Neither are children weightlifters nor school bags load containers: Backpacks of Indian kids have gotten so heavy that a law needs to be passed to limit their weight

  • Most school students in India are carrying nearly half of their own weight in their backpacks.
  • Research shows that not only does this result in backaches but could also lead to long-term ailments that affect muscle maturity.
  • The Indian government has put an ‘expert group’ together to form a nationwide policy to restrict how heavy a bag can be.

As a kid in India it’s common to joke about how many books you’re carrying to school and whose backpack is heavier on any given day. But, the Indian government has a different take on the issue. They’ve put together an expert group to formulate a draft policy where the weight of a school bag should be in proportion to the age and average weight of the children.

The court ruled that - “Neither are children weightlifters nor school bags load containers” in response to a filed petition.

A survey conducted by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India ( ASSOCHAM) revealed that heavy school bags put 68% of children at risk for developing backaches and hunchbacks. And, these are kids under the age of 13 years. According to the survey, 88% of children carry nearly half of their own weight on their backs.

The Indian school culture

The expert group put together by the government on the suggestion of the Madras High Court, has the directive to form a nationwide policy based on the Children’s School Bags (Limitation on Weight) Bill of 2006.


The bill basically directs that state governments have to ensure that school children aren’t carrying backpacks that are more than 10% of their own weight.

While some states, like Maharashtra and Telangana, turned this bill into law, most Indian states are still going about without any regulation.

The conundrum is really quite simple. One, India doesn’t have a canteen or cafeteria culture. Children get their food packed from home and carry it with them until it’s time for lunch.

Two, the majority of schools in India don’t have lockers. So, what you take with you to school, you carry with you throughout the day until it’s time to bring it back home with you.

And, three, everyone has to buy their books. There’s no library or communal system where books can be used and returned as per student requirements.

To address these issues, the Children’s School Bags (Limitation on Weight) Bill of 2006 proposes that first and foremost lockers need to be placed in schools. Not only does that cut down on how much weight students have to carry to and from school, but also in between classes.

Second, it proposes that teachers should inform students of what books are required the next day in class so that they don’t have to overpack.

Currently, some schools do enforce this policy on a voluntary basis, but for most it’s not a priority. Even the Yash Pal Committee, back in 1993, stated that young children shouldn’t be put in a situation where they’re compelled to carry heavy bags in the name of education. ‘Learning without burden’ is both metaphorical and literal in India’s case.