With Assembly elections nearing in the state, the government plans to distribute 40 lakh cycles to students of class VIII to class X as promised by the chief minister in her Independence Day speech this year.
Since last year, the TMC government has been implementing a scheme under which tribal girl students of class IX and class XII in the Maoist-hit areas of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia are given cycles with an aim to reduce the dropout rate of girls in the schools and encourage them to continue with their studies.
“We have provided bicycles to about 3 to 3.5 lakh girl students,” Mamata had said in her Independence Day speech and had added that her government will be “taking up a special project of distributing cycles to 40 lakh students, both girls and boys”.
A senior government official confirmed that open tenders for the cycles are likely to be announced in the coming weeks. “There was a concern within the party and the administration that implementing such a large scheme could lead to allegations of corruption. The decision to issue open tenders, open to all qualified bidders and public scrutiny, was taken to avoid this,” said the official.
TMC leaders said that Mamata’s ambitious plan is very similar to that of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Mukhyamantri Balak and Balika Cycle Yojana which he had launched in 2010.
According to them, the Bihar chief minister is set to reap rich political dividends in this year’s Assembly elections as the students who got cycles in the last four years have become eligible to vote now.
“Through this scheme there will be an immediate social impact in West Bengal. The cycles will not only make it easier for the students to go to school, they would at the same time give poor families a vital source of transportation. But at the same time, these children will turn 18 and be eligible to vote by next year when Assembly elections will be held in the state,” said a senior party leader.