Patna: Once touted as a game changing initiative, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s flagship scheme to provide bicycles to girl students, is floundering with the state education department unable to meet the demands.
During his first term as Bihar chief minister, Nitish started the ambitious project in 2007 and soon, it was admired globally as it substantially increased the number of female enrollments in schools.
A phenomenal rise in the number new admissions up to Class 8 is still seen across Bihar. However, budgetary support for the scheme is falling fast.
In all, over 7,25,000 girls were promoted from Class 8 in the year 2014-15, which went up to 11,70,000 in 2017-18. The scheme promised to provide bicycles to girls when they would be promoted from Class 8 to get an admission in Class 9.
However, budgetary allocation for the bicycle scheme fell from Rs 204 crore to Rs 50 crore in the successive period, as a result of a huge burden on the state education department.
State government allocates Rs 2,500 per student as subsidy to buy a bicycle and going by the estimates, the state education department requires Rs 246.6 crore to provide bicycles to all girl students promoted in class 8. Clearly only 20 percent of the girls would be getting bicycles this year.
When asked how his department would carry forward the dream project of Nitish Kumar, state’s education minister Krishna Nandan Verma was ignorant about the figures and said, “I will not allow such a condition to prevail. I will seek additional funds. This scheme has tremendous contribution in women’s empowerment and would be continued at any cost.”