Last week, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar got shirty over the attack by his hated rival Narendra Modi, who had rubbished the state government’s education record. However, Modi may just be right when he spoke of dummy schools proliferating in the state. Bihar may boast of getting a second Central University for the state, but the state government has thrown up its hands when it comes to building schools, citing land non-availability.
Going by Bihar government’s own admission, the school infrastructure sector presents a grim picture. Along with the huge infrastructure gap, Bihar government’s expenditure on education too is meagre, almost negligent compared to the government’s interest in getting higher educational institutions such as the Central University awarded to the state. The state government’s negligence towards school education is evident when it cites land problem on one hand and goes out of the way to get land for major Central educational institutions.
According to Bihar government’s confession before the Ministry of Human Resource Development, all 15,000 school buildings were sanctioned in 2006-07 and no new school buildings sanctioned thereafter. Only 50 per cent cost was approved in the year 2007-08 and remaining budget was approved in the subsequent years against different lots of physical approvals. During 2010-11, of the 15,000 school buildings sanctioned, construction of 4,496 primary school buildings were deferred as the land was not available for these schools.
During the discussions for approval of the Annual Work Plan and Budget of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) in Bihar for the year 2013-14, a state government official informed the Ministry of HRD that as far as “the opening and construction of new primary schools, non-availability of land is a big problem.” Moreover, Bihar government official pointed out that a campaign has been launched for land donation.
The state has a total of 73,591 government and government-aided schools and 2.08 crore children are enrolled in these schools. Principal Secretary of Bihar assured the Ministry of HRD that all ongoing civil works activities would be completed by December 2013.
The Economic Survey 2013-14 of Bihar government said, “The success with respect to high enrolment becomes meaningful if the enrolled children are retained in the school. But substantial dropout before completing a certain education level is a problem in Bihar. All the factors behind such dropout may be broadly clubbed into three categories-(a) economic factors, (b) social and cultural factors and (c) school environment and infrastructure. In case of Bihar, all these factors are operative in varying degrees.”
Despite the school infrastructure component in SSA, which is a Central programme, Bihar government informed the Ministry of HRD in April 2013 that 2.71 lakh children were still not in school, pupil-teacher ratio is high at 57:1, large number of teacher vacancies, 11 percent of schools have no buildings and the progress of civil works for construction of schools was not satisfactory and non-availability of land is a major hindrance or construction of school buildings.
The Economic Survey 2013-14 of Bihar government pointed out that the government expenditure on education in 2007-08 was 18.3 per cent of the total budget. And the expenditure on education had come down to 17.9 per cent in 2008-09 and 15.8 per cent in 2010-11.
According to the data with the Ministry of HRD, as on September 30, 2013, under SSA, NPEGEL and KGBV, the Bihar government could spend only Rs 1,44,033 lakh of the total available funds of Rs 3,45,130.22 lakh, in which the Centre had provided Rs 1,36,508.94 lakh.
Contrary to the attitude of Bihar government towards construction of schools and solving the land problem, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar fought with the Centre arguing that the land would be made available free for Central University.
In a letter to the then HRD Minister Kapil Sibal, Nitish said, “We want the Central University should come up in Motihari, considered as the workplace of Mahatma Gandhi, and for which the state government is ready to provide free land.”
The state government had allotted Rs 200 crore for acquiring about 300 acres of land at Motihari for the Central University. It had allotted 536 acres for the Indian Institute of Technology-Patna to set up a permanent campus. The Bihar government has allotted 100 acres of land in Bihta for National Institute of Technology, Patna.