Three years ago, Kaushal Shakya’s parents withdrew him from government school after the Congress assured him of a monthly stipend — apparently on party vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s instructions — to ensure the young boy wouldn’t have to work on the streets of Bhopal.
Earlier this year, Union minister Smriti Irani assured him admission in a local Kendriya Vidyalaya, in an apparent attempt to outdo her political rival.
But the 14-year-old is still out of school, works as a labourer with his father and has given up all hope of a better life. His future hangs in the balance as supporters of two of India’s top politicians trade blame for Shakya’s misery.
“They spoiled my son’s career and killed four years. He was better off in a government primary school earlier,” said Dulichand Shakya, Kaushal’s father.
Kaushal grabbed headlines in April 2013, when as a vendor, he sold a copy of an evening daily to Gandhi, who offered him Rs 1,000 for the price of the newspaper — Rs 1. The boy returned the money, saying he didn’t have enough change.
The next month, then state Congress president Kantilal Bhuria announced a Rs 1,000 monthly allowance for Kaushal’s education — a move that inspired the boy’s parents to take him out of government school and admit him into a private institution. But the money dried up 10 months later with no explanations, forcing the parents to stop the boy’s education.
Their hopes were rekindled in April, when then HRD minister Smriti Irani’s department sent a letter to the family, assuring Kaushal’s admission in Class 6 of KV No 1, Bhopal. However, the school authorities denied him entry, saying he was overage for Class 6.
Dulichand says he couldn’t ensure admission for Kaushal because of the hefty fees and the lack of financial assistance. The school denied this.
“I got a copy of the letter and took initiative to call the boy and his parents. The fee was not a big issue as I could have exempted it. The boy’s age didn’t allow us to grant him admission to Class 6,” said principal of the school, Saurabh Jaitley.