s wife Sarada Devi, has its share of problem. The DGHC had to stop construction following litigation over the land. At the moment, the school has only two permanent teachers. The rest were recruited on a contractual basis.

Fire officials today urged hill institutions to install fire extinguishers. “Most of the schools do not have a fire fighting system. We appeal to them to give a thought to this safety aspect,” said an official.

Fire destroys Darjeeling school

Siliguri (PTI): Fire destroyed a government-run school in Darjeeling town early Wednesday.

Superintendent of police, Darjeeling, Rahul Srivastab said, "Saradeswari Government Girls (Secondary) School, established in 1946 and used to run in century-old Hermitage Building in Darjeeling town, caught fire at about 1.15 am."

Three fire tenders fought the blaze for four hours, but nothing except a few computer sets could be saved, he said.

Mr. Srivastab said administration was taking measures to help the school authories to start its office in a nearby place. Short circuit could be the reason behind the fire and a police picket has been put up, he said.

Suit threat

Kalimpong, March 25: The Janamukti Secondary Teachers’ Organisation has threatened to file a defamation suit against urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya, reports our correspondent.

The minister had accused the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha of demanding Rs 2 crore from hill schools in a meeting on March 1. The Morcha-affiliate challenged Bhattacharya to prove his allegation.

The meeting at Gorubathan between the Morcha and the school heads had been called to work out the admission modalities of the students from the Dooars in the hill institutions, the JSTO said.

Tea offerings dip in last week's sale

Kolkata , Mar 25 The total offerings declined to 52,203 packages comprising 45,039 packages of CTC, 6,918 packages of Orthodox and 246 packages of Darjeeling teas in the last week&aposs sale.

There was a good general demand for CTC offerings, all sorts sold in line with quality. Major Blenders were quiet. There was fair support from another packeteer. Western Indian operater selective on liquoring teas and other internals lent good support.

Orthodox offerings also saw good demand at the sale. In this section very selected quantities of well made early invoices were readily absorbed and remainder sold irregularly in line with quality. Middle East and CIS shippers were very active, North Indian buyers lend good support on the Whoole leaf.
Source: PTI

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comment Comments (8 posted)
  • image fell very bad that school was brunt,but where is Bimal Gurung at this time?????He is in delhi & having good time ,he should be shameful.he came to delhi to support the political party but no one allow him to enter.So sad bimla go back to Darjeeling you are not fit for this post.
    (Posted by rosy, March 31, 2009, 3:07 AM)
  • image you firstly say that you are having a tough time coping with the malfunctioning of the system in Darjeeling because of GJM....u even say that your democratic right is being taken away from you by those who have called in the DIKAT......you well know that "money" is a flower that attracts a whole lot of bees......you via your comment have given an oppertunity of the flower coming to a bloom,as such it is inevitable that the bees do gather for nectar...l...wont you feel worse then when money for one cause is being utilised for something else
    (Posted by [email protected], March 30, 2009, 12:22 AM)
  • image Dear [email protected], I didn't quite get you???
    (Posted by Shelly, New Delhi, March 29, 2009, 6:20 AM)
  • image Aha its really ad to hear about the old school of darjeeling is burnt.
    (Posted by Raj, March 27, 2009, 8:15 AM)
  • image leave it aside SHELLY ths will add to one more sagas in the aristocracies of the dikat.......men
    (Posted by [email protected], March 27, 2009, 5:49 AM)
  • image I wish we can contribute to the remaking of Sardaswari School in whatever way we can. I appeal to DarjeelingTimes.Com to raise the issue on its portal so that people can chip in with their contribution.
    (Posted by Shelly, New Delhi, March 27, 2009, 1:26 AM)
  • image Sad to learn about the historic buildings going on smoke.
    (Posted by Ex Gorkha, March 27, 2009, 1:00 AM)
  • image In the news the fire has started at 12:45 pm which indicates that a day light fire fighting advantage was a big miss. Either it is in part of Dj's Fire Brigade with inadequate fire equipment or some negligence of School too. It is comforting that no one is hurt. Dj's Fire Brigade is in a pathetic state. It has no modern equipment to match hazardous fire. The basic needs are being over looked for years. The two major fires in the past motivated nothing to improve the service. The two major factors of weakness still persist in Dj Fire Brigade; Firstly there is no sufficient water reserved for any major fire fighting and secondly the fire people working for it were not fast enough to make their action felt. Because, 80% of building burnt to ashes indicating the 3 hrs’ burning is an uncontrolled fire. The school itself must take some responsibility as it must have failed to provide sufficient fire fighting gears which are necessary for any congregation venue for people's gathering. All teachers and students must be trained to escape the fire and if possible they should lent their hands in fire-fighting. During my whole student time I have never seen fire fighting drill or any instructions as how to escape to safety and hardly saw some extinguishers lying there for ages. Therefore, schools should be made compulsory to students and teachers aware of the fire hazard and trained them the fire drills they need to follow in case of fire. The Fire Brigade is stationed at Chowk Bazar not very far from the burnt school. Although the school is situated little farther from the main road but a powerful hose pipe can reach it. Luckily being little isolated itself the fire was not hazardous to other houses nearby. It is one of the facts that Dj has been neglected by CPM government in every aspect of our life. It is the government’s responsibility to check out fire safety in every establishment. It should not be appeal but order the head of departments to install adequate Fire Fighting gears and inspected annually by the Fire Service Inspectors for its serviceability including the related notices are displayed at prominent places. Now we have to wait and see the reaction of CPM government who hates our guts.
    (Posted by A son of Dj, March 26, 2009, 11:51 PM)
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