Worried about the health hazards posed by the heavy bags children carry, the Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission (MSHRC) on Wednesday directed all schools to strictly implement guidelines issued by the Department for School Education to make bags lighter. Failure to comply would mean imposition of penalties on the school. Permissible bag weights range from 1.75 kg for Class I students to 3.65 kg for Class VII.
While no permissible bag weights were specified for higher classes, the guidelines make it clear that students should bring only books specified by the government. Others, like workbooks and study guides, are banned. The MSHRC directed the department to ensure that the guidelines were followed 'in real sense and true spirit.' Munshi asked the department to take stern action against errant schools. Taking note of the 'inadequate' steps taken to ensure the guidelines' implementation, Justice Munshi sought quarterly status reports from the department on measures taken to reduce bag weights. The MSHRC was acting on a letter written by a retired high court judge, R.G. Sindhakar, who had stated that despite clear directives 'matters remained where they were.' Recognising that heavy bags caused problems like backaches, the government had in January 1997 decided to reduce bags' average weight substantially.