GUWAHATI, Sept 13 � Secreting highly inflammable petroleum waste along with water and filth, a sewerage drain located right in the heart of the city is a cause of worry for two schools at Paltan Bazar. �The burning drain� � as named by some movie-buff students � exposes the bustling city locality to a dangerous fire hazard.
In 2008, a massive fire that broke out in the backyard of the Bengali Higher Secondary School at Paltan Bazar here burnt to ashes a large portion of the said school building. Nearly 25 desktop computers, classrooms and the entire science laboratory with all its equipment were destroyed in the inferno. Again in 2010, a wall of the school building adjacent to the drain was damaged in a fire.
Locals alleged that the fire emanated from the drain that carried diesel released after cleaning and maintenance of rail engines and other petroleum waste released from the railway station that shares a boundary wall with the school.
Oil residue floating on water could be seen in the drain that has been clogged due to thick undergrowth and other waste material.
Despite the hue and cry about the hazardous diesel and engine oil released into the drain from the adjacent railway station, the issue subsided in no time and �the burning drain� continued to flow as it has been since the past two decades.
It is alleged that other than two major fires, small incidents of fire have occurred a number of times. The vast deserted backyard of the school campus and spurt in encroachment along the adjacent railways have made people wary about security of the school campus.
A fresh incident of fire occurred nearly three months back during the night, which was noticed by the family of the school�s night watchman, who lives near the drain. �First I noticed the fire at the drain near the school bathroom late at night and immediately called for help. Had we not doused the fire immediately, it would have gutted the plastic pipes of the bathrooms,� Rupiya Begum, wife of night watchman Kalimuddin told this correspondent.
A number of school staff also expressed concern over the presence of inflammable material in the drain.
A nearly 80-feet stretch of the kaccha drain exists between the Bengali Higher Secondary School and Bengali Girls� High School at Paltanbazar. Two primary schools � for boys and girls � are also running in the same campus. While the school authorities have written to the General Manager of NF Railway, former Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee and to the local authorities, a positive outcome is still awaited.
�At times, smell of mobil fills all the classrooms, specially when the drain overflows after it rains,� said Amal Biswas, a student. Already in a dilapidated condition, water-logging was seen in every stretch of the Bengali High School, established in 1936, which has gone much below the road level with the passage of time.
�The matter is of great concern not just for the two schools, but for the entire Paltan Bazar area as the school shares a boundary wall with the ASTC campus and the railway station. In its heyday, this school was an epitome of Assamese-Bengali unity in Kamrup. It is still a beacon of hope for those parents who cannot afford expensive education for their children. However, since these people do not belong to any influential class, their plight goes unheeded,� said Ajoy Dutta, social activist and vice president of the school�s management and development committee.