3 months on, govt school students yet to get free uniforms

The school education department is yet to distribute the uniforms among the students enrolled in government-run institutions despite the passage of three months after class work resumed post-winter vacations.

An official said the government of India under Samagra Shiksha has already released Rs 52 crore for the purchase of school uniforms. However the department is yet to procure the uniforms.

“From the current year, the contract to purchase school uniforms was given to J&K handloom department. It took us around two months to finalize technical specifications after which the order was placed with the handloom department,” an official said.

He said the decision to outsource the purchase of uniform to handloom or SICOP was taken after government of India raised objections over the previous process, saying that the stuff of uniform was not up to the mark and the colour also varied from institution to institution.

“We roped in handloom department, who agreed to provide quality uniform within the same unit cost as approved by MHRD. The uniform will have 65 cotton stuff and 35 percent viscose. The colour and stuff will be same for all schools across valley,” the official said.

He said the uniform sample was tested at national level to check whether it will cause allergy to skin. “But the sample was approved after undergoing laboratory test,” he said.

Out of Rs 52 crore released by ministry of human resource development (MHRD) Rs 15 crore has been released to handloom department. “The rest of the amount will be released to them after distribution of uniforms among students,” the official said.

MHRD under Samagra-a centrally sponsored scheme, provides two sets of school uniforms free to each student in government schools. For this the school education department is provided with a unit cost of Rs 600 which was Rs 400 till last year.

Earlier, the zonal education officers (ZEOs) were purchasing uniforms for students in violation of set norms and would give contract to a single firm without seeking sample of the cloth used for the uniform.

Greater Kashmir carried a series of stories about how the money meant for school uniforms was allegedly swindled at zonal level in various districts wherein ZEOs would outsource the purchase of uniform to selected firms.

As per norms, the uniforms were to be procured by the concerned school heads and distributed to the students after displaying the sample before the village education committee (VEC). But ZEOs would swindle the money by procuring uniforms from selective firms or shops without inviting any competition from other sellers to bargain the rates.

State Project Director (SPD) Samagra Shiksha, Arun Kumar Manhas said the uniforms will be distributed in schools from May 20.

“There has been a delay in it because it took us time to discuss the specification. I made it a point to decide specification under the given unit cost and got the sample tested from Delhi. Besides distribution we were equally concerned about the quality of stuff,” he said.