HRD minister Arjun Singh raised concern over some policies of the government at the Planning Commission meeting and termed response of the government to multiple challenges as ‘timid’.
Singh, in his speech, raised two pertinent issues of deprivation of the tribals and the possible impact of the proliferation of SEZs while seeking the planning process to fulfil the Constitutional mandate of social justice.
In an apparent reference to growing naxalism, Singh said, the natural resources around tribals have been taken over by people living in the cities resulting in ‘bewilderment’ of tribals and strong protests. He feared similar impact in areas around SEZs and the malls “Imminent rage is building up,” he cautioned. And demanded a roadmap for tribals to get share of the natural resources around them.
Singh was also critical of privatisation of the basic facilities and described it as selling the ‘family silver’. Not even basic facilities are being spared in the name of public-private participation (PPP), he said.
An extension of his speech was visible in a note circulated at meeting on Wednesday. He cautioned at the growing rate employment and the poor not benefiting from the public distribution system (PDS).
For education, Singh sought more funds for opening three new IITs, 20 Indian Institutes for Information Technology, 3 Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISER) and four more School of Planning and Architecture. The ministry has also emphasised on the need for expansion and improvement of polytechnics.
He also demanded funds for implementing Right to Education, a Constitutional obligation of the government. “The approach paper does not spell out strategy for financing the state’s obligation,” he said, while explaining that the only choice is to address the issue ‘frontally and comprehensively’. Government requires Rs 53,000 crores to implement Right to Education.
Singh had expressed his reservation on the commission’s proposal to merger Sarva Siksha Abhiyan and Midday Meal Scheme. “Scope and mechanism of both the schemes was different,” he said, in his response. Instead, he wanted that government should look at strengthening of the Intergrated Child Development Scheme and introducing pre-school component in the scheme.
The ministry, in the note, had sought expansion of scholarships to the pre-matric level for Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, OBCs and minorities from the present post-matric level. Acknowledging that such an expansion may not be possible in one go, the ministry first wanted to target the girl child in these groups.
The ministry has also demanded a revision in approach paper with regard to universalisation of education. HRD ministry has demanded universalisation till the higher secondary level as against the commission’s proposal of the secondary level.
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