In a significant order, the Karnataka High Court on Thursday opined that Economic backwardness or poverty should not lead to students discontinuing education..A Division Bench of Justices BV Nagarathna and Hanchate Sanjeevkumar, therefore, directed the State government to devise an action plan to bridge the technological and digital divide between urban and rural areas. .“Economic backwardness or poverty should not become a reason for the lack of continuity in education. There is an urgent need for the state to address this issue irrespective of the decision of reopening of schools. We direct the State to place on record an action with regard to bridging the technological divide and make available technology to those who are unable to afford it,” the order passed by the Court said. .The Court was hearing a PIL seeking directions to the government to provide laptops, tablets, and other digital resources free of cost to enable school children belonging to economically weaker sections to attend online classes..When the matter was taken up for hearing on Thursday, the State government informed the Court that approximately 30 percent of the students in the State don’t have access to mobiles or other technological devices for attending online classes in the wake of COVID-19..After a detailed perusal of the report, the Court observed that 75.50 percent of the students are having access to technology..About 24.50 percent, which is the State average, don’t have access to technology. As per the report, the Court was able to note that in districts such as Bidar, Kalburgi, Koppal, Tumkuru, Chitradurga, the percentage of students not having access to technology is over 35 percent..In certain other districts, the percentage of students not having access is between 22 – 35 percent, the Court said..It is only in districts such as Bangalore Rural, south, north, Dakshina Kannada and Uduppi that the percentage of students not having access to technology is less than 15%..“So 30% of your students are not within the education system. 39.43% in Bidar, 40% in Chamarajanagar, the percentage is very high. They are virtually out of school. These are the traditionally backward districts. Backwardness is reflected in the education system also,” the Court remarked, during the hearing of the matter. .When questioned on the steps taken by the State to bridge the gap of digital divide, the State apprised that it was providing students with worksheets and that classes are being conducted through Doordarshan channel.While appreciating the State government for its efforts, the Court said that the same was not sufficient with regard to imparting education..Interestingly, the Court further pointed out,“You said the positivity rate is only 1.48% in COVID-19 cases and the situation is conducive to conduct the SSLC exam. But you are not taking the same decision for reopening schools. Why?”.In view of the above, the Court, in its order, noted that action is required to ensure that all students are included within the umbrella of education system.“Schools have remained closed since March 2020 and were open only for a few weeks. Pending the decision of reopening schools in a phased manner, it is necessary that action be taken for the purpose of including all the students who have been admitted to government and private aided institutions in the State within the umbrella of the education system, particularly when there is closure of schools owing to COVID-19.”.Senior Advocate Harish Narasappa, appearing for the petitioner, urged the Court to not accept the State's submission that there are no funds for providing technical devices to the children in rural areas.“The submission that there are no funds should not be accepted. It is a fundamental right. We are a rich State. State will be able to procure tablets, etc for a cheap price.”.The Court agreed, opining that despite times of crisis, there ought to be budgetary allocation for supply of mobile phones and technical devices so that there is continuity in the education of children.The Court cannot turn a “blind eye” to Right to Education, the Bench emphasized.It, therefore, sought an action plan from the State in this regard and posted the case for further hearing on July 29.