Will Sachin Tendulkar’s Funds Get A School To Bandipora or Drugmulla?

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by Tahir Bhat

SRINAGAR: On March 30, 2018, cricket legend and member Rajya Sabha, Sachin Tendulkar made news in Kashmir when he sanctioned Rs 40 lakh from his Member Parliament’s Local Area Fund (MPLAD) for construction work of Imperial Educational Institute, Drugmulla, Kupwara.

 

A rented building of Imperial Educational Institute Drugmulla.

The mere announcement of Tendulkar’s gesture won hearts both online and off it, instantly. The first one to react from Kashmir was none other J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who thanked Tendulkar for using his MPLAD funds for construction of a school building in Kupwara.

“Thankful to @sachin_rt for using his MPLAD funds for the construction of a school building in Kashmir,” Mehbooba wrote on Twitter, now quickest tool for the politician and celebrities to respond to developments. “Even off the field, he continues to inspire us all.”

It was a two-page proposal, which Suhail Khan, and Altaf Ahmad Shah, the co-owner of the school, drafted together, that helped them get the Rs 40 lakh funds from Tendulkar.

The proposal, a copy of which is with Kashmir Life (dated 23.01.2018), was sent to Tendulkar under the subject: Request for funds for construction of the school in Bandipora. The proposal says: “Imperial Educational Institute, Drugmulla runs a school for students in a 1st and 10th standard. Established in 2007, currently, its strength is 1000 students.”

“Since the beginning, the institution has focused on quality education, in spite of the volatile situation in the frontier district in northern Kashmir,” the proposal details about the Drugmulla school. “It has a qualified team of teachers, who are extremely hard working. The staff is dedicated and encouraged to give the best from their side for the betterment and overall development of the students. The school also conducts extracurricular activities like sports week, cultural programmes, and libraries, which play a key role in shaping the future of students in this fast-changing world. These initiatives always get support from the local, which adds to the strength. This motivation directed us for helping need of community from other parts of Jammu and Kashmir.”

The Imperial Educational Institute, Drugmulla, Kupwara, is a private school.

However, the second part of the proposal seeks to construct the school building at Ashtengoo village in Bandipora – almost 50 km away from Drugmulla. It offers its location as: “Ashtengoo village, District Bandipore, Kupwara, North Kashmir.” Bandipora and Kupwara are separate districts.

In two paragraphs, the proposal offers an idea about Ashtengoo and the requirement of the school. Equidistant from Bandipora and Sopore, the proposal says, it is unlike the rest of the district that has high literacy rate. “The people surrounding Ashtangoo are mostly fishermen or from downtrodden communities,” the proposal explains. “The area has a peculiar quality – during the years of turmoil and violence, the people here remained calm and friendly but unfortunately, without basic facilities, and mostly without education.”

The proposal says that parents would prefer this destination. “Moreover, a school at such a place will be preferred both by the local students and parents who want their kids to stay away from turmoil, and concentrate on their studies in a peaceful environment,” it reads.

So the school is not at Drugmulla.

When contacted, Suhail Khan, who claims to have drafted the proposal, told Kashmir Life over the phone that the funds are actually sanctioned for a branch of Imperial Educational Institute, Drugmulla, which he intends to open in Ashtengoo village.

“There are many private schools but they charge the huge sum of money which people cannot afford. I wanted to help the community,” said Suhail. “As I run an NGO, I was in Mumbai for an internship where I came in contact with Tendulkar who liked my proposal of starting a school in this remote region.”

Suhail claims that the school in Ashtengoo, for which he has sought funds, will be a branch of the Drugmulla School. “It will be run under the same name as Imperial Educational Institute, Drugmulla,” said Suhail. “The funds sanctioned are for a new school in Ashtengoo as mentioned clearly in the proposal. But it depends what we will do with the money. It will take almost a year to get the money. Right now it is just an announcement.”

But when Kashmir Life contacted Altaf Ahmad Shah, the co-owner of Imperial Educational Institute, Drugmulla, he termed mention of Ashtengoo village as the clerical error in a two-page proposal which earned them the funds.  “Why should we construct a school in Ashtengoo,” asks Shah, “These funds will be utilized to construct a new building for my existing school in Drugmulla, which is presently running from a rented building.”

Shah said he visited Mumbai some three months back in search of financial support for his “noble cause” of running a school, and on his friend’s behest knocked at Tendulkar’s door for funds. “Among other friends, Suhail was with me too. He is a relative. But this proposal is drafted by me, on my schools letter pad, and for my school,” said Shah. “Why should we open a school in any other place when our own school is in need of funds?”

Shah, who co-owns Imperial Educational Institute, Drugmulla, with Ghulam Mohammad Hajam, a resident of Muqam Shahiwali, says, the institution has 932 students at present.  “It looks odd when it something like this (getting funds from a celebrity) happened in Kashmir. We are not used to such thing, that is why we suspect everyone,” said Suhail.

Shah said he has recently purchased 5.5 kanals of land near his school where he is planning to construct a new building, for which Tendulkar has sanctioned Rs 40.10 lakh.

But according to a local, who lives near Imperial Educational Institute, there are just 400 students currently enrolled in the school, not 1000 as claimed in the proposal. “They teach up to Class 8 only, not 10th,” said the local source.

The school was started in 2007 by Akhtar Rasool, Ghulam Mohammad Hajam and another partner from a rented space just 1 km away from its present location. A few years back, Shah, who sold mobile phone and accessories from a shop in main-town Kupwara, bought shares of Akhtar Rasool and another partner to become a co-owner with Hajam.  The school is at its current location since last 1.5 year.

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