India's colonial footwear to walk into the past?

Heavy leather brogue shoes worn by millions of Indian school kids could become things of the past if a campaign by a leading Indian politician to get rid of the colonial relics succeeds.

Maneka Gandhi, an estranged member of India's Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and a member of parliament, has asked national education boards to instruct schools to kick out the flat-heeled brogues in favour of canvas shoes.

Gandhi, daughter-in-law of slain Indian premier Indira Gandhi and a former environment minister, described the shoes as a "legacy of the British" which ruled India as one of its colonies until 1947.

"Leather shoes are really bad for our children as they are destroying their feet," she told AFP on Wednesday, adding that the brogue, originally from Ireland and Scotland, was only suitable for cold climates.

"India is a hot country and is the only country in Asia where brogues are used by children," insisted Gandhi, who is also a fiery wildlife campaigner.

According to Gandhi, 2.5 million cows, which are considered sacred by devout Hindus, are slaughtered every year in India to manufacture footwear for school children.

"I have written (to national boards) but it still has to happen," she said, adding that 28 schools in the southern Indian city of Chennai have discarded regulation leather shoes for canvas-made footwear since she started the campaign.

Some other schools in northern Chandigarh city too have swapped footwear of their young students, she said.

"Most people have responded favourably and sooner than later something has got to give," said Gandhi, the estranged sister-in-law of India's ruling Congress party president Sonia Gandhi.

National education policy-makers were not immediately available for comments but the Indian Express daily on Wednesday said the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination board has given its nod to her campaign.

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