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Kolkata school for kids with disabilities to stay shut until investigation into drowning death is over

March 24, 2019

The Asha School in Kolkata, in the eye of a storm since the death due to alleged negligence of four-year-old Sambuddha Ghosh in February, has shut its doors pending police investigation.

In a notice the school, run by the Army Wives Welfare Association announced,

It is informed that the school will remain temporarily closed with effect from 19 March 2019 on account of the ongoing investigations in respect of a tragic and unfortunate accident. Fresh dates for reopening shall be intimated later. - School Management, Asha School

On 20 February this year, shortly after a sports day event ended, Sambuddha drowned at a pool inside the hydrotherapy centre located in the school premises. The child, who was just short of five years old, had non-verbal autism and had left under the charge of a school caretaker and the class teacher before he drowned.

There is still no clarity about the sequence of events in the 19 minutes after Sambuddha's father left him in the care of school authorities.

"Police investigations are going slow as they are awaiting forensic reports and CCTV footage, says Subhojit Ghosh, Sambuddha's father, who is clearly unhappy with the delay. "I am told the interrogations are largely done and that the Principal and Vice Principal have not been arrested because they are cooperating with the police.

So far there has been no formal statement of apology from the school, barring this statement from the Army Press Statement which said a committee would be formed to investigate the incident and to steps to ensure that such incidents do not recur in the future.

However, Ghosh is unhappy with the Asha School's decision to close doors temporarily. "I feel this decision is just to draw sympathy from the public. What's the point of depriving so many children access to the school for an indefinite period, asks Ghosh.

His sentiments are echoed by Dr Aditi Bandopadhyay, Founder, SAMYA Foundation, which is among the organizations campaigning for stricter monitoring of centres catering to people with disabilities.

"The closure of the school for the purpose of investigation seems to be a decision of the school to me, says Dr Bandopadhyaya. "There is no court order or pressure to do the same. We have to think from another perspective, which is that this may be a strategy of the school to draw public sympathy and support towards them. This will also antagonize parents of the others kids at Asha school and the general public for sure. But did Sambuddha's parents, or the parents at the candlelight vigil, or organizations supporting the cause ever demand closure of the school?

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