Hyderabad: On Wednesday, the eve of Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao’s 68th birthday, amid celebrations across the state, a state government body instructed more than 200 minority residential schools to conduct programmes — using money from school funds — to educate students about KCR’s role in the formation of Telangana, and welfare schemes he has launched during his tenure.
The order, accessed by ThePrint, came from the Telangana Minorities Residential (TMR) Institutions Society, a body under the state government. It was issued Wednesday by the society’s secretary, Indian Forest Service officer B. Shafiullah.
“It has been decided to celebrate the birthday of K. Chandrashekar Rao, chief minister of Telangana, in all TMR institutions. The programme shall be conducted in all TMR institutions involving parents, teachers, students, local officials, MLAs,” the order said.
Shafiullah did not respond to ThePrint’s calls or text messages for a comment on this issue. The society’s joint secretary, Shaik Liyakat Hussain, told ThePrint that this is the “first time” that such a celebration is happening on the chief minister’s birthday.
“Our secretary issued the order and we are implementing it. This is the first time we are doing such a celebration,” Hussain said.
It’s still unclear if only minority welfare institutions are conducting such programmes for KCR’s birthday, or if other state-run schools have also been asked to do so. State director of school education A. Sridevasena did not respond to ThePrint’s calls for comment.
The order has led to condemnation from activists and KCR’s political opponents.
Criticising the move, Vijay Gopal, an activist and founder of independent organisation Forum Against Corruption, told ThePrint, “What do students have to do with the CM’s birthday or the PM’s? If they have any project that is beneficial and official, let that be included in the syllabus through a proper channel. Why ask kids to become their political boss’s sycophants? Kids need to be left alone with their lives, school, and their syllabus and so on.”
Former minister and Congress leader Shabbir Ali termed it a misuse of public funds. He said KCR had “forced the students, their parents, and teachers at welfare schools to celebrate his birthday while spending money from the state’s exchequer”.
ThePrint reached out to former Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) MP Vinod Kumar for comment via text message. This report will be updated when he responds.
Under the agenda for the programme, Wednesday’s order listed a number of topics that ought to be discussed, including “role of the chief minister in the formation of Telangana state, establishment of minority residential schools in Telangana by the CM, programmes initiated by the CM such as Mission Bhageeratha, Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project, Palle Pragathi, welfare schemes”.
Mission Bhageeratha is one of KCR’s flagship programmes, launched in 2016 with the aim of supplying drinking water to all households in the state. Kaleshwaram is Telangana’s massive lift irrigation project, another KCR brainchild, launched in 2019, with an estimated cost of at least Rs 1.15 lakh crore.
Palle Pragathi is also one of the state’s flagship programmes, launched in 2019, aimed at improving the quality of life in rural areas.
The notice also said students could perform skits or drama, but there was to be no garlanding or palabhishekam (anointing with milk) of the chief minister’s portrait.
The order, which also asked students to plant trees, said that Rs 10,000 should be used from school funds for the celebrations. This would include a special lunch for the students, teachers, and guests. The notice also stressed that programmes to highlight the importance of education for minorities should be held.
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Minorities residential schools
In 2016, KCR, under his flagship programme ‘KG to PG free education’, launched the minorities residential welfare schools for children from minority communities who came from economically weak backgrounds. This was in line with the state’s existing social welfare residential schools.
Now, there are a total of 204 minorities residential schools and 12 residential junior colleges in the state. The principals of all these institutions were asked to cooperate with the order.
A total of 66,580 students — the target number is around 1,30,000 — study in these schools, according to 2018-19 data on the society’s website.
These schools, much like the Telangana social welfare residential schools, prepare students till undergraduate level. Several students from the schools have cracked competitive exams in the past.
Celebrations across state, criticism
Telangana IT minister K.T. Rama Rao (KTR), who is KCR’s son and the ruling TRS’s working president, had last week called for a three-day celebration across the state commemorating the chief minister’s birthday from 15 to 17 February.
The celebrations conducted have included blood donation camps, distribution of clothes and food to orphanages, sapling plantation programmes, and prayers by people from all faiths.
Party workers, in their own capacity, have also held cake-cutting programmes, set up large banners in Hyderabad felicitating KCR, and so on.
Activist Vijay Gopal said “on 23 December 2021, KTR had spoken on a TV show about how kids and families should be left out of politics, and yet this is how the TRS government acts”.
“Spending public funds on an individual’s birthday, which is a private affair, is unfair, disrespectful to the Constitution and also does not augur well for the CM’s office. Where do we draw the line?” Gopal added.
(Edited by Rohan Manoj)
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