They finally got brand new bicycles but not before they sweated out in the sweltering heat. For many a school girl the gift seemed to pale into insignificance as the wait for Secondary Education Minister Shailajanath Sake got stretched to over two hours.

As many as 2,900 minority girls and their parents had to huff and puff at the L.B. Stadium on Sunday morning, with the ‘shamiana’ barely providing respite from the blazing sun.

The girls gathered at their respective schools at 8 a.m. and from there they were transported to the L.B. Stadium for the bicycle distribution programme.

Their joy of getting bicycles seemed to wane as the programme, which was to start at 9 a.m., got delayed by two hours.As everyone under the awning kept guzzling water and fanning with whatever they had in hand, there was no sign of the Minister. Pedestal fans took care of the dignitaries on and off the dais, but the lesser mortals had to roast in the sun.

Finally, around 11 a.m. the Minister sauntered in and apologised for his delay. Officials of the Rajiv Vidya Mission (RVM), however, profusely thanked the Minister for making it to the function despite his busy schedule.

The bicycle distribution programme was intended to check the high dropout rate among minority girls as also to boost their self-confidence leading to social empowerment.

RVM had distributed 26,000 bicycles across the State to Muslim girls studying in the 7th Standard at government schools.

In Hyderabad, 2,900 girls from as many as 100 Urdu medium schools were given bicycles.

In his address, Mr. Shailajanath said Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy was keen on improving the literacy rate of minorities, especially girls.

Statistics showed that 30 out of 100 girls discontinued studies. Bicycles were being distributed as an incentive to enthuse girls to continue their education.

Money is no constraint for the education of minorities, the Minister said and added that the government had appointed 3,000 Vidya volunteers to felicitate the education of girls.

Hyderabad Collector S.A.M. Rizvi said besides checking the dropout rate, the bicycles would lead to their empowerment.

Usha Rani, State Project Director, RVM, said cycles might appear insignificant, but their riding would boost confidence. Moreover, cycles are environment-friendly, she said.

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