Mumbai: Defying court orders, the Maharashtra government has done little to relieve children of the ‘heavy weight’ of their school bags, an activist informed the Bombay High Court on Wednesday. The court accordingly sought to know from the government, measures it has taken to reduce the weight of school bags that can cause severe spinal injuries to school-going children.
A division bench led by Justice Bhushan Gavai was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by activist Swati Patil raising concerns over the weight of school bags. The PIL claimed that children are compelled to carry bags which are at least 30 per cent heavy for their age. During the hearing, advocate Nitesh Nevshe, appearing for Patil, informed the bench that the government has done nothing to comply with the HC’s orders, which were passed on several occasions since 2015.
Nevshe referred to a Government Resolution (GR), issued in June 2017 which mandated regular checks of school across the state, every month. “According to this GR, education officers were to submit their monthly reports to the Pune Board on 15th of every month. We sought data of such reports in September 2017, wherein we were told that only seven to eight per cent of schools have submitted such reports,” Nevshe said. “Surprisingly, a reply to our query made this year shows that there has been no checking in any school from September 2017 till September 2018 as the board has no report for this entire year,” Nevshe submitted.
The advocate further referred to another GR issued in 2015 which provided action against principals and school managements for non-compliance to court orders. “The reply to our RTI query shows that there has been no action against any school management or principal in the last two years,” Nevshe further submitted. Having heard his submissions, the judges directed the government pleaders to file a detailed reply on steps taken to comply with the court orders. The bench also asked the government to spell out what action it has taken against errant schools. The matter will be heard on October 24.
Bags heavier due to text book size?
Activist Swati Patil, who has been championing the cause of reducing the weight of school bags for the last three years, has now begun checking school bags of students in her vicinity. She came to the conclusion that the weight of bags has increased due to the change in the size of textbooks.
Patil said, “After checking schools bags in Chembur, I found that the weight of bags has increased. The earlier textbooks have been replaced with larger ones, burdening the little ones. A student’s bag, which used to weigh nearly nine kg, now weighs over 10 kg.” Recollecting her conversation with Education Minister Vinod Tawade when she asked him about the re-sizing of textbooks, she said, “I got a very surprising reply. The minister told me that the size was changed because the small books were not legible to students.”