Calcutta, Jan. 5: The Mamata Banerjee government has missed the January 2 deadline of completing distribution of free textbooks among students of primary and secondary schools.
The failure has cast a shadow on academic activities in several schools across the state as the new academic session started on the same day.
Headmasters of several schools said they had not received adequate number of books. Many schools have not received a single textbook on some subjects.
“We have not received a single copy of mathematics textbooks for Classes V to VIII till now. We have been told by the local circle office that we won’t get the math books in the next seven days as there is no supply,” said Rupak Hom Roy, the headmaster of Ballygunge Government High School, one of the most sought-after state-run schools in south Calcutta.
This is the first time the government has taken the responsibility to publish textbooks of all subjects for Classes I to VIII and distribute them free through schools.
During the Left regime, textbooks on some subjects were published and distributed free by the government while the remaining had to be bought from the open market at subsidised rates. The government used to hire public publishers to print some of the books.
Mamata announced last year that the government alone would publish all textbooks for students between Classes I and VIII. One crore students study in Bengal’s 59,000-odd state-aided primary schools and 14,000-odd secondary schools. The chief minister had also announced that every year, the books would be distributed by January 2, which would be observed as Book Day.
“The system followed in the past was not perfect eitherů. But since some of the books were available in the market, students had the option of buying them themselves. But now, we will be forced to wait till we get the entire supply,” said a teacher of a reputable state-run school in north Calcutta.
Kalyanmoy Ganguly, the administrator of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education that is overseeing the publishing and distribution of the textbooks for Classes VI to VIII said he had no information about the insufficient supply of books. “We have completed the distribution of books in the majority of the schools,” he said.
Ganguly, however, admitted there were some problems in binding of some books. “A small number of schools have not received the Class VII math books as the binding agency has not completed binding of nearly one lakh copies. We hope to restore the supply by next week,” he said.
The headmaster of a school in Baruipur on the southern fringes of Calcutta alleged that he had received only half the number of books he had ordered. “I have decided not to distribute the books among students till I receive the entire lot. I don’t want any confusion,” he said.
Following the government’s announcement of the deadline, most schools had decided to reopen after the Christmas vacation and begin the new session the same day.
“Now that many books have not reached us, we are finding it extremely difficult to take classes. We would have started the classes next week had we known that the books would not reach by January 2,” said the headmaster of a school in central Calcutta.