Sabuj Sathi pedals dreams, reduces school dropout rate
Kolkata: There was a time when Sumi Sutradhar of Labpur block in Birbhum district had to walk for 5 kms to reach her school. Her carpenter father couldn't afford to buy her a bicycle. Neither could her mother — who works as a seasonal agricultural worker — arrange money for the same. In her family, bicycles were a luxury. She decided to drop out of school after writing her class VIII examinations. But, the state-government's flagship scheme — Sabuj Sathi — came to her rescue.
After a few months, a gleaming bicycle — received under Sabuj Sathi scheme — stood at the muddy courtyard of her hut. And, her world revolves around the bicycle now. It helped her return back to the classroom. No wonder, the bicycle is one of the most valued things in her hut now. She is presently studying in Class IX at Labpur Satyanarayan Siksha Niketan.
Similar is the story of Hasina Khatun, a student of class XI of Harlal United Madrasa. She too needed a bicycle desperately to reach her school. She used to cover more than 6 kms on foot every day to reach her school. "My parents wanted me to carry on with the studies. But, it was difficult to walk for 12 kms every day. Thanks to the Sabuj Sathi scheme, I got a bicycle and rode happily to school," she added.
The brainchild of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Sabuj Sathi, has successfully brought down the school drop-out rate — especially for girls — in rural and semi-urban Bengal. The state government had announced the flagship scheme for providing bicycles to students of class IX to XII in 2015-16 with the primary objective to increase access to High School education.
It was launched by the Chief Minister on October 29, 2015. Since its inception, more than 10 million (around 1.04 crore) students have been benefited by the scheme in seven phases. The seventh phase is in progress. The state government has so far spent over Rs 2,700 crore for the same. The project has bagged national and international awards.
Before 2016 Assembly elections, the Opposition parties had campaigned against the scheme and had said the cycles given to the students would not last long. However, their allegations have proved wrong. The project is one of the most successful projects of the state government, experts say.