The state government appears to have circumvented its own ordinance on the provision of school children’s shoes, raising quality concerns.
The order issued by the Department of School Education and Literacy in the 2019-2020 school year for the supply of shoes, had mandated a supply of “branded” shoes and also listed around 15 brands to choose from – including – Bata, Liberty, Paragon, Lancer, Carona, Action and Lakhani.
This year, the order simply says “quality footwear”.
Following complaints about the quality of shoes supplied in the 2018-19 school year, the department specified to supply branded shoes and the then minister, S Suresh Kumar, even ordered an investigation into the alleged supply of shoddy school shoes. He had warned the School Development and Monitoring Committees (SDMC) to act, if the quality was poor.
It can also be recalled that when N Mahesh was holding the wallet, he personally checked the quality of the shoes while visiting some schools in Chamarajanagar district. The action follows several complaints from elected officials about the quality of the shoes provided.
The order issued by the department for the provision of shoes directs schools to accept donor contributions and provide better quality shoes. “Even during the 2017-18 academic year, the price per pair of shoes was the same as mentioned in the order this year. How can we ensure quality when the ministry has not provided sufficient funds? said an SDMC director of a school in Hassan district.
“The cost of shoes has doubled in the market over the past five years. But the department still sticks to the old price, which has become difficult for us to ensure the quality,” said another SDMC member.
The state government has been providing one pair of shoes and two sets of socks to schoolchildren in grades 1 to 10 since 2015, with over 45 lakh beneficiaries.
“There are people willing to provide quality shoes even for lesser price and we even asked SDMC to source from Lidkar. No need to worry about the quality of the shoes and they will definitely last for a year,” said Minister of School Education and Literacy, BC Nagesh.