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‘Education Bill may fall short of expectations’

If the dismal performance of the implementation of other central laws like Right to Education law are to be considered, the UPA government’s poll promise may not achieve the desired goal, reports Chetan Chauhan.

india Updated: Aug 24, 2009 00:08 IST

The Right to Education law promises to empower children through mandatory education till class VIII. But, if the dismal performance of the implementation of other such central laws are to be considered, the UPA government’s poll promise may not achieve the desired goal.

The Right to Education Bill — recently passed by Parliament — aims to bring 8.1 million schoolchildren of the total 193 million children in 6-14 age group in the ambit of quality school education. It also promises to improve quality of education in government schools.

“Majority of educationally deprived children are child labourers, street children or beggars,” said Raj Mangal Prasad, of NGO Pratidhi, who has been working with street children for the past two decades. “Enrolling them in schools is still a distant dream. Most state governments do not have data of these children and their whereabouts.”

Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal had stated in Parliament that the responsibility to implement the law would be with states. “There is enough flexibility in the law for the states to decide to how to implement it,” he said.

This appears to be a problem.

Similar flexibility was provided under the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, Juvenile Justice Act, 1991 and Domestic Violence Act (Protection) Act, 2005 to the state governments, but it resulted in the laws remaining mostly on paper.

Most state governments have not appointed separate prohibition officers under the dowry act and protection officers under the domestic violence law to provide relief to the victims.

“Except Delhi, all state governments have appointed district social welfare officers as nodal officers for this law. They are so overburdened with their existing work that the implementation of these laws have suffered,” said an official of Women and Child Development Ministry, not willing to quoted as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

A key provision in the Juvenile Justice Act, which would be two decades old in 2010, was to constitute a child welfare committee (CWC) in each district. But about 70 per cent districts have no CWCs.

“CWCs have been constituted only in a few metros. There are very less CWCs in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh,” Prasad said.

In 2006, the Union government proposed another body — the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights — in its National Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act. Till date only four states — Karnataka, Delhi, Goa and Maharashtra — have constituted these commissions.

However, these proposed commissions have the daunting tasking of acting as education tribunals under the Right to Education law. “At this pace the state governments will take a very long time in constituting the child commissions,” said Sandaya Bajaj, member of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.