NEW DELHI: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has warned of coercive action while issuing a final reminder to the Secretary, Department of Education and Secretary, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India over the hardships, miseries and sufferings of financially backward students and those living in remote and inaccessible areas.
The NHRC in its order stated, "This is a complaint received from human and social rights activist drawing the attention of the Commission to poor conditions of living, unavailability of smartphone, lack of power and internet connectivity, etc. affecting the fundamental right of education of students across India who are living in remote/inaccessible places."
The NHRC passed the order acting on a petition filed by a civil liberties lawyer, noted human rights activist and Supreme Court advocate, Radhakanta Tripathy.
Taking cognizance, notice was issued to the concerned authorities as the intervention of the Commission is sought by Tripathy to ensure availability of smartphone to the poor students, proper supply of electricity and network connectivity.
The NHRC in its order further said, "No report is received from the Secretary, Ministry of Human Resource Development and Secretary, Education, Department of Higher Education despite notice issued. Let reminder be issued to the authorities concerned to submit a report within four weeks failing which the commission shall be constrained to take resort to coercive measures under section 13 of the Protection of Human Rights Act."
"Stay Home and Stay Safe" has been the campaign propagated by both the central and state governments but due to inaccessibility of internet, poor connectivity and lack of power supply, the students especially in the remote areas and from the vulnerable segment have to come out of their houses and walk for miles together for the bare necessities for their studies.
This creates an education deficit and enlarges the gap of privileges among the student communities in India, Tripathy pointed out.
More than one crore of students across India have been deprived of education due to the lack of active government intervention. On one hand, there are no communication facilities to move out physically, while power supply and digital connectivity remain a mirage for the students in many areas in India, the plea stated.
Citing various instances of students' problems, Tripathy pointed out that 38 lakh students in Odisha are deprived of the facility due to the non-availability of mobile networks in their areas. He said the fact is also admitted by the Government of Odisha.
Similarly, in Telangana, students in Adivasi areas of Asifabad, Mancherial and Adilabad districts, and remote villages of ITDA Utnoor and Eturunagaram tribal regions suffer the same problem, the petition added.
However, in Jammu and Kashmir, students could not access online classes because of the government's order restricting network connectivity to 2G instead of 4G, the plea mentioned.
Tripathy stated that the teachers have been advised to continue communication with students through virtual mode like Massive Online Courses. However, due to the lack of digital infrastructure, both teachers and students are facing unprecedented challenges.
Tripathy further alleged that no corrective measure has been taken by the Government of India, State and Union Territories to assess the education deficit and to fill the gap of education during and after the COVID-19 situation due to lack of planning.