Article 46 of the Constitution states that, ‘‘The State shall romote, with special care, the education and economic interests of the weaker sections f the people, and, in particular of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and hall protect them from social injustice and all forms of social exploitation’’. Articles 30, 332, 335, 338 to 342 and the entire Fifth and Sixth Schedules of the Constitution eal with special provisions for implementation of the objectives set forth in Article 6. These provisions need to be fully utilized for the benefit of these weaker sections n our society.
Commitment in NCMP
The UPA government has set six basic principles for overnance. One of them is ‘‘To provide for full equality of opportunity, particularly in ducation and employment for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, OBCs and religious inorities’’. Besides, the National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP) of the PA Government contains following provisions aimed at the welfare and mpowerment of these communities : (a) UPA Government will take immediate steps o reverse the trend of communalization of education that had set in the past five years. b) Steps will be taken to remove the communalization of the school syllabus hat has taken place in the past five-years. A review committee of experts will be set up for this purpose. (c) The UPA will ensure that nobody is denied professional education because he or she is poor. (d) All reservation quotas, including those relating o promotions, will be fulfilled in a time bound manner. To codify all reservations, reservation Act will be enacted. (e) The UPA Government is very sensitive to the issue of affirmative action, including reservations, in the private sector.
Special provisions :
After independence, the Government of India has taken number of steps to strengthen the educational base of the persons belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Pursuant to the National Policy on Education-1986 and the Programme of Action (POA)-1992, the following special provisions for SCs and STs have been incorporated in the existing schemes of the Departments of Elementary Education and Literacy and Secondary and Higher Education : (a) relaxed norms for opening of primary/middle schools; a primary school within one km walking distance from habitations of population upto 200 instead of habitations of upto 300 population. (b) Abolition of tuition fee in all States in Government Schools at least upto the upper primary level.
In fact, most of the states have abolished tuition fees for SC/ST students up to the senior secondary level. (c) Incentives like free textbooks, uniforms, stationery, schools bags, etc., for these students. (d) The Constitutional (86th Amendment) Bill, notified on 13 December 2002, provides for free and compulsory elementary education as a Fundamental Right, for all children in the age group of 6-14 years. (e) Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) : SSA is a historic stride towards achieving the long cherished goal of Universalisation of Elementary Education (UEE) through a time bound integrated approach, in partnership with States. SSA, which promises to change the face of elementary education sector of the country, aims to provide useful and quality elementary education to all children in the 6-14 age group by 2010. The main features of the programme are : (i) Focus on girls, especially belonging to SC/ST communities and minority groups. (ii) Back to school campus for out of school girls. (iii) Free textbooks for girls. (iv) Special coaching remedial classes for girls and a congenial learning environment. (v) Teachers’ sensitisation programmes to promote equitable learning opportunities. (vi) Special focus for innovative projects related to girls education. (vii) Recruitment of 50 per cent female teachers.
District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) :
The thrust of the scheme is on disadvantaged groups like girls, SCs/STs, working children, urban deprived children, disabled children, etc. There are specific strategies for girls and SCs/STs; however, physical targets are fixed, in an integrated manner including coverage of these groups as well. According to a study by NIEPA, schools in DPEP districts had more than 60 per cent students belonging to SC/ST communities.
Mahila Samakhya (MS) :
MS addresses traditional gender imbalances in educational access and achievement. This involves enabling women (especially from socially and economically disadvantaged and marginalised groups) to address and deal with problems of isolation and lack of self-confidence, oppressive social customs and struggle for survival, all of which inhibit their empowerment.
National Programme for Education of Girls at Elementary Level (NPEGEL):
The NPEGEL under the existing scheme of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) provides additional components for education of girls under privileged/disadvantaged at the elementary level. The Scheme is being implemented in Educationally Backward Blocks (EBBs) where the level of rural female literacy is less than the national average and the gender gap is above the national average, as well as in blocks of districts that have at least 5 per cent SC/ST population and where SC/ST female literacy is below 10 per cent based on 1991.
Shiksha Karmi Project (SKP) :
SKP aims at universalisation and qualitative improvement of primary education in remote, arid and socio-economically backward villages in Rajasthan with primary attention to girls. It is noteworthy that in Shiksha Karmi Schools, most of the students are from SCs, STs and OBCs. Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas : Under the scheme of Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, 750 residential schools are being set up in difficult areas with boarding facilities at elementary level for girls belonging predominantly to the SC, ST, OBC and minorities. The scheme would be applicable only in those identified Educationally Backward Blocks (EBBs) where, as per census data 2001, the rural female literacy is below the national average and gender gap in literacy is more than the national average. Among these blocks, schools may be set up in areas with concentration of tribal population, with low female literacy and / or a large number of girls out of school.
Jan Shikshan Sansthan (JSS) :
The Scheme of JSS or Institute of People’s Education is a polyvalent or multifaceted adult education programme aimed at improving the vocational skill and quality of life of the beneficiaries. The objective of the scheme is education, vocational and occupational development of the socio-economically backward and educationally disadvantaged groups of urban/rural population particularly neo-literates, semi-illiterates, SCs, STs, women and girls, slum dwellers, migrant workers, etc. Literacy campaigns have had an enormous impact on other social sectors. The campaigns have served the cause of promoting equity and social justice in society and fostering of a scientific temper and a sense of belonging to India’s great composite culture and consciousness of unity in diversity. Mid-Day Meal scheme : The Mid-Day Meal scheme is a successful incentive programme. It covers all students of primary classes in all government, local body and government aided schools in the country with the aim to improve enrolment, attendance and retention while simultaneously impacting on the nutritional status of the children. Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL) : The Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore has a scheme of development of Indian Languages through research, developing manpower and production of materials in modern Indian Languages including tribal languages. The Institute has worked in more than 90 tribal and border languages.
Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs) :
15 per cent and 7.5 per cent seats are reserved for SCs and STs respectively in fresh admissions. No tuition fee is charged from scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe students up to class XII.
Navodaya Vidyalayas (NVs) :
Reservation of seats in favour of children belonging to SCs and STs is provided in proportion to their population in the concerned district provided that no such reservation will be less than the national average of 22.5 per cent (15 per cent for SCs and 7.50 per cent for STs) and a maximum of 50 per cent for both the categories (SCs & STs) taken together. These reservations are interchangeable and over and above the students selected under open merit.
Scholarship Scheme for SC/ST candidates
Dr. Ambedkar National Scholarship Scheme for meritorious students, is implemnted by Dr. Ambedkar Foundation set up under the aegis of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in 1992 with a view to recognize, promote and assist meritorious students belonging to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe for enabling them to pursue higher studies. This is one time cash award and will be given to three students scoring highest marks in the regular class X level examination conducted by the Education Board/Council. This will be separate for SC and ST.
In case none of the first three eligible students are girls, the girl students scoring the highest mark will get a special award. As and when asked by the Ministry of Social Welfare and Justice, NIOS is supposed to send the names of eligible candidates for this scheme. Under the Scheme of strengthening of Boarding and Hostel Facilities for Girl Students of Secondary and Higher Secondary Schools cent percent financial assistance is given to Voluntary Organisations to improve enrolment of adolescent girls belonging to rural areas and weaker sections.
Preference is given to educationally backward districts particularly those predominately inhabited by SCs/STs and educationally backward minorities. Out of 43,000 scholarships at the secondary stage for talented children from rural areas 13,000 scholarships are awarded to SC/ST students subject to fulfillment of criteria laid down.