College students too have demanded the bicycle scheme be extended to them, an Education department official said.
Textbooks, notebooks, uniforms, footwear, school bag, crayons, colour pencils, geometry box, rain coats, atlas, bus pass and laptops were given free of cost to the students studying in government and its aided schools every year.
However, according to the State government records, the most expensive laptop computer scheme, which was the pet project of late and former chief minister J Jayalalithaa, is the most popular among the students.
The government has already spent over Rs 6,000 crore for the free laptop scheme and over 30 lakh students have been benefited so far. In 2019-20, the government had allocated about Rs 800 crore for the purchase of 15 lakh laptops.
“Undoubtedly, the laptop scheme is the most favourite among the students since it not only helps their studies but also lasts long for future endeavours,” a senior official from Special Programme Implementation Department told DT Next.
“Once the announcement of laptop distribution is made, the beneficiaries list comes to us from various institutions within a couple of days,” he added. Stating that not even a single student refused to receive the laptop, the official said that 83 beneficiaries of the scheme are school students.
R Savithiri, principal of a government-aided school in Pallavaram, said that when books and other classroom items are distributed for free, most of the students show a lack of enthusiasm in getting them.
K Gayathiri, a former student and beneficiary of the laptop scheme, working at an audit firm in Chennai, claimed that still she uses the same government laptop that was given to her in 2014. She said that many of her classmates still use the laptops they got from the government and that those can be serviced for free for over three years. The free bicycle scheme is another favourite among the students since they feel mobility was made easy due to this. Late AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa had introduced the bicycle scheme during the 2001-02 academic year, benefitting students of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
However, from 2016, the scheme was expanded to students of government schools and those schools receiving financial assistance from the government. The government had so far spent about Rs 750 crore since the scheme was introduced with about 20 lakh students have so far benefited.
“It is very convenient to carry our school bag, which could be kept in a separate space provided in the bicycle,” said S Kalivani, a Class 8 student. According to her, the cycle also helps her pick up her brother, who studies in the same school.
A senior official from the School Education Department, who monitors the free bicycle scheme, said that many college students have demanded that the scheme should be extended to them also from the next academic year. He also pointed out that free footwear scheme is also a hit among the students since the government is at present supplying high quality and long-lasting velcro sandals for students.
- Amount spent for laptops: Rs 5574.37 crore
- Amount to be spent for laptops during 2019-20: Rs 830 crore
- So far, 37.10 lakh students have benefited from laptop scheme
- Amount spent for bicycles: Rs 750 crore
- Amount to be spent for bicycles during 2019-20: Rs 400 crore
- So far, 10 lakh students have benefited from the bicycle scheme