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New class, no textbooks
- State gets cracking 3 months late

Ranchi, Jan. 24: In a textbook case of mismanagement, lakhs of government schoolchildren between Classes I and VIII may not get free textbooks in April, the start of academic year 2014-15, as the state today floated a tender for their print and supply, a process that normally starts in October.

There are some 50 lakh primary and middle school students across 40,000 government schools, who require 2.37 crore NCERT textbooks each year supplied by the state council under Sarva Siksha Abhiyan.

Human resource development (HRD) department principal secretary K. Vidyasagar said they invited tenders today for printing and supplying of textbooks for 2014-2015 in entire state. “We invited tenders today and bid will open on February 23,” Vidyasagar said.

A pre-bid meeting will be held on February 3 at the Jharkhand Education Project Council (JEPC) office in Doranda for interested bidders or their authorised representatives, he added. The JEPC is an autonomous body that functions under state HRD department.

Asked if students of government schools would get schoolbooks in time, Vidyasagar refrained from commenting.

Normally, the process of floating tenders — inserting ads in newspapers — starts in October and books are distributed in schools by January.

Huge numbers involved make advance planning a must, but JEPC muffed it up. Money was not a constraint, as the state received Rs 70 crore of central funds for the job.

JEPC administrator Pradip Kumar Choubey said this time they had initially decided to buy textbooks directly from the NCERT instead of going for a tender.

But when they found out that NCERT would not subsidise the purchase and the state would have to bear all costs for warehousing and transportation, they dropped the idea.

Finally, on January 3, the state decided on open tender to select a firm that would take the content from NCERT, print books and distribute. Chief secretary R.S. Sharma, planning secretary D.K. Tiwari and state HRD department officials were part of the high-level meeting that decided this.

Schools, aware that the new session will begin in April, are worried.

“Our annual exams will soon start, after which students will be promoted and need new textbooks. Every year, there’s some problem, which is why we ask senior students to keep textbooks in good condition for borrowing,” said school principal of state middle school at Karamtoli, S. Prasad.

As Prasad said, glitches are not new. In the ongoing 2013-14 session, only half of the students got books, which means some 25 lakh schoolchildren will complete the current academic year officially without textbooks.

Jharkhand started to distribute NCERT textbooks free of charge under the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan from 2005-2006. In the past three years, JEPC gave sums between Rs 55 crore and Rs 99 crore to procure textbooks through the open tender system.