Uproar in Assembly over Odisha govt s move to close schools

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Bhubaneswar, Nov 21 (PTI) Odisha Assembly Saturday witnessed uproarious scenes with both the Congress and the BJP members cornering the BJD government over its move to close thousands of schools across the state on the plea of less attendance.

The issue was raised in the House by Congress Legislature Party leader Narasingha Mishra. He said as education is a fundamental right for all, the state government should immediately roll back its decision.

'If schools are closed, what will be the fate of students and teachers,' Mishra asked.

Leader of the Opposition PK Naik of BJP also came down heavily on the state government and strongly criticised the decision to shutdown schools on some plea or the other.

'We demand a special debate through a motion,' Naik said, adding that the school and mass education minister has said that the primary and upper primary schools having less than 40 students will be merged with nearby schools.

'Where will the children of such closed schools go?' he asked.

As Speaker S N Patro did not give any ruling on the demands of both the LOP and CLP leader, the irate members of both the parties rushed to the well of the House.

They urged the Speaker to convene an all- party meeting to discuss the issue.

The agitating members refused to withdraw from well of the House forcing Speaker to adjourn the house for at least seven times.

When other members were agitating in the well of the House, senior Congress member Taraprasad Bahinipati was seen banging his head against the Speaker's podium demanding roll back of the governments decision.

'I will commit suicide in front of Speaker, if the schools closure decision is not changed,' Bahinipati told reporters outside the House.

Finally, Speaker Patro could resolve the issue in an all- party meeting where it was decided that the government chief whip will bring a motion in this regard in the House for a detailed discussion on the school closure matter.

School and Mass Education Minister S R Dash said outside the House that the government has no plans to close 7772 primary and upper primary schools and not 14,000 schools as claimed by opposition members.

He said the department has begun the process to close down a total of 7772 primary. However, the Chief Minister will take the final call on this matter, he said.

Dash, however, said that the motive of the government is not to put students in difficulty as alleged by opposition members, but to impart quality education.

'There are schools where students of one to five study in one class room. This is because of low attendance in schools,' he said.

BJP deputy leader B C Sethi said the state governments decision will encourage dropouts as the small children will not go to attend their new schools at a distance from their villages.

This apart, thousands of teachers engaged in such schools will also lose their jobs, Sethi said.

Meanwhile reports received from different districts said that the students and parents of the schools earmarked for closure, staged road blockades at different places opposing the government's decision.

'We do not need eggs in mid-day meals, allow functioning of the school in our village,' a girl student from Keonjhar while sitting on dharna along with her parents. PTI AAM SNS SNS