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School boards ready to kick leather,give canvas a shoo-in

Seen as “environmentally hazardous”,“unhealthy” and an “uncomfortable” vestige of the colonial empire,black,shiny leather shoes may soon be off school campuses across India....

Written by Anubhuti Vishnoi | New Delhi |
May 5, 2010 2:29:56 am

Seen as “environmentally hazardous”,“unhealthy” and an “uncomfortable” vestige of the colonial empire,black,shiny leather shoes may soon be off school campuses across India. Instead,white canvas shoes,so far reserved for Physical Education lessons,may take their place in school uniform sets.

A proposal to the effect,moved by MP and animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi,is learnt to have found favour with the prominent school boards Central Board of School Education (CBSE) and Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE).

Most schools in the country — private and government — have been stipulating black leather shoes as mandatory items in school uniform for years now. The People For Animals (PFA),which has been spearheading an anti-leather campaign,says the largest group of leather users are schoolchildren. PFA’s campaigns have already influenced 16 schools in Chennai to stop use of leather shoes,while a similar campaign is on in Chandigarh.

Maneka Gandhi has been advocating that leather shoes be kept out of school uniforms for a while now,and had written to the Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry in July 2009 protesting against their “rampant” use.

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“This decision was forced on Indians by the British. It is a decision that is not just unhealthy for children but environmentally very dangerous,” Maneka had written.

Saying that the switch from leather shoes to canvas would also help “save parents’ money and is much healthier for children”,the Lok Sabha MP suggested that the HRD Ministry issue an executive order asking schools to opt for canvas shoes in uniform instead of leather ones.

The HRD Ministry had then written to school boards asking for their views on the issue.


While Gerry Arathoon,Additional Secretary and Officiating Chief Executive and Secretary of CISCE,has said the board agrees with Maneka’s views and calls leather shoes “unhealthy” and “environmentally hazardous”,the CBSE has gone ahead and listed a litany of complaints against leather shoes.

According to the board,these shoes stink as they are unable to absorb sweat,attract fungus,require frequent polishing,gather dust too often,that children rub dirty shoes on to their socks,forcing difficult washing procedures,that the shoe polish is packed with toxic chemicals,and even that tanneries are hubs for dermatitis and other diseases,which affect workers.

The CBSE has also pointed out that leather shoes need to be changed when students go walking or out to play and overall contribute to a larger carbon footprint.


The fact that the making of leather shoes involves cruelty against animals was also a key point stacked against them.

On the other hand,canvas shoes have been praised for the fact that they are washable,comfortable,flexible,easy to walk in,absorb sweat better and that their polish is eco-friendly.

Views of the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan and Navodaya Vidyalaya Sangathan are awaited by the ministry.

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First published on: 05-05-2010 at 02:29:56 am
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