Har Ghar Tiranga: Schools asked to collect Rs 20 from students
A government order forced schoolchildren in a south Kashmir district to shell out money for the upcoming Har Ghar Tiranga campaign before an outcry led to the directive’s withdrawal.
The directive, issued on Thursday by Mohammad Sharief, chief education officer in Anantnag, had asked government higher secondary schools in the district to collect Rs 20 per student.
It did not mention the reason, but Saturday’s circular withdrawing the order made it clear the collection had been for the Har Ghar Tiranga campaign.
Most of the students enrolled in government schools are from poor families. Thursday’s order prompted many social media users to criticise the government for making “poor” students pay.
Har Ghar Tiranga is a national campaign to encourage every household to fly the Tricolour in the run-up to the 75th anniversary of India’s independence on August 15 this year. It remains unexplained why the government needed to collect money from students towards this.
By the time the order was withdrawn on Saturday, several schools had collected the money.
“We have collected the money from the students, and also from staff, as another directive told us to. Now, we don’t know what to do with the collection,” a school principal in Anantnag told The Telegraph.
Thursday’s directive came amid fears in the Valley that the government might force people to hoist the Tricolour atop their homes from August 13 to August 15. Officials have made conflicting statements on the subject.
Thursday’s directive was sent via WhatsApp to principals and headmasters of higher secondary schools and zonal education officers. It said Rs 20 was to be collected from every student of Classes VIII to XII. The money collected was to be deposited with the nodal officers by 2pm on Saturday.
On Saturday, Sharief said the circular relating to the “Har Ghar Tiranga campaign” was being “withdrawn with immediate effect” but did not cite any reason.
It could not be immediately ascertained whether the withdrawal order was issued before the deadline’s expiry.
Sharief told this newspaper that the July 21 circular was an outcome of “some confusion” and a “clerical error”.
“It has now been withdrawn,” he said, parrying the question what would happen now to the money collected.
Most people in the Valley have traditionally stayed away from national celebrations such as Independence Day.
For the first time ever, hundreds of schools in the Valley had hoisted the Tricolour during last year’s Independence Day, but most students stayed away and there was a near-total shutdown.
The divisional commissioner, Kashmir, P.K. Pole, clarified that the Har Ghar Tiranga campaign was “a voluntary movement” and there was “no compulsion and insistence in it”.
A day earlier, Srinagar deputy commissioner Aijaz Assad had refused to take a stand when asked whether the campaign was voluntary or mandatory.
“I do not want to fall into this debate, where you want to land me,” he told the media. “It (the national flag) is our pride and life. For every citizen of the country, hoisting the Tiranga is a moment of pride and I hope everybody will participate in it.”
The authorities have announced a series of events from August 13 to 15 and launched a propaganda blitz to make the campaign successful.