Bengal: Schools lack basic infrastructure, govt spending Rs 500 cr on painting them
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Bengal: Schools lack basic infrastructure, govt spending Rs 500 cr on painting them

Opposition parties question the wisdom of spending on painting buildings when the schools are suffering from shortage of essential infrastructure such as classrooms, blackboards, libraries, laboratories and even toilets.

kolkata Updated: Jan 24, 2018 18:10 IST
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Hindustan Times
Schools,Mamata Banerjee,Blue
Representational picture. Most of the 67,000 state-aided schools in Bengal don’t have proper classrooms and benches for students.(HT Photo)

Most schools run and aided by the state government in Bengal lack basic infrastructure but the administration has sanctioned Rs 500.40 crore to paint them in the chief minister’s favourite blue and white colour.

The state witnessed intense controversy when the administration and different civic bodies painted public buildings, bridges, parks hospitals, police stations and other public buildings in blue and white after the Trinamool Congress government stormed in power in 2011.

Read: Why are dogs turning blue in this Mumbai suburb? Kasadi river may hold answers

A notification dated January 16, 2018 has been issued by the principal secretary of the state education department, D Nariala. It says all state-run schools barring those constructed in the past five years, or painted in the past three years, have to be painted.

The cost of painting has been fixed at Rs 30.57 for every square metre. The school authorities have to present photographs as proofs to get the painting cost reimbursed from the state exchequer.

There are about 67,000 schools in Bengal across all categories -- primary (till class 4), upper primary (class 8), secondary (class 10) and higher secondary (class 12) that are either directly run by the state government, or are aided financially.

Read: What do students bring to school? This list from Lucknow schools is startling

Many schools lack basic infrastructure such as blackboards, classrooms, libraries, laboratories and teachers. The decision to spend Rs 500 crore on painting has attracted flak.

“It is wasteful expenditure. It’s an attempt to keep the chief minister in good humour and a ploy to fool the people by lending polish on the surface while schools lack basic necessities. The total number of vacancies in state-run schools in Bengal is more than 6,000,” said CPI(M) politburo and Lok Sabha member Md Salim.

Senior Congress legislator and leader of opposition in Bengal assembly, Abdul Mannan, who was also a school teacher, said this is yet another proof that the state government has mistaken priorities. “Hospitals lack in infrastructure but are getting fresh paint. Schools are now getting similar treatment. This is a matter of disgrace,” said Mannan.

Read: Class 12 Haryana student guns down principal in Yamunanagar school

BJP’s national secretary and party former state president, Rahul Sinha, is not surprised. “There is acute shortage of teachers. Existing teachers are not getting dearness allowance arrears, the quality of midday meals is deteriorating. I wonder how can a government spend on painting in such a situation,” he remarked.

“Painting schools does not mean we are neglecting infrastructure. On the contrary, paint is a part of the infrastructure. Creating controversy is pointless,” said education minister Partha Chatterjee.

Swapan Mondal, joint secretary of West Bengal Teachers and Teaching Assistants Association, described the initiative as whimsical.

For the year 2017-18, the government allocated about Rs 9,660 crore as the plan budget in education. In 2016-17, Rs 9,000 crore was allocated though there was a sharp decline in the revised estimate to Rs 6,016 crore.

First Published: Jan 24, 2018 13:05 IST