Forty-two students of different classes jostle for space inside a small hut-turned-school at village Undari of Alirajpur district. One teacher screams for their attention while the hut owner awaits rent payment due for six years.
To sum up, this is how educational prospects in Alirajpur district have remained since the past six years. With a 37.22% literacy rate, the tribal-dominated district holds the “worst literacy” tag, way below the state and national averages of 70.6% and 70.4% respectively.
At a time when the Madhya Pradesh government is gearing up to provide electricity to 10,000 primary and middle schools in rural areas by the end of the current academic session, the project to build the only government school at Undari has been mired in a land dispute. Also, the 42 students from classes 1 to 5 in Jobat development block have only one teacher to look up to.
Funds sanctioned for construction of 5 school buildings weren’t utilised and lapsed
Sources say the state government in 2010-11 had sanctioned funds for construction of five primary school buildings in Jobat, including a Rs 6 lakh package for a school building at Undari under the Jan Shikshan Kendra scheme. With the fund remaining idle till 2015 panchayat elections allegedly due to politicisation of a property dispute, the fund lapsed, thereby stalling the project.
“It will take time to transfer the private land to a government property. Construction work will take an additional three months. So, students may get to study in the building by the next academic session,” said block education officer and Janpad Panchayat chief executive officer (CEO) Navin Shukla.
“Initially, Undari village panchayat promised to pay a monthly rent when I agreed to rent it out in 2010-11, but so far I’ve not received a single penny,” said hut owner Madhu Singh, who refused to disclose the rent amount offered to him.
Party politics have also staked claim in the delay. Undari village sarpanch Bhuru Ajnar said, “Despite getting fund for construction, the BJP-led Jobat Assembly constituency is stalling the project as I am a Congress member.”
District BJP president Rakesh Agrawal termed the allegations as baseless. “If the report is found true, we’ll immediately redress grievances of villagers. He (Ajnar) has no idea about developments at Undari as the government has sanctioned Rs 10 lakh for construction of a community hall in the village,” said Agrawal.