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HRD Ministry team to verify data on enrolment figures

By Anita Joshua

NEW DELHI, FEB. 1. Reluctant to accept the enrolment figures provided by the States, particularly Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, on the implementation of the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) at face value, the Human Resource Development Ministry will send its own team to verify whether the data reflected the ground reality.

As per the data provided by the States, the country today had only 61 lakh children in the six-to-14 age group out of the school system, both formal and informal. This is a quantum jump in enrolment as the current fiscal opened with 2.3 crores out-of-school children in the target group. Given that Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal began this financial year with 44.3 lakhs, 43 lakhs and 39.5 lakhs out-of-school children, the Ministry is having trouble accepting their enrolment figures for the subsequent months. Bihar claimed only 7.46 lakh children out-of-school, while West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh put the figure at 4.39 lakhs and 2.1 lakhs.

"These figures appear too good to be true," the Elementary Education Secretary, S.C. Tripathi, said. The Ministry felt that Bihar should have at least 10 lakh more out-of-school children, while their number in the other two States ought to be double than cited by their administrations. The monitoring teams, he said, would do a sample survey to verify the data provided by all the States.

While Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan were among the good performers, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand, too, showed improvement. The better-governed States showed better results, he said, citing the examples of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, where the administrations were willing to give a prize to anyone bringing an out-of-school child to their notice.

However, the country has missed the bus with regard to SSA's first milestone of having all children in the target group by the end of last year. While the Ministry has decided to extend this deadline by a year, there is no move to rework the entire schedule of achieving universal elementary education by 2010.

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