Inordinate delay in the delivery of textbooks for government schools in Haryana seems to have its genesis in injudicious planning, faulty assessment, red tape and apathetic attitude of the authorities.
The hold-up has come as a major let-down for lakhs of students and their parents with the academic session having commenced in April. With the first semester examination scheduled for September, a majority of these students have nothing to show except a class readiness programme initiated as a preparatory measure by the authorities.
The textbooks are provided to students of Classes 1 to 8 for free by the government and were to be printed and delivered in a 90-day period by March.
While the High Powered Purchase Committee (HPPC), headed by finance minister HS Chatha, had approved the tender for printing textbooks on October 8, 2012, the print order was placed by the Haryana Board of School Education on December 4, 2012.
However, revised print orders were issued again on March 11, 2013, furthering the delay. The revised print order was issued as a fresh excise exemption certificate had to be issued by the state project director, Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan, in the favour of paper manufacturer Shreyans Group.
The excise exemption certificate, which authorises the printer to get excise exemption on the purchase of paper, was issued again as Printek backed out on the paper supplier, Trident Paper. "Printek wanted to switch over to Shreyans Group. Hence, a fresh exemption certificate had to be issued in favour of Shreyans Group," officials said. But, the state authorities did not pull up Printek for this last-minute switch over, causing more delay.
Under fire from various quarters, Haryana education minister Geeta Bhukkal on Tuesday claimed that the delivery of entire lot of textbooks would be delivered by the month-end.Her statement, however, seems farfetched, considering the fact that the two printers who have been entrusted the task of printing the textbooks - Mumbai-based Printek and Noida-based Gopsons Printers - have made a fresh commitment to supply books in August.
While Gopsons, which has bagged a print order of about 20 lakh textbooks, has agreed to supply the textbooks by August 10, Printek which is producing the bulk of the print order - about 2 crore textbooks - has committed to supply textbooks by August-end.
Officials said though 60% of the ordered textbooks have been printed, there were issues pertaining to logistics, including binding of books, hampering the delivery.
"The education department probably also made an injudicious assessment of the capability of the lead printer. The lead printer seems to be lacking in financial capacity. It had originally committed to get the textbooks printed in 90 days and subsequently took a letter of credit (LoC) for the same period. Now, with the delay, the lead printer is probably not getting finances easily from the bank and is facing problems in buying paper," said a board official.
"There was a technical snag in the quality of printing, resulting in delayed delivery at a few places, which has been sorted out during the meeting. The publishers have assured that delivery of all textbooks will be done by the month-end," the education minister had said after a review meeting on Tuesday.
Anshaj Singh, secretary, Haryana Board of School Education, said on Wednesday that things were improving. "Till today, textbooks for students of Classes 1 and 2 in 11 districts have been delivered. Besides, textbooks for students of Classes 3 and 4 have been delivered in two districts. By Saturday, the printer will supply Class 3 and 4 textbooks in two more districts," Singh added.