M A I N   N E W S

Heritage urge about to consume a premier school in Kapurthala
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 19
Sainik School, Kapurthala, one of the five Sainik schools started in 1961 as nurseries for defence organisations like the NDA, IMA, NA, AFA and OTA, is piqued by the Punjab government’s new-found love for heritage.

The government has been active to get the school relocated so that it could commercialise its premises — the historic Kapurthala Palace — and convert it into a heritage hotel.

There has been a considerable debate worldwide over perils of commercialising heritage sites, especially for running hotels.

The move has met stiff opposition not only from students and staff of the school, but also from the well-decorated and elite Old Boys Association of the school, besides the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). In fact, the Western Command, too, is opposed to the relocation move.

Why disturb an institution that besides preserving the heritage is contributing effectively through its assigned role of producing all-round future leaders? Students of Kapurthala School have excelled in all fields, including the defence of the country.

In the last Budget, the union finance minister announced a special grant of Rs 2 crore each for each of sainik schools for their renovation and upgradation.

How can the continuation of a prestigious Sainik School in its original home — the erstwhile palace of Maharaja of Kapurthala — come in the way of preservation of this heritage complex?

The Punjab Government has been pressing the union defence ministry to restore the complex back to it as it intends to start a prestigious heritage hotel there. It has offered to build a new complex where the present school could be continued. One suggestion under active consideration has been shifting Sainik School, Kapurthala, to Dasmesh Academy in Anandpur Sahib.

When the sainik schools were introduced, it was mandated that each such institution would have a minimum of 300 acres of land so that facilities for various sports and games, riding, swimming pool, gymnasium, hostels and other connected activities. The idea was that each of these schools should have enough land bank to make them self-sufficient. Being totally residential in nature, each of these schools have hostels and housing colonies for employees, officers, teachers and others associated with its running.

Though initially, Kapurthala Sainik School had 300 acres of land, it is now left with 192 acres while the other such school in the undivided Punjab at Kunjpura had 273 acres of land as originally handed over to it.

The Army chief, General Deepak Kapur, and Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda are alumni of Kunjpura Sainik School while Punjab’s Advocate-General Hardev Singh Mattewal is from Kapurthala School. The present Director-General Military Operations (DGMO), Lieut-Gen A.S. Sekhon, is also a product of Kapurthala Sainik School.

The arguments advanced by the Punjab government for relocating Kapurthala Sainik School also include diminishing number of its students opting for careers in defence forces. Those opposing the relocation move hold that if defence forces offer attractive pay packets which should at least match if not out-match the private sector packages, intake in defence institutes from Kapurthala school would start rising again.

Past records show that Kapurthala School has been winner of Defence Ministers’ Trophy 11 times. The school has sent as many as 600 officers. There are more than 50 officers of the rank of brigadier or above who came from Sainik School, Kapurthala.

The Old Boys Association of the school intends to meet Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to persuade him to drop the heritage hotel move and let the school continue on its present premises.



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