NATIONAL

Mamata’s school schemes to be put to the test

Eager learners:Students at a session of the Kanyashree Club in a school in Hooghly district.Special ArrangementSpecial Arrangement

Eager learners:Students at a session of the Kanyashree Club in a school in Hooghly district.Special ArrangementSpecial Arrangement  

“I’m Bristi Banerjee, Environment Minister.”

“My name is Lubna Mollah, Health Minister.”

“I’m Ipsita Bag, Prime Minister.”

These are the statements with which a dozen girls of the Boinchi Binapani Girls School in Boinchi in south Bengal introduced themselves.

Simmy Goswami, the teacher in-charge, stepped in to explain: “The student ministers are members of the Kanyashree Club, named after the Kanyashree project of the State government to provide financial assistance to schoolgirls to complete their studies.”

The project has had a significant role in reducing the rate of dropouts and preventing child marriage, according to independent observers. But will it help Mamata Banerjee combat the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the election?

Sitting in the same classroom in Hooghly district, which is going to the polls on Monday, Mamata Bag, the mother of the ‘Prime Minister’, said she was “grateful” to Ms. Banerjee.

“She has a scheme for all schoolchildren and their families, such as Shikshashree [for SC/ST students from class V to VIII], various scholarship schemes, Kanyashree, Rupashree [for marriage], distribution of cycles... All are immensely helpful,” Ms. Bag said.

Preventing dropout

Following the launch of Kanyashree in 2013, school enrolment of girls below 18 years has witnessed a 10% growth.

The incentive for higher studies is a one-time grant of Rs. 25,000 to unmarried girls above 18, who are pursuing education.

The school’s president, Parthasarathi Chatterjee, said that the cash incentive “had a dramatic impact on the families who started delaying daughters’ marriage to let them complete high school level education.”

Even a member attached to the BJP’s economic cell in the State and a national co-convener of Swadeshi Jagran Manch, an RSS outfit, did not deny that the success of the schemes could play a role in the polls. But he offered a caveat. “These are ideas borrowed from the BJP government in the Centre, like Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao , which is working successfully across the country,” said Dhanpat Ram Agarwal of BJP’s economic cell.

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