School Bag Burden, Junk Food Menace—Centre , States Apathy Deplorable
At least two vital factors pertaining the school children are totally neglected by the Governments at the Centre and in many of the States, including the two Telugu States of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. One of them is saving the kids from School bag burden and the other is banning the sale of junk food in school canteens and outlets near the schools in the larger interests of the future generations. Ironically enough, the two Telugu States have failed to initiate any measures in this direction, despite requests from Medical professionals, child rights activists and other bodies, and report from Centre for Science and Environment. What is more ironical is the fact that even the parents of kids are not taking due interest in these matters, while they were agitating against the steep hike in school fees.
It is quite relevant to recall in this context that the Maharashtra Government had, in 2015, issued guidelines prescribing that the weight of the school bags for students of classes one to eight should be between 1,800 grams and 3,425 grms. The Government had also advised the parents to avoid giving junk food to the children and ensure healthy body mass index. Even after this, two school boys aged around 12 years have held a media conference at Chndrapur in Maharashtra sometime in November 2016, wherein they explained the plight of students who were made to carry a load of five to seven Kgs on their shoulders daily while going to school and back home.
As against this background, it is quite heartening to note that some steps are being taken in Karnataka state in regard to reducing school bag burden and by the Uttar Pradesh and few other State Governments in respect of banning junk food in and outside the Schools’ premises. One recent report from Bengaluru stated that the Schools there are innovating methods to take the weight off students and brightening their smiles. Some schools were felicitated by an NGO named Parikrma Humanity Foundation when they won competition in aspects like reducing school bag burden, fixing a ‘healthy tiffin’ timetable for the kids, and the like. In all, 73 schools participated in the competition, which goes to show that at least some schools are taking interest on factors relating the kids and their health.
As far as junk food is concerned, in July 2014, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) had given a call for ban on junk food in schools and the regulation of advertisements promoting its consumption. The Centre suggested stringent steps to curb junk food and demanded that junk food be banned in schools and areas within 500 yards from schools. It said there should be a canteen policy to provide nutritious food. Apart from this, the Cardiologists Association of India had, in 2014, requested the Andhra Pradesh Government to ban sale of fast food in school canteens and outlets nearby schools, saying that the fast foods were rich in cholesterol and trans fats. High fat and the sodium and chemical preservatives would cause obesity which is the cause of all diseases at a young age, the Society pointed out.
Reports also indicate that many countries have put in place certain norms like banning junk food in schools. USA, UAE, England, Canada are among them, where even advertisement and promotion of such food is regulated. In some countries like Finland, France, Mexico and Peru, have imposed fat taxes or soda taxes on junk food.
Taking all these factors in to consideration, it is high time the Governments at the Centre and in States, including the two Telugu States, took appropriate measures to reduce of school bags burden of students and to ban junk foods in and around the schools, besides giving advises to the parents on the dangers of junk foods.