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Centre tweaks norms to fund aided schools
- Bengal, with a large number of such institutions, seen as a big potential gainer

New Delhi, Aug. 9: The Centre has modified the norms of an education scheme to allow partial funding of state government-aided secondary schools in a move that could benefit Bengal the most.

Funds under the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) have so far been limited solely to government-run institutions.

The four-year-old scheme provides grants to set up schools, improve facilities in existing ones and recruit teachers.

Most secondary schools in Bengal are aided institutions, run by committees that are private bodies in terms of their composition but receive grants from the state government to meet some expenses. The private bodies bring the infrastructure and land.

The Union human resource development ministry has tweaked the scheme’s norms so that the Centre can provide funds to enable such schools to appoint teachers.

The grants cannot be used for infrastructure support, ministry sources said.

“These aided schools can now get funds under the RMSA to appoint teachers but not for infrastructure,” a ministry official said.

Bengal has long demanded that such schools be given RMSA grants. Many other states, such as Uttar Pradesh, too have a large number of aided schools.

The scheme was launched in 2009 with the objective of expanding access to secondary education and improving quality.

It aims to achieve an enrolment rate of 75 per cent, up from the 2009-level of 52 per cent, within five years of its implementation.

The extent of Bengal’s possible gain from the modifications to the scheme cannot be determined just yet given that the state’s performance in securing funds even for existing institutions has been patchy at best.

Bengal has availed itself of only Rs 9.42 crore so far under the scheme after the Centre sanctioned its proposal to set up 38 new government schools. None have come up so far.

In contrast, Madhya Pradesh has garnered around Rs 1,090 crore — over 100 times that of Bengal — followed by Chhattisgarh (Rs 767 crore) and Andhra Pradesh (Rs 744 core).

Even the smaller states have secured more funds than Bengal. Mizoram received Rs 103 crore (11 times that of Bengal) and Tripura Rs 88 crore (nine times). Mizoram has set up or improved 81 schools and Tripura, 83.

Overall, the Centre has disbursed Rs 6,621 crore so far under the scheme for upgrading or setting up over 9,636 secondary schools across the country.

“There are hardly any proposals from the Bengal government. The state is yet to submit its annual plan and budget relating to the scheme for 2013-14. Almost all states have got their proposals approved,” a Union human resource development ministry official said.

The Rs 9 crore that Bengal has received was for 2009-10, the scheme’s first year. The failure to set up any new school means the state has not utilised the funds in the past four years.

Fresh funds are given after papers are submitted showing the use of previous allotments.

Sources in the Bengal government said the state was not willing to take over aided schools at present because of land-related difficulties.

The problems mainly relate to land transfer from the school committees to government departments.