PMC school kids forced to wear tattered uniforms

PMC goofs up in awarding the contract for school uniforms. Bombay High Court asks the civic body to invite fresh bids

Thirteen-year-old Saba Parvez, resident of Indira Nagar, is in the eighth standard at the Abaji Bibwe English Medium School. However, she still wears a tunic instead of the salwaar-kameez that the standard VIII girls are supposed to wear. “We had received just one pair of the salwaar-kameez last year. That got torn earlier this year. So, I now wear the tunic I had in standard VI,” she explains. Saba is not the only one. There are many other children suffering from the lack of uniforms that are supplied by the Pune Municipal Corporation to its schools.

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The PMC provides all its 314 schools in the city with uniforms for their students every year. These uniforms are delivered to the nearly 80,000 children at the beginning of the academic year. However, this year, even though it is August, the students have still not received their annual quota of uniform. According to Manisha Jangde, a teacher in the PMC school, “Children outgrow their uniforms very fast. Worse is the condition of their shoes. Since the uniform hasn’t come yet, we allow children to wear their home clothes or shoes to school.”

The uniforms haven’t yet reached the children as the PMC gave the contract of making the uniforms to a company that allegedly doesn’t have even an ISO certification. In March last year, PMC accepted tenders from three companies. However, stating that they need to relax the rules for “stronger competition”, they allowed the company, Mafatlal Industries Limited, to participate. The contract was then allotted to the latter and they were in the process of finishing the procedure when another bidder, Peppermint Clothing Private Limited, filed a case of wrongful allotment of the contract. The High Court ruled in favour of Peppermint Clothing and asked the education board to file a fresh bid. According to the High Court, “Having relaxed the essential and fundamental eligibility condition, after the tender process started, in our considered view the Municipal Corporation has not acted fairly but in fact has acted arbitrarily and illegally. Thus the action of the Municipal Corporation is abuse of and in excess of its powers.” The High Court has thus cancelled this contract and has asked the education board to conduct a fresh tender application.

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However, now that the entire process of getting new uniforms for the students is embroiled in a legal battle, the students have it the worst way. Maheshwari, an eight-year-old studying at the PMC school in Model Colony, wears torn jeans underneath her tunic, as the tunic is too small and she feels cold. Most children coming to school either come barefoot or wear their slippers and sandals, as they all have outgrown their shoes. “I am glad my height is still the same, or else I would have to wear my daily clothes to school,” says Akriti Karje a 10-year-old in the same school who wears an assortment of colourful leggings underneath her tunic.

The boys, however, can’t say the same. Abhay, Akriti’s elder brother is in his early teenage years and is growing in height by the day. “The trousers were coming above my ankles. So, now I wear my black pants. Yesterday, I got drenched in the rain. The shirt shrunk and now I have to wear my home T-shirt as well,” he said with a smile. However, their parents are not amused. “It becomes a huge burden for us, if they soil their uniforms, or rather what is left of them, we have to either get them perfect within a night or have to manage with what clothes we have at home,” their mother Geeta Karje said. For most children, a wet uniform mostly means a holiday, as there are no spares.

The schools are clueless as to when the uniforms are going to come. “Parents come to ask and even the students ask almost daily. But we can’t give any information since we don’t have any. We will give the uniforms when we get them from our head office,” explained Ashok Kardale, one of the principals of the PMC schools.

The Education Board, on the other hand, is very confident about its allotment and completion of the school uniform contract.

Vasanti Kakade, Chairperson of the PMC School Board, said, “We are going to approach the Supreme Court against the High Court’s order. The uniforms have already been completed and will be delivered to the students within a week.”

gargi.verma@goldensparrow.com

Originally published on The Golden Sparrow

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