Kolkata: The state government has distributed 42 lakh bicycles in two years under Sabuj Sathi project among the students of Classes IX to XII of state-run, sponsored and aided schools in two years, the highest by any state in India.
The state government has engaged Pratichi (India) Trust, an organisation founded by Amartya Sen for conducting impact study of the scheme which is in progress.
A quick assessment of available information revealed that after introduction of the scheme, there has been an increase by 12.2 percent in Class IX enrolment from 2015 to 2016 and a subsequent increase of 6.18 percent from 2016-2017. In case of girl students, the enrolment in Class IX increased by 9.5 percent from 2015 to 2016 which is 6.2 percent higher from 2016-2017.
The state government has so far spent over Rs 1,200 crore for the purpose. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had flagged off distribution of bicycles on September 29, 2015 at Gopiballavpur Block I in West Midnapore.
The Backward Classes Welfare Department entrusted with the distribution of bicycles has proposed to give away 25 lakh bicycles by December 2017. Out of these, 10 lakh have so far been distributed and the remaining 15 lakh will be distributed within the specified time.
It may be mentioned that around 12,000 schools entered particulars of 42 lakh students online. Information about the students included the classes they are studying in, names of their parents or guardians, name of the schools and the date when they had received the bicycles along with the make.
As many as 7,000 trucks carrying the spares of the bicycles reached the blocks, municipality and districts. Four thousand fitters from all over the country were engaged to assemble the bicycles.
The project not only helped in bringing down the number of school dropouts, it has economically rehabilitated poorest of the poor scheduled caste and scheduled tribe youth by providing them training to maintain the bicycles that have been distributed.
The cycles will be maintained free of cost by the state government. BCW has selected 2,500 unemployed SC and ST youth to give training. They have been given kits free of cost. Out of the total number, training is on for 1,133 youth and from them, 500 youth are involved in fitting and repairing of cycles.
It may be recalled that the CPI(M) had carried on sustained campaign against Sabuj Sathi project before the 2016 Assembly election. However, the canard spread by the leaders had failed to create any impact and the project is likely to get an international recognition shortly.