With just one week to go for the new academic session, the government may fall short of its plan to distribute a few school items, bags and canvas shoes, to students on time. The state government has moved to procure around 1.80 crore school bags to be distributed free to students in its primary schools. But suppliers might take upto two months to distribute the large order. At the same time, 14 lakh school bags procured by the previous government will be discarded. About half of them have photographs of former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and cost Rs 10 crore.
When asked about what the government intends to do with these bags that are with the district offices, Minister of State for basic education (Independent charge) Anupama Jaiswal, said, “Jab humne naye school bags ke liye tender final kar diya hai aur jald hi naye school bags denge to purane school bags ki baat karna bemani hai. Humara unse koi lena dena nahi hai (When we have completed the tender for supply of new bags and will soon distribute them as well, then there is no use talking about old bags. We have nothing to do with them).”
Some of the bags from the old consignment, including those with and without Akhilesh’s photograph, were distributed in April even after formation of the BJP government. It was reported that a few were distributed in Gujarat as well. “We have asked for direction in writing from the government but are yet to get response. It has become a sensitive issue and we do not wish to take a risk,” said a basic education officer. Other senior officers also avoided speaking on it, again calling it a “sensitive matter”.
On June 19, the government completed the e-tender process for the new bags. The green colour on the front pocket in the earlier bags would now be replaced with orange colour. The state is yet to decide on a logo to be printed on these new bags. Although the government aims to supply the bags on July 1, the four suppliers (two from Uttar Pradesh, one from Haryana and one from Assam), who have qualified for the bid, would take at least two months to distribute the stock. This may well push the government into distributing the earlier bags or re-schedule its plans.
The government may also not be able to distribute canvas shoes during the 15-day special drive in July as it has cancelled the earlier tender and is yet to commit to a fresh one. So, at the moment, the only focus is to ensure that books and the newly-designed school uniform reach districts in time before start of the new session for free distribution. The new uniforms will have a red and pink check shirt with a dark brown trouser, replacing earlier khakhi uniform.
In 2016, a few months before the elections, the Akhilesh government moved to distribute school bags to government primary students in the state. By the time election notification was announced and code of conduct came into force in January this year, about 78 lakh bags were supplied in 37 districts and out of these only about 64 lakh was distributed.