The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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School funds sit idle

Midnapore, March 11: Almost Rs 150 crore of central funds will go waste if schools in the state fail to utilise them by March-end.

School education minister Kanti Biswas today said a substantial portion of the money allotted to the state for the Sarba Siksha Abhijan may have to be sent back to Delhi.

Days after Manmohan Singh's government assumed office last May, central officials pointed out to the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government its failure to implement the scheme aimed at providing elementary education to all children between six and 14 by 2010.

The CPM had reacted angrily to the missive. But the minister today confirmed what the Centre had said then.

Addressing a gathering of school inspectors at Tamluk in East Midnapore, about 85 km from Calcutta, Biswas blamed the inspectors for not proposing enough schemes to improve the primary education infrastructure.

According to the annual report drawn up by the school education department, the Centre had sanctioned Rs 252 crore for 2004-05. Last year, the allocation was Rs 235 crore.

Sources in the education department said the allotment was increased because the state spent its quota last year. 'The government is worried. If a bulk of the funds is sent back, next year's allotment will suffer,' said an official.

Paresh Chandra Mahapatra, the West Midnapore inspector of schools (primary), said: 'One of the reasons we failed to release the funds was the absence of certificates of utilisation for the money already provided.' The excuse would be the same for many districts.

Sukhen Ghosh, the head of Parulpara Primary School at Dhubulia in Nadia, admitted delay in submitting the utilisation certificates. 'I received the funds twice for constructing toilets and a kitchen to cook mid-day meals. Every decision to spend the money had to be approved by the village education committee, comprising panchayat members. Several meetings with the committee had to be held to discuss the school's development and that took a lot of time,' he said.

Biswas, harried by the possibility of the money going abegging, was scathing today. 'It is a shame that the money may have to be returned,' he said.

The school inspectors were his targets, not headmasters. 'Some of you could not plan infrastructure development,' he said, also accusing them of recommending books beyond the comprehension of children. 'Even the guardians won't be able to make out what is written in these books, for which lakhs have been spent. Some also recommended substandard books brought out by their favourite publishing houses.'

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