Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal has been quick to announce laptops, free bicycles and other freebies for schoolchildren, but has not found time to supervise the implementation of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), a centrally sponsored flagship programme to improve school education, in the state.
The CM heads the Punjab SSA governing body, which did not meet even once during the previous five-year tenure of the Shiromani Akali Dal(SAD)-Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) regime. As per Rule 14 of the Memorandum of Association (MoA) of SSA Mission, Punjab, the governing body - the apex management group for "supervision of implementation" of the programme - is to meet as and when necessary, but it must meet at least once in a year.
But the governing body has had only one meeting so far since its formation in June 2000. That sole meeting was held on April 17, 2003 during Congress rule, when Capt Amarinder Singh was CM, and there was no further meeting during the remaining four years of his regime too.
In a report on monitoring of the financial management of the programme sent to the Punjab government last year, auditors from the department of elementary education and literacy, union ministry of human resource development (MHRD), had also raised the issue. "Clearly, direction and guidance of the apex body were not available to the management of the programme," the auditors wrote in the report.
Under the programme, the MHRD sanctioned a budget of Rs 3,562 crore to the state government between 2002-03 and 2011-12, with the central government contributing the major portion. In 2012-13, a budget of Rs 1,040 crore has been approved on a 65:35 Centre-state cost-sharing basis, as against the Rs 1,676 crore sought by the state government.
PANELS AND POWERS
The governing body headed by the CM has the ministers for school education and SC and BC welfare as vice-presidents. The chief secretary, the secretaries of planning, finance, school education, women and child development, public health and family, social welfare and local self-government; director of the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT), and three representatives of the central government are the other members.
"The governing body should have held its meetings to assess the progress as per the rules. There is also an executive committee under the state chief secretary that monitors the progress of the project. It has been having its meetings every few months," said an official, requesting anonymity.
But it is learnt that this executive committee, though required to meet at least once in every quarter, has also not been having its meetings regularly. In 2008-09 and 2009-10, it had only two meetings.
Annual reports prepared by the executive committee are to be considered by the governing body, which, according to the MoA, also has the powers to create administrative mechanisms, monitor implementation, evaluate performance of districts and mobilise financial resources.
Secretary, education, Hussan Lal, who is heading the department since June 2011, told HT that the executive committee's meetings were held regularly last year, except when the model code of conduct had been imposed for elections.
"Another meeting (of the executive committee) has been convened in the first week of May. We will also make a request for holding a meeting of the governing body. I am not sure whether any meetings of the governing committee were held in the past," he said. Director general, school education, and SSA project director Ashok Singla was not available for comment.