In a welcome step, the Tamil Nadu government has decided to distribute free socks and shoes to government school students from the next academic year. It is in addition to various welfare schemes announced by the government earlier. As per a statement School Education Minister K A Sengottaiyan, the government will distribute free shoes and socks to students of class 6 to 12 rather than free chappals that are distributed currently. The decision attracted criticism from a number of experts in the education sector, who have expressed the opinion that the government should have consulted child specialists considering Tamil Nadus social and climatic condition before taking the decision. State chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami has ordered the distribution of shoes and socks. According to the existing scheme, Tamil Nadu government distributes free chappals to nearly 58 lakh students from classes 1 to 10. The scheme was introduced in the 2012-13 academic year. The government has now allocated an additional Rs 10.2 crore to upgrade the system. The government had earlier introduced free footwear scheme for students considering health reasons like hookworm infection, mainly for children in rural areas where many government school students come from economically backward classes and also many of them have to walk miles to their schools through unhygienic environments. Praising the state governments initiative, Justice K Chandru, a retired judge of Madras High Court said that distributing footwear is essential when school children are required to walk long distances to reach schools. He further pointed out that whether it is chappal or shoes is a decision which must be left to child specialists. Meanwhile, state chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami announced Amma Youth Sports Programme in panchayats as well as town panchayats for the improvement of mental and physical health, and also to boost sporting talent in Tamil Nadus. Speaking in assembly, the CM said said the programme will be introduced in 12,524 panchayats and 528 town panchayats under the cost of Rs 64.35 crore.