The Centre’s move to reduce assistance under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan (SSA) from the existing 75 per cent to 50 per cent will deal a serious blow to the ongoing teachers’ recruitment drive in the State. While Bihar has completed the first phase of recruitment of nearly 1.20 lakh, the second phase for over one lakh teachers is yet to begin.
Sources in the Human Resources Development Department admitted that 25 per cent cut in the Central assistance for SSA could badly affect not only the second phase of recruitment, but also the ambitious Chief Minister Integrated School Development Programme, which includes construction of one lakh classrooms.
Last year, the State got an allocation of Rs 2400 crore for the SSA. Of that, the Centre’s share was Rs 1800 crore (75 per cent), while the state’s share was Rs 600 crore (25 per cent). Till the end of the financial year 2006-07, Bihar had got only Rs 1000 crore of the Central share.
If the remaining Rs 800 crore is carried forward to 2007-08 and the Central allocation remains the same as last year for the new fiscal, Bihar should get Rs 3200 crore this year. By the old formula of 75 per cent Central share, the State would require to pay Rs 600 crore (25 pc) to avail Rs 3200 crore for SSA.
In the changed scenario, however, Bihar would require to give Rs 1600 crore, which would be difficult for a backward State like Bihar. It does not even have a budgetary provision of this magnitude. It is in this backdrop that Bihar has started pleading for a continued 75 per cent Central assistance for at least three years in the State, which was a very late starter.
The SSA was designed in 2001 for all the children in the 6-14 age group. It is to continue till 2010. In 2002, education for children was made a fundamental right through an amendment, which incorporated Article 21-A in the Constitution.
When contacted, HRD Commissioner-cum-Secretary Dr MM Jha said that it was important to consider Bihar’s case in the light of the ground realities prevailing here. "For the first time in 2006-07, Bihar was able to make full use of the funds under SSA. The fund remained unutilized three years in succession prior to that, when the State neither had teachers nor schools,” he added.
Jha said that Bihar had just started the exercise to revamp school education through a slew of measures. “Any cut at this stage is bound to have an adverse impact. For other States, it will not make much of a difference, as they have achieved almost 80 per cent of the target. Bihar needs at least three years to catch up with them. We are trying to argue Bihar’s case vigorously with the Planning Commission,” he added.