|Schoolgirls pose with the new bicycles (top) that arrived in two mini-trucks on the block development office premises in Karandih on Thursday. Pictures by Animesh Sengupta
Distribution of around 1,000 cycles among government school students in Jamshedpur had to be suspended on Thursday and the two-wheelers recalled after the East Singhbhum district administration ruled it a violation of the model code.
Block agriculture development officer (BADO) Jay Shankar Prasad was assigned by the district welfare department to distribute 1,020 cycles among Class VIII students belonging to Scheduled Tribe, Scheduled Caste, OBC and minority groups of over 50 government high schools under a state government scheme.
The programme was held on the block development office premises and over 600 two-wheelers had been handed over to the students till 2pm, when the district administration intervened and stopped the exercise.
East Singhbhum deputy commissioner Amitabh Kaushal, who was taken aback to hear about cycle distribution when The Telegraph contacted him, sent sub-divisional officer (SDO) of Jamshedpur Prem Ranjan to the block office to look into the matter.
Later, he called The Telegraph around 3.30pm to say the exercise was clearly a violation of the model code of conduct that came into place soon after announcement of the Lok Sabha elections on Wednesday.
“I have ordered cancellation of the cycle distribution drive and recalled all 600 two-wheelers that have been given away. I have also asked the SDO to find out the officer responsible for the entire episode so that necessary action can be take against him,” Kaushal said.
The deputy commissioner is certain that the cycles could be tracked down easily as the respective schools must have lists of beneficiary students.
However, BADO Prasad maintained that the distribution programme was a routine affair and did not come under the ambit of the model code of conduct.
“This programme was fixed 10 days prior to the declaration of the Lok Sabha polls, and hence, the distribution of cycles should not be taken as a violation of model code of conduct,” he stressed.
The administration’s decision to take back the cycles will disappoint the beneficiaries most whom are extremely poor and have to walk several kilometres to reach school.
The likes of Sumita Mardi, who studies at a government high school in Demkadih, will be particularly upset.
“Now, I have my own cycle and I will take it to school, which is around two kilometres from my house,” the girl had said during the distribution ceremony not knowing that she would have to give it up within a few hours.