Books for poor being sold openly

Kanchan Vasdev

Tribune News Service

Pakhowal (Ludhiana), July 31

The state government's welfare scheme of supplying free books to children belonging to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes seems to have gone haywire with the books being sold at several bookshops in villages of this district.

This came to light following a disclosure by several students of Government Senior Secondary School, Pakhowal, to The Tribune. The students speaking on the condition of anonymity alleged that the school authorities had not issued them books under the free-supply quota. When they bought the books, they were shocked to see that they carried stamps stating that they were supplied free of cost by the Punjab Government and were not for sale.

Students of Class X bought Hindi text books carrying the free supply stamp for Rs 20 each. One of the books is in the possession of The Tribune. It is meant for the 2001 academic year and according to the details over three lakh books have been printed.

The book displays a warning that anyone found selling this book would be prosecuted. The students had complained to the school authorities but no action had reportedly been taken. One of the students who had a chance meeting with The Tribune team that had gone to the village to cover some other incident, revealed the scandal.

To verify his statement, a decoy customer was sent to a shop near the school. When the customer said he wanted to buy a cheaper book, he was told to come later. The shopkeeper seemed to have become suspicious as the students had complained about him.

Village sources said he later went to the house of the students and said he had come to exchange the books (fee supply) with new ones as the previous ones had mistakes. A few of them exchanged them while the others refused. Villagers said they had received similar complaints from schools of neighbouring villages.

The school headmaster could not be contacted. District Education Officer Usha Sidhu expressed shock, saying that the books were meant for free distribution under a scheme of the Social Welfare Department, Punjab. She said she would order an inquiry into the matter.

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Referred by: Mukundan C.M.
Published on:August 1, 2001
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