A report that could shock the state and call into question an annual expenditure of nearly Rs 2, 500 crore has not been made public yet, reportedly because of stonewalling by some ministers in the state cabinet.
This report, based on a survey on bogus students in the state, has been ready for more than a fortnight. It was brought to two cabinet meetings but could not be presented.
It’s been a month since the state education department conducted the statewide video census, in 98,067 schools.
The survey was done to check the number of fake students enrolled in state-aided schools. Sources say the report has pointed out that funds of over Rs 2,500 crore are probably being misappropriated, as there are an estimated 19 lakh fake students. This is nearly 10% of the Rs27, 000 crore budget set aside for the school education department annually.
Schools would allegedly show higher enrolment figures to access funds coming in for each student through central and state government schemes.
The government can only take action against these errant schools after the report is tabled before the cabinet and a nod is given for action. However, some ministers have reportedly been opposing it.
According to sources, education minister Rajendra Darda wanted to present the report to the cabinet in its weekly meeting on two occasions over the past few days, but some senior ministers kept putting it off, citing reasons such as lack of time.
One reason why a few politicians could want to keep this report under wraps is that several educational institutes in the state are run by politicians. The report could cause embarrassment to them, doubly so because of the proximity of the civic and district polls.
When contacted by the Hindustan Times, Darda said: “We are hoping to table the report in the upcoming cabinet meeting. There is a need to address the issue as the report comes out.”
Last week, while adressing the media, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had said that the issue was a serious one and would be dealt with strictly. Speaking on the delay in releasing the report, he said: “We did not have enough time in the two meetings, so it was not presented.
However, minister for rural development Jayant Patil, who has decided to set up a biometric system for attendance rural schools, said that there was no reason for delay in releasing the report. “We should get to see the report and take steps to improve the system immediately,” he said.
A government pilot survey done in Nanded in September had shown that 1,35,000 of the 7,00,000 students on the rolls are bogus causing misappropriation of funds up to Rs150 crore. This pilot survey prompted the state education department’s drive, which was conducted over October 3, 4 and 5.