State cradles, press the green button again.
Thousands of state-run and aided schools will restart their green drive, as the Centre renewed its funds after a seven-year gap for eco clubs to foster awareness on ecology under the National Environment Corps programme of the Union ministry of forests and environment.
Eco clubs were set up in Jharkhand’s schools in 2001 to nurture among children a sense of responsibility for the environment.
In each of the 24 districts, 100 handpicked schools had eco clubs. Each club got a corpus of Rs 1,000 a year to host rallies, painting contests, plantation activities and the like.
In 2005, the funds — around Rs 24 lakh a year — from the Centre stopped coming. The eco clubs died a natural death.
Now, aided by the Centre again, the clubs are making a comeback in a bigger and better avatar.
From 2012, each district will pick 250 schools to form eco clubs with an annual quantum of Rs 2,500 each.
Under the renewed programme, there is much more money — Rs 1.5 crore — coming in for 6,000 schools across 24 districts.
Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board (JSPCB), the nodal agency to implement the Centre’s eco club programmes in Jharkhand, has already sent funds for this year.
The board has asked deputy commissioners of each district to ask schools under them to kick-start eco club activities.
“We asked deputy commissioners around a couple of months ago to reactivate eco-clubs that already existed in the schools and begin them afresh. The Centre has released the fund. Issues concerning the environment are becoming graver every year,” said Om Prakash, the officer in charge of eco clubs at the JSPCB.
But when asked why funding for the clubs was kept on hold by the Centre for seven years running, Prakash stayed mum.
Member secretary of JSPCB S.K. Sinha also did not throw light on the seven-year hiatus.
“I’ll have to look into the matter as the issue is old,” he said.
Insiders, however, said that the Centre was unhappy with the administration, more specifically with the way accounts were kept or not sent on time.
The sum, Rs 24 lakh, is perhaps too trifling to qualify for heavily loaded terms such as “misappropriation of funds” in a state where scams are worth thousands of crores.
However, the seven-year suspension of central funds for eco clubs tells its own story.
Obviously, with the Rs 1.5-crore annual budget, there is much greater need for transparency from now on.
Officials are making the right noises.
“The venture’s main aims are to educate children through visits and practical demonstrations about their immediate environment and impart knowledge about ecosystems, their inter-dependence and their need for survival ,” said Prakash.
He added that they wanted to mobilise youngsters by instilling in them the spirit of scientific enquiry into environmental problems and involving them in efforts to preserve the planet.
“A teacher will be appointed to play the role of guide and patron of each eco club. Environment activities such as paintings, talks, plays, plantation, field visits will all be undertaken,” Prakash added.
The revival has at least started in the right spirit in Ranchi district.
On getting the nod from the pollution control board, the district administration started forming the clubs across cradles in right earnest and is inching towards the 250-schools mark.
“Eco clubs in 246 schools have been formed so far,” said district education officer Mahesh Kumar Singh.