The Opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF) boycotted the fag end of the Assembly's Tuesday sitting alleging lack of clarity on the new status of 35 schools under the area intensive programme for educationally backward minorities.

The issue came up during the debate on the demand for grants for Education, Sports, Arts, and Culture. While Educational Minister P.K. Abdu Rabb was replying to the debate, deputy leader of the CPI(M) Legislature Party Kodiyeri Balakrishnan demanded that the government clarify whether the Cabinet decision was to convert the schools into aided schools or government schools. While the Minister had said that the decision was to convert them into aided schools, a government order said that these were to be made government schools. The Minister was trying to undermine the Cabinet decision, Mr. Balakrishnan alleged.

Mr. Rabb replied that no government order had been issued and that the matter was with the Finance Department. The government would take a decision on future arrangements for running the schools after considering all aspects of the issue. The Opposition asked why an order had been issued on a Cabinet decision. It alleged corruption behind the plan to convert the schools into aided schools.

After the Opposition members walked out, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy explained that the status of the schools would be the same as before. The schools were started at the initiative of agencies such as Yatheemkhanas (orphanages) with grants from the Central government. Since 2003, the basic salaries for the teachers had been paid by the Central government. Now that the Central government had discontinued its assistance, the State government had decided that the schools should not be closed. They would continue as before (with State funding) as wanted by all.

Textbooks

Mr. Rabb denied the Opposition allegation that more textbooks than required had been printed this year. The contracts for printing were tendered during the LDF rule though further processing of the orders had been done by the present government.

The government had not permitted any new CBSE schools. The schools which were given clearance had been functioning for more than five years.

Referring to the controversy over the naming of his official residence, the Minister said that the issue did not have the projected communal or other dimensions. It was a new building and the name proposed was ‘Bhavani.’ This was changed to ‘Grace’ as preferred by him. No existing name of official residence had been changed.

Mr. Rabb said that a regional centre of the All India Council for Technical Education was to be set up in Thiruvananthapuram. The proposed technological university would coordinate technical education in the State. The government was considering new courses in 37 government colleges.

The remuneration for promoters of the literary campaign would be increased. Websites would be set up for all high schools. The noon-meal scheme in schools would be streamlined.

After the Minister’s reply, the House passed the demand.

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