A new proposal in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) budget for the coming fiscal which pitches for direct cash transfers for municipal students to purchase essential school-related items does not sit well with the civic body’s ruling party Shiv Sena. The saffron party argues that parents of poor children may not have the prudence not to squander the money meant for the scholastic articles elsewhere.
The BMC has proposed in its budget for 2013-14 to transfer cash in the bank accounts of parents or students to buy 27 essential items like uniform, shoes and socks, school kit, notebooks, stationery, raincoat, umbrella and so on. The proposal has got a thumbs-up from many student NGOs, which have, however, suggested certain nips and tucks to fine-tune the idea.
But the Sena doubts the scheme’s efficacy. Shiv Sena group leader Yashodhar Phanse said, “We are going to oppose this proposal in the house. We doubt that parents from the lower economic strata will utilise this cash to provide their children with the academic items.” He vocalised another worry. “If the BMC does provide the cash, and say this amount is calculated on the basis of the wholesale price of these 27 items, how would a poor parent buy them from the market at retail price?” Phanse asked.
Presently, the norm is that the BMC provides the essential items to students, gratis, in the beginning of the academic year. The practice leaves a window for delays and leaks in funds earmarked for the purchases. In order to avoid these undesirables, the civic body wants to transfer cash equivalents of these articles to the savings accounts of students or parents. As such, a provision of`Rs 82.12 crore for primary sections and Rs 15.29 crore or secondary sections has been proposed in the budget estimates for the coming fiscal.
Non-profit organisations are supportive of the proposal. Farida Lambay, founder-trustee of Pratham NGO, said, “It’s a good idea to provide cash to students or parents in their accounts. We have to trust that parents will use it to buy stationery and such items for their kids.
A monitoring body or the school management can keep track of whether the students have got the items. In this manner, corruption, misuse of funds or delays can be checked. There may still be a problem for homeless or orphaned students. But in such cases, the BMC can have parallel schemes like Savitribai Phule scholarship, under which students are provided with bank accounts.”
Rahul Suvarna, who works with an NGO for the welfare of municipal school students, said, “Most of those living on the streets don’t have accounts. They may not use the entire amount to buy their children the essentials the money is meant for. I feel the BMC should provide coupons to the parents, instead of money, which can be retrieved at particular shops to collect the items.”
Requirements for school
The BMC in its budget this year has proposed to transfer cash in accounts of parents or students to buy 27 items like uniforms, shoes and socks, school kit, notebooks, stationery, raincoat, umbrella, etc. Till now, the items would be provided free of cost at the start of the year.