Purchase of materials to be distributed to schoolchildren
On Wednesday, at an ‘urgent’ Corporation Council meeting, the prices of school bags, umbrellas, and tiffin boxes became a cause of heated debate.
The bone of contention at the Council was the ‘inflated’ prices for these study materials meant to be distributed to schoolchildren from economically weaker sections under the State government’s Ashraya scheme, an integrated community-based welfare initiative.
The prices quoted on the Council agenda showed that a private enterprise was charging Rs.410 for a school bag for a class I child. Again, prices for umbrellas ranged from Rs.255 to Rs.320. Tiffin boxes came at Rs.210.
Several councillors in the United Democratic Front (UDF)-led Opposition rose in protest, some suspecting foul play of some sort. “We can get good quality umbrellas in the market at Rs.150. Why should a child’s umbrella cost this much? Is it made of gold?” asked K. Sathyanathan, a councillor.
The objections immediately put the Left Democratic Front (LDF)-led ruling front on the defensive, with several prominent councillors among them saying it must have been a typo error.
“Let us keep this item aside for a thorough examination for the time being. We should only spend money honestly,” Welfare Committee chairperson M. Radhakrishnan said.
Public Works Chairperson M. Mohanan also pitched in with a suggestion to ‘re-examine’ the purchase of study materials. He, however, cautioned that a decision had to be taken on this issue quickly because the scheme may lapse shortly, leaving the children in difficulty.
Mayor A.K. Premajam said the issue need not be blown out of proportion.