The Chhota Udepur administration was left red-faced after photos of former Uttar Pradesh CM Akhilesh Yadav were found on school bags given to primary school students as part of the Shala Praveshotsav drive. The goof-up came to light on Tuesday, when some students of a primary school in Sankheda taluka peeled off the Shala Praveshotsav sticker and discovered Yadav’s picture underneath. The news prompted the District Primary Education Officer to hold an emergency meeting and issue showcause notice to the contractor who supplied the bags. The Education Department has ordered an inquiry into the matter.
District officials said around 12,000 bags had been distributed at ceremonies of the annual Shala Praveshotsav (school enrolment drive) across the tribal district. The bags resembled those ordered by the SP government in UP in 2016 as part of Yadav’s campaign to distribute 1.8 crore school bags.
Some of the bags had been painted black to conceal Yadav’s picture. The bags bore the taglines ‘khoob padho, khoob badho’ (study more, progress more) and ‘ummeedon ka pradesh, Uttar Pradesh’ (a state of hope, Uttar Pradesh). Many students drew a blank when asked about the photo. Jaymin Vasava of Bhuria Kuwa village said, “I do not recognise this person.”
District Primary Education Officer Mahesh Prajapati said, “We procured the bags through a Surat-based company after an e-tendering process. We were shocked to find photos of the former UP CM. The sample bag looked fine.” The total cost of procuring the bags was Rs 17.28 lakh. Each bag cost Rs 144. The contractor has been issued a showcause notice, he said. “We have not paid the contractor yet. We will decide on withdrawal of the bags soon.”
Zinabhai Chhotala, director of Surat-based Chhotala Safety Products Pvt Ltd, he said, “We are a trading company. We do not manufacture the products. After getting the contract, we procured the bags from distributors. We have no connection with anyone in UP and the bags have not been brought from UP.” Opposition Congress took a swipe at the state government. “Instead of providing teachers, the government is distributing recycled bags of a former UP government. It shows how serious it is about education,” Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi said.