Since the implementation of the centrally sponsored schemes like erstwhile SSA and RMSA in J&K, the central Government has pumped in funds in crores in J&K to strengthen the school education department. However, all the efforts have gone down the drain in J&K as the successive regimes in coordination with the school education department misused the funds for political gains.
Since the implementation of the erstwhile SSA scheme now Samagra Shiksha in J&K around 68000 school buildings besides additional classrooms and computer laboratories were sanctioned for the schools up to elementary level.
Out of the total sanctioned buildings, work on only 55900 buildings have been completed in J&K while work on more than 10084 school buildings is yet to be taken up by the school education department for the past more than a decade.
Out of the completed buildings, some are lying unused while some are abandoned with no watch and ward from the school education department.
The reason for leaving these school buildings abandoned is because the buildings were constructed haphazardly without following the parameters as per the scheme.
Besides, the school education department has left 2191 buildings unattended which have been left midway by the contractors under the pretext of cost escalation. After that the department did not bother to give in some efforts to complete the construction of these school buildings.
While the construction on these buildings is left midway, the contractors were paid whole money which has exposed the deep rooted corruption in the department.
The failure of the government to take up construction work on school buildings and complete the under-progress construction is affecting school children who are taking classes in shabby, rented rooms.
Another reason for delay in executing the constriction of school buildings is because of the fact that most of these buildings were approved at such locations which are inaccessible without any approach road.
The contractors enjoyed hidden support of zonal education officers and some school buildings were constructed in paddy fields without roads access. These buildings are now used for illegal activities.
The school education department cut a sorry figure during the Project Approval Board (PAB) meeting with the Department of School Education and Literacy (DSEL), GoI, for its repeated failures to complete the pending construction and take up construction of other buildings in J&K.
For many years now, the school education department has surrendered various projects of civil works which were sanctioned during the past year. This has been done to clear the liability of the pending constructions. But the move has clearly exposed the deep rooted corruption in the department for the past many years and the incompetence of the officials to streamline the process.
This year again, the DSEL pulled up the school education department during the recently held PAB meeting and expressed concern over the incomplete school buildings in J&K.
The J&K UT was asked to take up these pending works on priority and fix a timeline for completion of all pending civil works. But given the past experience it is unlikely that the department will complete the pending works in time bound manner and meet the deadline set by DSEL, GoI.
Besides its failure to complete the buildings for elementary level schools, the department has not shown any performance in completing the construction of school buildings and other projects sanctioned for the past two years.
The DSEL has directed the school education department J&K that the details of works approved under erstwhile RMSA and not taken up till March 2019-20 to be worked out and proposal for surrendering of these works be submitted to the Ministry of Education GoI.
As per the official figures around 4019 school buildings were sanctioned under Samagra as strengthening components for secondary level schools. But given the poor performance of the J&K government only 378 buildings are completed while work on 1470 buildings is yet to be taken. The buildings sanctioned as strengthening components are supposed to provide additional classroom facilities to the schools to encourage the enrollment of students. But the department has failed to show any progress in this regard due to which the students continue to suffer for want of adequate accommodation in schools.
The crux is that the school education department has miserably failed to implement the centrally sponsored scheme in J&K but has allowed loss of funds worth crores under the garb of execution of civil works.
While the GoI has pumped funds worth crores to provide better accommodation to school children in government schools across J&K, the efforts have gone down the drain due to the ill planning of successive regimes in J&K. All these projects and civil works were used for political gains while the student who was the basic beneficiary of the facility continues to remain deprived of it.
While over 12000 school buildings are either lying abandoned or unused in J&K, the school children in majority of the government schools are craving for proper accommodation.
Besides its failure to complete the civil works for elementary and secondary level schools, the school education department has also shown its poor performance in execution of projects sanctioned exclusively for girls education.
The official figures reveal that the J&K UT has not been able to operationalise 86 KGBV residential schools for girls in J&K. Due to the poor implementation of the scheme, the government has failed to have proper enrollment of girl students in these residential schools which are established in educationally backward blocks.
It is a fact that the majority of the interventions of the centrally sponsored schemes have gone down the drain in J&K UT as the successive regimes did not implement the schemes in a proper way by following all parameters of these schemes.
Instead, the schemes were misused to please the vote bank during elections. Buildinsg were sanctioned haphazardly to please voters and that is the basic reason why all these school buildings are lying abandoned and while work on some buildings is yet to be taken.
Keeping all the facts into consideration, the government should conduct an audit of funds received from GoI for execution of civil works. The officials at the helm of affairs should probe how and where these funds have been used.
Action should be initiated against all those who made these schemes a mess in J&K and kept the students deprived of all these facilities. Hope government will wake up to clear the mess and streamline the implementation of the scheme.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.