The family of an 8-year-old Dalit boy from Karnatakaâ€™s Koppal district has moved the Karnataka High Court demanding that the state government provide him a second set of school uniform, shoes, socks, books and stationery as prescribed by the Right to Education Act.
Manjunath Devappa Harijan, a Class 4 student at the Kuvempu Centenary Primary School, has to wear the same school uniform for six days a week as the state government has not provided him with a second set, as prescribed by RTE norms.
His father, Devappa Basappa Harijan, who works as a supplier for a small convenience store in Kinnal village of Koppal district, has run from pillar to post and made several representations to the school principal, the Deputy Director of Public Instruction (DDPI) of Koppal district and even to the Principal Secretary of Primary Education, to no avail.
â€śSince January this year, I have been running from one government office to another, from Koppal to Bengaluru for the last few months meeting officials and asking them to give my son a second set of school uniforms, notebooks, shoes and stationery as the government had promised. When I met the Chief Secretary Vijay Bhaskar, he told me to go home as the government does not have funds to give backward districts. He just dismissed me,â€ť Devappa told TNM.
â€śFor the last two years, the government was providing at least one set of stitched uniforms. This year, they gave us materials and told us we had to get it stitched. When we informed them that we did not have money to give the tailor, the DDPI gave us Rs 20 and asked us to get it stitched. Why should we face such an insult just because we are Dalits? Under RTE it is the right of every SC and ST student to get two sets of school uniforms. We were only asking what was promised,â€ť Devappa Harijan added.
Disappointed with the apathy shown to him, 8-year-old Manjunath then filed a writ petition with the Karnataka High Court on March 17. The case came up for hearing on Monday. According to Manjunath Harijanâ€™s counsel Ajith Anand Shetty, the case was heard by Chief Justice of Karnataka AS Oka and Justice HT Narendra Prasad, who reprimanded the state government for its apathy.
The Chief Justice pulled up the Karnataka government for neglecting school children across the state. The government conceded to the court that the Centre had not allocated adequate funds to the state under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan scheme and the fund crunch was the primary cause for the governmentâ€™s inability to provide the second set of uniforms.
â€śThe judges were angry and told the government that it is their duty to arrange for funds to ensure that children do not suffer. The judges also asked the government to furnish information on the funds that were allocated and give a proper explanation about the spending,â€ť Ajith Shetty said.
Speaking to TNM, Purushottam Kumar, programme director of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan in Karnataka, said that state government had been providing two sets of uniforms until the 2014-15 academic year as the Centre had allocated the funds it had demanded. However, since 2015-16, the state government has received only a portion of the total funds it had requested from the Centre.
The state government had requested Rs 1,545 crore in 2015-16, Rs 1,878 crore in 2016-17, Rs 1,809 crore in 2017-18 and Rs 1,679 crore in 2018-19, a senior official with the Primary Education Department told TNM. But according to data obtained from the Department of Primary Education, the Centre's allocation was less than what was promised â€” Rs 927 crore in 2015-16, Rs 1,127 crore in 2016-17, Rs 1,085 crore in 2017-18 and Rs 1,007 crore in 2018-19.
â€śThey have barely given us 53% of the funds we requested in the previous academic year. For the current academic year, funds will be allocated only once the finance bill is passed in the Assembly, which has not happened because of the trust vote issue,â€ť a senior official with the Primary Education Department told TNM.
The official also said that the problem with school uniforms, shoes and stationery is being faced by all RTE schools in North Karnataka districts. â€śThe funds are being allocated based on the number of students who attend in each school. But it is true that most of the schools deprived of funding are in North Karnataka,â€ť he added.
The next hearing is on August 8 and Devappa says he is hoping for a favourable verdict from the court. â€śBoth the Central and State government are blaming each other. In neighbouring villages and entire Hyderabad-Karnataka area, we are facing this problem. I have faith that the court will give my son justice,â€ť Devappa said.