Odisha: Students’ books sold to scrap dealer in Sundergarh district
Books meant to be distributed among upper primary school students were sold to a scrap dealer in the tribal-dominated Sundergarh district of western Odisha, about 400km from here.
Following a probe, the Sundergarh district administration has placed under suspension the headmaster of the Sargigarh Upper Primary School under the Koida block of the district.
Sources said prima facie evidence showed that headmaster Chanda Charan Singh was responsible for the sale of textbooks to a scrap dealer. The books were meant for students from Class 1 to Class VIII. The upper primary school, which is a model school, has the strength of 170 students from Class 1 to Class VIII.
Sources said that through the scrap dealer the books reached the book markets in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack and were later sold to students studying in non-government Odia medium schools at higher rates.
Block education officer Koida Md. Shakilur Rahman told The Telegraph: “We have received information from the villagers that the headmaster of the Sargigarh school, Chanda Charan Singh, is selling the textbooks and notebooks meant for students to scrap dealers on a regular basis. Even the villagers on Tuesday had blocked a pick-up van carrying the books to the scrap dealer’s shop.”
After villagers came to know that the books were sold to the scrap dealer, they blocked the pick-up van and seized the books. They later informed the higher authorities.
Rahman said: “After receiving information, we immediately swung into action. A four-member committee went to the school and inquired into the matter on Wednesday. It has been found that there is a huge shortage of textbooks in stock. No proper record of books issued to students has been maintained. There are no records of books in the storehouse. We immediately suspended the headmaster following the nod of the higher authorities. The suspension letter was issued on Thursday.”
Sources said the headmaster had allegedly sold over 2,000 textbooks and notebooks since 2016. On being asked whether the headmaster is not entitled to sell old books to ensure that the school building remains clean, Rahman said: “The books and notebooks are meant for tribal students. They should be properly distributed. If the books remain undistributed, it should be intimated to the higher authorities. And only with their approval following proper verification, the books can be sold. The school authorities should maintain proper records.”
Sources said for the last two years because of the corona pandemic, the number of students coming to school has almost reduced to nil.
“At that point of time, the school authorities should have visited the students’ houses and distributed books and notebooks to them. But instead of doing this, they sold the books and notebooks showing them as having been already distributed. This is a case of cheating. We cannot play with the future of tribal students. The decision to suspend the school headmaster will send a message to other headmasters that they should properly distribute books and notebooks meant for students,” said an official.