It pays to have a Dy CM as ex-student

Its list of illustrious alumni runs to at least 63, recorded as "notable old Sanawarians" in its books, running from business tycoons and sportspersons, to film personalities, writers and politicians of all hues. But with one gesture of his, Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal may have climbed to top of that prestigious Lawrence School, Sanawar, ladder.

Last month, as the chief guest at the school's 165th Founder's Day celebrations, Badal Jr didn't just donate Rs 1 crore to his alma mater, he did so from funds meant for 'Punjab Nirman', that too for an institution in Himachal.

The school authorities won't say whether it is the first largesse of its kind for an institution that has churned out Bombay Dyeing's Ness and Jeh Wadia, CEOs of GE India, Kirloskar, Lehmann Brothers and Deloitte, actors Sanjay Dutt and Saif Ali Khan and former CM Amarinder Singh and current J&K CM Omar Abdullah. But it's certainly one that has got dragged to the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Asked to explain why money that was actually annual budget for the Punjab Nirman programme ó to be spent on roads, streets etc ó had been gifted to an elite boarding school in a different state, the Punjab Finance Department in an affidavit conceded that, yes, Lawrence School didn't fit the bill but that the state Cabinet had approved the grant.

Sukhbir met little resistance in the Cabinet to his logic that the school has been getting mostly students of Punjabi origin since Independence and the grant will assist in its development.

It's not known whether any of the other ministers spoke up for Punjab's over 18,500 government schools, most of whom lack basic infrastructure and teachers.

For now though, till the case is settled, Lawrence School won't be able to encash the cheque. Whether it needs to, is another matter. The flourishing school ó set up in 1847 by the British in the Sanawar hills ó charges over Rs 2.6 lakh from general category students and $13,000 from NRIs annually.

... contd.

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