Welfare schemes, including distribution of freebies to students of all government and government-aided schools, were announced to overcome the social and economic differences among children and to ensure enrolment and retention of students in the institutions.
For instance, late chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s project of distributing free laptops to students, which was introduced in 2011-12, benefitted 8,98,866 students across the State. However, in 2012-2013, the number of students, who received laptops reduced to 7,56,000. With the distribution of laptops further down to 5,94,460 in 2016-2017, in 2019-2020 the count dipped to 5.22 lakh.
Notably, when the laptop scheme was introduced, it was distributed only to Class 11 and Class 12 students. However, the scheme was extended to first-year students in government Arts, Science, and Polytechnic colleges. As per the government’s plan, the beneficiaries should have been increased.
A senior official from the School Education Department said that laptops will be distributed by Electronic Corporation of Tamil Nadu (ELCOT), through indent received by the schools and colleges.
“The distribution of laptop for college students stopped since 2013,” he said. He added that in 2019-2020, only Class 11 students received free laptops.
Similarly, distribution of free textbooks to the students also dropped drastically from 1.1 crore beneficiaries in 2014-2015 to a mere 72.18 lakh in 2019-20. Likewise, beneficiaries of the free uniform scheme, which was also carried out by few states, reduced from 46.29 lakh in 2014-15 to 38.70 lakh in 2010-20.
Besides, special cash incentive to reduce dropouts at the secondary level has also decreased.