Opposition parties in poll-bound Bihar have questioned the ruling JD(U) for an alleged "misuse" of the state's education network for electoral benefit after a footage of government school teachers "educating" students about the "welfare schemes" undertaken by the Nitish Kumar government was aired.
The footage, which was aired on a television channel, shows three teachers at the Rajkiya Madhya Vidyalaya in Kanti of north Bihar's Muzaffarpur district praising the chief minister inside a classroom and telling girl students about the efforts being made by him for their welfare.
The teachers are also allegedly seen talking about various educational incentive schemes that would be financially beneficial to the students.
Senior Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM)-Secular leader and former education minister Brishin Patel said such things were in a bad taste and reflected the government's "utter desperation".
Patel said teachers in government schools are unable to teach course material, which has led to the falling standards of education in the state. "But they are being made to teach lessons on Nitish Kumar," he said.
"As nothing seems to be working for Kumar (ahead of the assembly poll), his government is asking teachers to teach new lessons on his alleged good work even though he does not figure in the syllabus. Now, they should also teach about the return of 'jungle raj'," he said.
BJP state president Mangal Pandey talked about reports from several schools that teachers were asked to "brainwash" children about the various "cash transfer schemes" and "why their parents should vote for making Nitish Kumar the CM once again".
"Never before have schools become hotbed of electoral promotion," said Pandey.
But education minister PK Shahi told Hindustan Times though he had not seen the video footage, he found nothing wrong with what was reportedly shown in it.
"I don't think there is anything wrong in apprising the students that Nitishji is the man behind the incentive schemes that have helped school education in Bihar. He is the chief minister and deserves credit for providing the benefits," said Shahi.
On July 19, the government had launched the mega "direct cash transfer scheme" – advancing it by a few months allegedly in view of the assembly polls due in October or November. The scheme involves cash transfers of nearly Rs 4,000 crore which will impact almost 2.25 crore children and their families. The government also relaxed the minimum required attendance norms for this year.
According to sources, a local Janata Dal(United) leader and district president of the sports cell of the party, Kari Shahu, was instrumental in pushing the "innovative" campaigning style to reach out to parents through their wards.
When contacted Shahu said he had only visited a couple of schools and spent 5-10 minutes with the students to tell them about the importance of the CM's schemes.
"I was merely informing students about the benefit of the schemes, as it has helped in enrollment and keeping students interested in schools. My intent was mistaken," he said, adding he had never asked teachers to unduly influence students.
The school's principal Manju Kumari has washed her hands off saying what was shown on TV was outcome of a misunderstanding.
"While I was in my office chamber, some media persons came and all this happened. We teach in a school and we have nothing to do with politics. Some locals may be behind all this to defame me, as I am new here," said Kumari.
While Muzaffarpur's district programme officer Mita Pandey said all the schemes were already in the name of the chief minister and the students are aware of them, district education officer Ganesh Datta Jha told HT the matter was being examined.
"I have been told two teachers – a male and a female – were teaching the students about the various incentive schemes of the government. I have asked for details. Show-cause would be served on the teachers, if they are found doing anything wrong," he added.