Tinsukia: The door-to-door distribution of school books for the new academic session 2020-21 of Budding Buds Senior Secondary School in Assam’s Tinsukia town had to be suspended on Thursday, after the book supplier violated guidelines and started spot distribution of the books from a Maruti Omni van, resulting in long queues of guardians and violation of social distancing guidelines of COVID-19.
On Thursday, a long queue of guardians was witnessed outside the school gate, facing DM Lohia Road, to buy books for their children.
“I was expecting home delivery of the school books in accordance with the notice issued by school authorities. However, when I learnt that distribution of books was being done near the school gate, I rushed to collect the books,” a mother, who did not wish to be named, told EastMojo.
She said, “When I reached there, I saw a long queue near a parked vehicle from which the books were being distributed. I stood in the line for my turn, when all of sudden a ruckus broke out, following which I left for my home without picking books.”
The distribution of books was to be done inside the school premises on March 22 but due to ‘Janta Curfew’ it was cancelled.
The development came two days after the school authorities issued a notice to inform the parents that the additional district magistrate had granted permission to the book supplier of the school, Udayan Book Store, for door to door distribution of books to our school students within the municipal limits of Tinsukia and Makum Road area and the parents will be individually informed over phone by the school book distributor.
“The school had started online classes just recently, and without books, I was finding it a bit difficult to make my child study. The news of door-to-door books distribution had come as a respite, but asking parents to come out at a certain place and stand in long queues amid lockdown… is bizarre, and bound to create commotion,” Manisha Nagori Kalantri, another guardian said.
Ravi Thapa of civil defence said, “Based on information of gathering and violation of social distancing, we saw that book distribution was taking place and people had crowded without maintaining any social distance.”
“We asked the book distributor to maintain social distancing if he wants to sell book. Instead of following guidelines, he threatened and shouted on us only, after which we made a video,” Thapa added.
A local medical wholesaler, Hemant Agarwal, who witnessed the spot distribution of books said, “When I reached my office, I saw huge gathering. Initially, I got a sense that some incident has taken place or some free distribution of mask is going on. Within minutes, I learnt that distribution of school books is taking place from a vehicle.”
“The parents surrounded the vehicle to collect books,” he added.
Agarwal said, “Moments later, civil defence people intervened and instructed the seller and the people gathered to follow COVID-19 guidelines of wearing masks and maintaining social distance. Once they left, situation again turned chaotic, with some parents complaining that they have not received books. The queue kept increasing, with some maintaining social distancing, and some not.”
When questioned, the book supplier said, “We have been asked to distribute books within three days which is not possible by door-to-door distribution. Hence, we started this spot distribution area wise.”
“We will issue cash memo or the bill later,” he added, when the same was pointed out to him for not issuing the receipt along with the books.
Talking to EastMojo, Samiran Gogoi, principal of the school, said, “I have been informed by few concerned parents that the distribution of books is being done through lot of gathering in violation of our clear instructions for door-to-door distribution of the books.”
The distribution of books and its full responsibility has been assigned to Udayan Book Store of Tinsukia. “All rules and regulations to be maintained has been conveyed to him by district administration and the school authorities. It is binding on his part to issue a receipt along with the books mentioning all relevant details,” Gogoi said, adding, “Strict action will be taken against him for violating guidelines and instructions.”
Gogoi said that no school employee or staff is involved in distribution of books. “We have been strictly informed by the district administration that under no circumstances the school will open its gate for distribution of books or any other official matter. Even if we need to communicate with our staff and teachers, it is being done through email or phone call.”
“We have temporarily suspended book distribution,” added Gogoi.
On Thursday, five more persons tested positive for novel coronavirus in Bongaigaon and Karimganj districts, taking the number of COVID19 patients in Assam to 42 with 29 discharged and 1 death.