Pune, Jan 3: India’s first school for girls is in danger of oblivion as history makes way to modernity.
Exactly 160 years and two days ago, Savitribai Phule and her associate, Fatima Begum, set up the school at Bhide wada, Pune, on January 1, 1848.
Savithribai was the wife of social reformer Mahatma Jotiba Phule and Thursday marks her 176th birth anniversary. The school, named after the owner of the property, Tatyarao Bhide, was operational for decades but is a shambles today.
Some years ago the wada’s owners sold the 2,500-square- foot property on 257 C, Budhwar Peth, to the Pune Merchants Cooperative Bank. The bank sold it to Mantri Kishor Associates who are now planning a commercial-cum-residential complex on the site.
Over 500 anganwadi teachers took out a procession on Shivaji Road on Monday. They staged a demonstration outside the Pune Municipal Corporation and demanded national heritage site status for the school and a memorial for Savitribai.
The builders’ officials claim no school existed on the site. “The wada is not on any state or central heritage list. These morchas are just being done to harass us. The civic body has sanctioned our building plans,’’ they said.
Kiran Kalamdani, who is a heritage architect with the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, says “Bhide wada may not be on the heritage list but can always be included,” he said.
The Dagadusheth Halwai Ganpati Trust has also offered to help out. Its president, Prataprao Godse said the wada must be converted into a library while a memorial ought to be built for Savitribai. “Today, the President of India is a woman and this would not have been possible if Savitribai had not started the school,” he said.
The trust is willing to give Rs 5 lakh to Akhil Bharatiya Mahatma Phule Samata Parishad for the purpose.