The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mulayam prays for Friday dividend

Lucknow, Feb. 19: If the Election Commission does not announce poll dates soon, this country could become a land of dreams where children won’t have to go to school.

Realising that the Vajpayee government has, perhaps, exhausted all manner of gifts that could be handed to people, Mulayam Singh Yadav today turned his eyes to a neglected lot — schoolchildren.

Let it be decreed, Mulayam Singh’s Uttar Pradesh government announced, that schools would now shut at noon every Friday. Saturday and Sunday are holidays anyway.

What’s this got to do with elections: schoolchildren can’t vote' Nothing and everything.

Friday is the day the minority community goes to mosques to pray. Once called “Maulana” Mulayam by his foe, the BJP, the Samajwadi Party leader’s minority vote bank has been looking less than secure because of the impression that he is ruling with BJP support.

A circular has been sent to schools, from the primary to the intermediate level, to end classes at 12 to allow children to attend Friday prayers. Only a handful of new private schools that do not take government aid will not be covered.

When the order is implemented, students of morning schools that start at 8 am and give over at 2 pm will lose two hours of classes. Day schools, which start at 10, will lose four hours.

Similar concessions are already in place in Kerala.

Children should be happy, but it seems they are a more serious lot than some previous generations.

“You mean another holiday' If schools close at 12 every Friday, it means that. But I don’t join every Friday prayers,” said Yusuf Hasan, a student of Islamia Academy, an Urdu-medium school in old Lucknow.

That raises questions if Mulayam’s ploy would really work.

Maulana Musirul Gazi Siddique, a community leader in old Lucknow, said: “I am happy Mulayam Singh Yadav is sympathetically looking at our problems.”

But he emphasised that the lost classroom time should be made up.

Mulayam’s political rivals are outraged, but not because children are losing school time. “The state government should also declare a holiday on all Tuesdays since most Hindus fast on that day,” said BJP state president Vinay Katiyar.

Already chafing, Manish Sharma of Rani Lakshmi Vidyapith will be very upset if that happens. “Boring, isn’t it' Sunday, Saturday and now Friday,” he said.

Majid Hassan, a public school student, does not mind the extra time, though. “I love chatting,” he said, looking forward to spending more time on the Net.

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