Lucknow: For the second year in a row, the Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government has failed to complete sweater distribution to lakhs of students studying in government-run primary and upper primary schools ahead of winter.
The figures released by the government reveal that more than 80 lakh students have still been left out in the cold due to the delay and mismanagement by the authorities.
Meanwhile, the Uttar Pradesh education department has found that most of the schools in the state have not even completed the procurement process of sweaters for government schoolchildren. The department had earlier set October 31 as the deadline for completing the distribution of the sweaters in the state but has now extended it to November 15.
The education department has warned the district authorities that if the sweaters are not distributed within time, strict action would be taken against those responsible.
On September 2, the government had issued an order to distribute sweaters to all children in 1.7 lakh primary and upper primary by October 31. In the current academic session, 1.59 crore children from class I to VIII are to be the beneficiaries in the state. The supply of sweaters was decided at district level through bidding on the Gem portal.
So far, only 3.56 lakh children have received sweaters in seven districts of the state. Around 95% are still waiting to get sweaters even as the temperature dips.
In fact, the process of purchasing sweaters in 30 districts of Uttar Pradesh has not even started. On the basis of bidding, out of 45 districts where orders have been issued, supply of sweaters has not started in 27 districts. Out of the 18 districts which have been supplied sweaters, only two districts - Hathras and Prayagraj - have got 100% supply.
NewsClick spoke to nearly half a dozen children over the phone in Lucknow, Barabanki, Gorakhpur, Deoria, Lakhimpur Kheri, Bahraich and Meerut and was informed that distribution of sweaters had not even started in these areas.
Chanda Maurya, a student of class 3 in Rampur village under Deoria district, said: "We had been informed by our principal that sweaters, shoes and socks will be given by October 31 but haven't received any so far. There is neither any assurance by the school authority when will we get these."
Kusum Bharti, a Class 4 student in Barabanki said: "As it has started getting cold, we are waiting to get sweaters from the government. Not a single student of my school has got one."
Meenakshi, another student in Meerut, said: "I don’t have a sweater. Meri baba ke paas kharidne ke paise nahi rehte hain.... (My father doesn’t have money to buy one). We have only one half-sweater for three of us (siblings).” The girl’s father is unemployed and had returned home on May 24 after the dyeing and printing mill in Pandesara where he was working shut down in March.
The scenario in other districts is worse. In Lakhimpur Kheri, out of around four lakh government school students, just 5,000 have received sweaters. Similarly, only a miniscule number of children received sweaters in Gorakhpur.
Government school teachers are also disappointed by the delay in distribution of sweaters.
“Children studying in government schools mostly come from a poor economic backgrounds. Some parents somehow manage to buy sweaters but a majority cannot afford to. They attend school wearing shirts or some other fancy sweaters available at home. Some NGOs also distribute woollens but not all children get it,” Abhimanyu, headmaster of the Sonbhadra Primary School, told NewsClick.
Sneha Kumari, a social activist who distributes woollen clothes at a primary school every year said: "This is the story of every year. Due to the government's unpreparedness and mismanagement, lakhs of students wait for sweaters and shoes even till the last week of January. We collect funds and distribute to the best of our capacity but we cannot cover every student."