No bag day for school children in Odisha fulfills the vision of Gandhi
By Satya Narayana Sahu | PUBLISHED: 08, Mar 2020, 13:52 pm IST | UPDATED: 17, Apr 2020, 16:34 pm IST
Odisha under the leadership of Chief Minister Shri Naveen Patnaik has set a new and exemplary trend. It was evident in the decision of the authorities in Ganjam district to adopt Saturdays as “no bag day” for students in schools up to 5th standard. Shri Patnaik has been acclaimed across the country for his advocacy for inclusion of none-violence in the Preamble of the Constitution on the occasion of 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. With a discerning approach and eye a little application of mind to the decision to introduce no bag day in schools on Saturdays in Ganjam district would unmistakably indicate a step taken by Shri Patnaik’s Government to fulfill the vision of Mahatma Gandhi and celebrated writer and literater late Shri R K Narayan who passionately wanted to lessen the burden of school bags for children.
No bag day on Saturdays in school means no burden of text books on students. It is consistent with the idea of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation, who deeply regretted the heavy pressure of text books on students pursuing education in schools. As early as 9th September 1939 Gandhiji wrote a piece “Text Books” in Harijan. Critically observing that “The craze for ever-changing text books is hardly a healthy sign from the educational standpoint” he noted “It is a pathetic sight to see boys and girls going to school loaded with books which they are ill able to carry. The whole system requires to be thoroughly examined.”
The introduction of no bag day in schools of Ganjam district in twenty first century India captures the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi whose 150th birth anniversary is being celebrated.
It is worthwhile recalling that for several decades the issue of heavy school bags for school children is agitating the minds of educationists and all those striving for balanced development of heart, head and health of students. As stated above it was best reflected in the writings of Mahatma Gandhi in 1939 and later in independent India nominated Member of Rajya Sabha Shri R K Narayan, internationally acclaimed writer, made a Special Mention on heavy bags for school children on the floor of the House in late 1980s and observed, “The hardship starts right at home when straight from bed the child is pulled out and got ready for school even before his faculties are awake. He or she is groomed and stuffed into a uniform and packed off with a loaded bag on her back. School bag has become an inevitable burden for the child. I am now pleading for abolition of the school bag by an ordinance, if necessary. I have investigated and found that an average child carries strapped to his back like a pack-mule, not less than 6-8 kg. of books, notebooks and other paraphernalia of modern education in addition to lunch box and water bottle. More children on account of this daily burden develop a stoop and hang their arms forward like a chimpanzee while walking and I know some cases of serious spinal injuries in children too.
It is a cruel harsh life imposed on her and I present her case before this House and the Hon’ble members to think over and devise a remedy by changing the whole educational system and outlook so that childhood has a chance to bloom...”
After that sensitive Special Mention by Narayan Hon’ble Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha said,“...the entire House associates with Mr. R.K. Narayan and I feel that whole of the country will notice it and the Government will take note of it.”.
R. K. Narayan’s indicting observation that “School bag has become an inevitable burden for the child. I am now pleading for abolition of the school bag by an ordinance” brought out the sense of urgency in dealing with the problem.
Therefore, the no bag day for school students introduced in Ganjam district is a step for fulfilling the vision of Mahatma Gandhi. By adopting no bag day for school children and teaching them Yoga and other extracurricular lessons for growth of their mind and body a trend sitting measure has been taken and it is worth replicating at the national level.
The author served as Officer on Special Duty and Press Secretary to President of India late Shri K R Narayanan and had a tenure in Prime Minister’s Office and Joint Secretary in Rajya Sabha Secretariat. Views expressed in the article are in his personal capacity.