Mission Kashmir For Literacy Drive Comes 15 Years Late
3 October 2003
The Indian Express
New Delhi: For the first time in 15 years of the National Literacy Mission, the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir government have come together to implement the scheme of adult education in the state. After preliminary rounds of meetings with a very enthusiastic Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, bureaucrats of the Human Resource Development Ministry are returning to the state next week to set up the infrastructure and work out the modalities. The six districts where the literacy campaign will be taken up in earnest are Srinagar (current literacy 59.31 per cent), Badgam (40.32 per cent), Phulwama (47.35 per cent), Baramulla (44.57 per cent), Kupwara (40.8 per cent) and Anantnag (44.1 per cent) Till now, the ministry had never really made a concerted attempt to pursue the campaign in Kashmir. It had been thought about, mulled over, but the ideas remained on paper because of the enormous difficulties of implementing such a scheme in a state grappling with militancy. In a countrywide assessment done some years ago, the ministry had identified 600 districts where major work needed to be done to enable adults read and write. Now a fresh appraisal shows that the districts, which have been bypassed, included six from J&K. In fact, even HRD Minister Murli Manohar Joshi reviewed the status of the adult literacy programme on resuming office two days ago. He was informed that it was high-time the ministry collaborated with the state government and local administrative machinery's support be sought in this endeavor. But there are problems galore. When the bureaucrats reach Srinagar next week they would have to figure out how they can find an army of almost 27,000 voluntary teachers to educate the target population of almost 8 lakh. Among the districts where they would have to put in an extra effort are Srinagar (total illiterate population of 1.5 lakh), Baramulla (1.8 lakh) and Anantnag (1.8 lakh). HRD officials are worried because the NLM does not pay the teacher-volunteers any remuneration. It is only after the first year of NLM when the continuing phase of adult education begins that the volunteers are paid a paltry sum as token honorarium. In Bihar, it had proved easy for the local officials and the HRD civil servants to track down volunteers from girl students attending middle or secondary schools. If such motivated volunteers are not found, the officials have a way out. They can ask those teachers, who have obtained jobs in alternate schools to teach under the NLM and get paid an extra sum from the second year. And as far as insurgency is concerned, the bureaucrats feel that the feedback from Srinagar is positive. It is quite likely that the insurgents might choose not to interfere with the education sector, even if it concerns adults.