The Narendra Modi government's national education policy that aims to boot out the traditional one-size-fits-all approach towards academics is likely to miss its December deadline as a process of countrywide consultations to frame the guidelines has turned into a logistical nightmare for states.
Sources said the human resource development (HRD) ministry's decision to invite suggestions from the grassroots means village councils across the country will conduct about 250,000 meetings, with another 6,600 engagements at the block level, a further 3,700 for urban local bodies and 676 at the district level.
HRD minister Smriti Irani said last month while a few academic experts, bureaucrats and politicians decided what the nation should study under UPA rule, her government's policy would be shaped by the views of India's village education councils.
But, let alone organising the first-level of consultations, a number of states have not even appointed nodal officers to act as intermediaries between them and the ministry, officials said.
"The states are staring at a logistical nightmare and completing the three levels of consultations will be a difficult task," an officer familiar with the states' preparedness for the process told HT.
While several experts have backed the overhaul of the education system, some academics view the BJP-led government's efforts with scepticism, saying it could be part of a "saffronisation" agenda to teach the superiority of Hindu values and mythology at the cost of academic accuracy.
None of the states HT spoke to had held any meetings on the consultation process while some of them said they were yet to absorb the complex mechanism involved.
"I will soon come to Delhi and hold a meeting with the HRD ministry. The consultations at the gram sabha level will begin after that," Neera Yadav, Jharkhand's education minister, told HT.
Madhya Pradesh, too, said it will miss all the cut-off dates, while Manipur wrote to the HRD ministry that it will begin the panchayat-level consultations only after the state's district council polls next month.
"We hope to start work on this soon, but the April-May deadline for the panchayat-level consultations will have to be extended," said KK Singh, principal secretary of higher education in MP.
Officials said while the states could have expedited the process, the fault does not lie with them entirely.
"The exhaustive consultation process involves not only holding more than 250,000 meetings, but also filtering the suggestions at each level and feeding them to mygov.in, a citizen-government engagement platform, which is quite a herculean task," a state official said.
For this to happen, states will need to devote a sizeable workforce, a difficult proposition for them, he added.