Corruption In Sarva Siksha Abhiyan Has Not Just Robbed Today’s Education From The Lives Of Crores Of Children


Just like the last time I wrote about one of the landmark developmental initiatives of the UPA government – NREGA – this time I decided to write upon an equally, or rather more significant, developmental initiative: Sarva Siksha Abhiyan; an initiative which holds the promise of transforming the entire socio-economic landscape of the nation, if delivered to its potential! Now, there is a big ’if’ here, as going by precedence, each and every developmental initiative of the government has been full of corruption, coupled with delivery inadequacies. And the same has been a reality with respect to SSA as well.

A recent report by British media revealed that millions of pounds of aid for education under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) programme have literally disappeared. The report put this figure at a staggering £340 million, which is around Rs 2,327 crore! To further this report, the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) investigation found that almost £14 million (around Rs 100 crore) had been spent on luxuries viz. new cars, luxury beds, computers et al, that had no connection with SSA. So much so that around Rs 1.02 crore was transferred into non-traceable bank accounts. Not just that, electronic equipments like air conditioners, faxes, photocopiers, colour television sets et al were bought for regions which had no electricity supply! And that’s just one side of the entire SSA story! Another CAG report reveals that around 68 per cent of the Rs 8000 crore allotted for ‘Elementary Education’ development work, which was spent under SSA, had no records. A 2006 report highlighted irregularities of funds usage to the tune of Rs 470 million in almost 14 states in SSA schemes. A brief glimpse through other media reports, in the span of the last few years, is enough to give a concrete idea about how states like Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh are spending allocated funds on projects that have nothing to do with SSA.

As such, India is amongst the lowest spenders on education. Couple this with the fact that India also houses the maximum number of illiterates in the world! In this light, it is criminal that funds to the tune of thousands of crores get siphoned away just like this. Putting the numbers into perspective, if the total allocated money (Rs 31,036 crore as per the budget 2010-11) were to be disbursed directly to 192 million children (or 19.2 crore children) who officially come under the ambit of SSA, then each student would receive more than Rs 1600 each this year. Considering that a student generally has to pay an average monthly fee of Rs 100 (actually ranges from Rs 70-150 in rural areas) at rural elementary schools in India, giving Rs 1600 annually to students directly would not only enable them to pay the annual fees, but would also result in some extra pocket money! The direct disbursement seems to be a much more rational and fruitful method, when seen in the shadows of corruption and scams.

If one were to calculate the per capita loss on the account of funds embezzled, then each deprived child has actually been robbed of Rs 121, so to speak! In other words, the embezzlers have shamelessly robbed formal education from the lives of above 1.4 crore children (considering the allocation being Rs 1600 per child)! And mind you, this corruption has far reaching future implications. It has not just robbed today’s education from the lives of crores of children, it has also forever robbed their chances of dignified living!

However, it is also a fact that this is not the first time we are coming across such scales of corruption. And it is also not the first time that a foreign media has reported about such deficiencies in our system. But nothing seems to change! Nothing would change till the time we have a decaying judiciary, as right now in the given judicial environment, the cost of corruption is negligible for the offender despite being extremely high on society! More so in the case of education! Considering that education provides the maximum returns on investment to the society, the delivery framework around an initiative like SSA has to be cast in stone! The judiciary has to necessarily dole out such stringent sentences to the guilty – and that too quickly – so that it sets the right precedent for future off enders! And if we are incapable of doing so, then we have no business to draft any developmental initiative – under the garb of which, we keep robbing national resources for private gains. Enough is enough!

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