Primary Education in India
The constitutional directive urging all states to provide "free and compulsory education
fo all children until they complete the age of 14 years". The Constitution envisaged fulfilling
thris promise by 1960. Yet, 6.3 crore of them are still out of school. India is still 50 years
away from reaching the goal. Meanwhile, the absolute number of illiterate people in the population is steadily rising year after year. Education is a basic tool for
self-defense in modern society.
The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Education for All,
in India is aimed at universalizing elementary education for all children in the six-14 age group by 2010. This
constitutes the only firm foundation and feeder for all other levels of education.
The official write-up setting out the objectives and the modalities is comprehensive and leaves no aspect untouched. Under
SSA, the States are given generous financial assistance by the
Centre. It was on a 85:15 sharing arrangement during the Ninth Plan, 75:25 during the Tenth Plan, and 50:50 thereafter between the Central and State Governments.
The outlays for SSA and District Primary Education
Programme have been touching Rs 6,000 crore annually, and the releases of funds have also been prompt. In
addition, local bodies are collecting education tax at specified rates under State laws.
The outlay-outcome dichotomy, made worse by deficient monitoring, so characteristic of governance in India, is also the bane of educational system.
In India Tamil Nadu was the first
state to enact an Elementary Education Act in 1920 empowering local bodies to levy an education tax up to a ceiling of 5 per cent of the property tax.
Then regulated the Tamil Nadu Compulsory Elementary Education Act in 1994. It took five years more for a Government order to issue laying down the pattern of expenditure out of the tax proceeds on maintenance of
physical infrastructure, new capital works and so on. The G.O. strictly prohibited transfer of any part of the proceeds to the general account of the local bodies.
But in 2006-07, the Chennai Corporation collected Rs 60.30 crore as education tax, of which Rs 30.11 crore has been coolly
transferred to general account, and Rs 6.39 crore shown as unspent, in spite of many schools subsisting in woeful
conditions. Apparently, only Rs 24 crore was spent on education.
Figures obtained through Right to Information Act for 15 local bodies also reveal a shocking state of affairs. In
2004-05 and 2005-06 respectively, Trichy collected Rs 2.92 crore and Rs 2.59 crore but spent only Rs 95.21 lakh and Rs 15.13 lakh on education. Erodeís collection in the two years was Rs 1.32 crore and Rs 1.62
crore, against which the expenditure was only Rs 6.25 lakh and Rs 9.66
lakh. The rest of the amounts were obviously misutilised. The story is the same for the other local bodies also.
Imagine the fate of the thousands of crores similarly collected in the country and the monumental injustice done to children denied their rights. This matter deserves to be discussed at a national-level
conference so as to plug the loopholes and channel the money along right directions.