Circular on school bags applies to all schools: Maharashtra tells HC

Maharashtra government on Thursday told the Bombay High Court that its circular, prescribing limits for weight of school bags carried by students, applied to all schools in the state.

The schools included those affiliated to ICSE, CBSE, HSC and SSC boards, government pleader told a bench of Justices Abhay Oka and Prakash Naik. The court was hearing a PIL filed by social activist Swati Patil on the 'rising' weight of school bags and its 'adverse impact' on the health of children.

The bench asked the government to inform on the next occasion what mechanism it has put in place to ensure that the circular on weight of school bags is implemented by the school managements.

The hearing on the PIL was deferred to April 28. As per the directives of the HC, the state has already issued a circular to the schools on the recommendations of a committee on the reduction of weight of the school bags to be carried by students to the schools. The state had informed the HC earlier that it had also fixed the responsibility on principals and school managements to follow this and would take action against those not obeying this rule.

The government urged for disposal of the petition early this year but the HC said it would prefer to keep the matter pending as it would like to see how the policy on reduction of weight of bags was being implemented in the schools and whether action was being taken against those not following this rule.

On the last occasion, government pleader Anjali Helekar had said there are 1.06 lakh schools in the state and hence it would take some time to inform them about the circular. The HC had then suggested that the state inform them through e-mail. Soon after the petition was filed, government had appointed a committee which submitted several recommendations.

As per the panel's report, students are lugging school bags 20-30 per cent heavier than what children of their age should carry. "Because of this, around 60 per cent students below the age of 10 suffer from orthopaedic as well as stress- induced ailments," it said.

The committee recommended that one book should be used for three months for each subject and the textbook weight can be reduced by using less weight paper and no hardcover. Further, it suggested use of e-classroom, audio-visual technology and other modern means for teaching.

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