60 lakh students without books
|SANTOSH K. KIRO|
Ranchi, April 3: Newbie eighth grader Radha Kumari at Government Middle School in Ranchi's Tharpakhna is happy over her promotion, but says it does not feel like she is in a new class. "No new textbooks," she frowns.
Radha is not alone. In fact, 60 lakh students between classes I and VIII studying in 40,000-odd state-run primary and middle schools are in a similar quandary. They have not received their new, free-of-cost textbooks under the Centre's Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan this academic session.
Worse, these students may have to wait up to six months for new textbooks, as the state human resource development (HRD) department has failed to meet the deadline in finalising the tender to fix a printer.
In fact, tender troubles are Jharkhand government's rough spot.
But this time, a comically simple problem — of two HRD department's previous tenders failing to get printers who met the criteria — has snowballed into an embarrassment of massive proportions.
The money —around Rs 45 crore is needed to print the books — is ready, but the printer is not. In normal times, the printer should have been finalised by January or earlier.
The shameful delay has raised its share of eyebrows and hackles.
On February 1, 2012, chief minister Arjun Munda reviewed human resource development (HRD) tasks under Sarva Siksha Abhiyan. He was told that every year, the state needed to renew publication rights from National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT). Of the around Rs 45-47 crore budget, NCERT takes two per cent in exchange of publication rights. But that had no bearing on the delay.
"The task of printing textbooks for classes I to VIII takes at least 115 days from the day the tender is finalised and the project is entrusted to the selected party. Till date, the government has not yet finalised the tender. Education in schools is bound to suffer this academic year," Bandhu Tirkey, former HRD minister and now Mandar MLA, said, who had earlier raised the issue in the Assembly.
The present HRD minister, Baidyanath Ram, admitted an "undue delay" and promised in the Assembly to "look into the problem".
But he remained conveniently unreachable today when The Telegraph called him.
Jharkhand Education Project Council (JEPC) director D.K. Saxena was reportedly holding a midday meal meeting and did not take calls. Pramod Sinha, JEPC in charge of issuing tenders and printing of textbooks said a fresh tender had been invited. "We will open the tender on April 12. The earlier two tenders did not yield result as interested parties did not meet our criteria," Sinha said.
Meanwhile, schoolteachers and students are relying on the age-old practice of recycling used textbooks.
"I have distributed the old books among fresh batches. We have been told that new books will come after summer vacation," said a teacher of Government Middle School, Tharpakhna.
Radha, leafing through a used English textbook, however, did not spout politically correct views on recycling.
"So many scribbles. Not like a new book," she grimaced.