One could well call it a rehearsal for Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda who is set to face a stormy legislature session next month, the first time after assuming office. Those who grilled him on Tuesday, though, were children who participated in the first-ever children's parliament.

Not that age was any deterrent for a group of 75 children as they fearlessly fired questions at the Chief Minister in the Vidhana Soudha.

In the 90-minute session, schoolchildren representing different districts asked questions to the Chief Minister on a variety of issues. From quality of education and corruption in distribution of bicycles to infrastructure problems in schools and poor quality of midday meals, the Chief Minister was literally bombarded with questions.

Anganwadi centres

Mohammed Anas, a Class 9 student of Shivaram Karanth High School in Puttur, took the Government to task on the functioning of anganwadi centres. “Anganwadi staff should provide nutritious food to children. They sell foodgrains in shops. Officials must conduct surprise inspections and punish those involved in black marketing of foodgrains,” he said.

To this, Mr. Gowda said: “I will instruct district officials to inspect anganwadi centres and food stock once a week.”

Divya, representing Tumkur, demanded that the Government take steps to check stray dog menace and put an end to discrimination against children on the basis on caste.

The Chief Minister said stern action would be taken against teaching staff and school management if they discriminate against students on the basis of caste.

She argued that the Government was unable to control stray dog menace due to non-cooperation by Prani Daya Sangha, an animal rights association. “The sangha shows moredayato animals than human beings,” she said.

Arun Kumar from Bidar demanded construction of toilets in government schools.

He also said: “Our studies are affected due to shortage of teachers and their absenteeism, lack of library and laboratory facilities, and playgrounds.” Mr. Gowda said all the issues raised by the “member” were serious ones. “Our Government is seriously finding ways to address the problem of teachers' shortage. Efforts will be made to provide library and laboratory facilities in schools.” He added that only 6 per cent of the schools in the State lacked toilets.

Neela of Raichur demanded heath check-up in schools twice a year while Vijayananda Swamy from Chitradurga sought an increase in the scholarship for orphaned children from the present Rs. 360 a month.

Children poured out their complaints including on school managements demanding bribe for distributing bicycles, health cards and scholarship, ill-treatment of HIV positive children in schools, misbehaviour by bus conductors, and frequent power cuts in villages.

Surprised

The Chief Minister said he was surprised to find such a high-level of awareness among children on several issues. He signed off the session saying: “Your period is over. I have to take another period for officials.”

Earlier, the “members of parliament” were served karabath, kesaribath and biscuits.

The State Legislators' Forum for Children's Rights and Child Rights Trust organised the event.

Keywords: Sadananda Gowda