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Bureaucrats flunk literacy mission

Ranchi, Feb. 24: Jharkhand has failed to educate a targeted population of nearly 25 lakh illiterate adults, half of them women, in a three-year period ending in March under a central literacy mission only because the funds were spent on infrastructure rather than reading material.

The state officials had aimed to teach 28 adults at the start of the Saakshar Bharat Programme (SBP) in 2010-11.

But around 10 lakh adult women in Dhanbad, Dumka, Hazaribagh and Ranchi who enrolled in the first phase for basic learning are yet to receive “formal education”.

The educators have been appointed, co-ordinators are also in place but the state has failed in printing “primers” (reading and learning material) for the students.

The matter came to light when Jharkhand was refused funds for the Centre-sponsored plan for the 2012-13 fiscal.

Responding to a question raised by Rajya Sabha member Parimal Nathwani, Union minister of state for HRD Shashi Tharoor said Jharkhand had “unspent balances”.

The state was sanctioned Rs 31.69 crore in 2010-11 that has not been spent satisfactorily. In 2010, the state decided to kick-start the programme in districts where female literacy was below 50 per cent. Hence, Dhanbad, Dumka, Hazaribagh and Ranchi were selected in the first phase.

By 2011, 15 more districts — East and West Singhbhum, Sahebganj, Palamau, Pakur, Lohardaga, Latehar, Koderma, Gumla, Godda, Giridih, Garhwa, Deoghar, Bokaro and Chatra — were covered.

The state government handed over the programme to State Literacy Mission Authority (SLMA) for immediate implementation.

The authority went by the illiteracy projection of Census 2001 to select nearly 28 lakh illiterate adults (50 per cent of them women) across the 19 districts. In a bid to ensure smooth execution, Asian Development Research Institute was selected as the programme’s state resource centre. With Project for Residual Illiterates in place by 2010, SLMA also managed to set up adult education centres in each panchayat of the districts.

But what impeded the teaching-learning process?

“The primers for the students have not been printed till date,” said Rajiv Karan, director, Asian Development Research Institute.

The state resource centre was responsible to develop and test the primers.

“The centre not only developed the primers but also printed 5,000 copies to kick-start the programme. We launched the programme in some blocks of Ranchi and Dhanbad with the primers we had printed. SLMA supported us with an additional 25,000 primers,” added Karan. He claimed that around 2.5 lakh women had received basic education.

“It is true that all the enrolled women did not receive education, but with the available resources we succeeded in educating nearly 2.5 lakh women across the four districts,” he added.

SLMA, which is responsible for printing the primers, has not succeeded in hiring a printer for the job.

“We had floated a tender in 2011. Not a single bidder could qualify the technical proposal. We have once again floated tender. Let us hope we get printers this time,” said an official.