The rapidly growing education sector in our country has received stimulus from the active interests of the government as well as by the efforts of leading education players like Everonn and Educomp. With only days having passed since the historic movement by Anna Hazare, the focus on corruption in all aspects of Indian life remains strong. While you may be given to think that education sector is free from these webs, think again!
Everonn, a leading player in the education market, has come under the scanner as a result of its CEO being arrested on charges of purported bribery of about 50 lakhs. This incident closely follows the tax raid in the Educomp offices sometime back. Such issues automatically lead to a lot of uncomfortable questions being raised as how something as vital as education too remains under the shadow of such interests. It seems, no part of life, no matter how integral,is ridden from the greed from money and the resultant practices.
The industry pundits are divided in their opinion about the consequent effects in our educational sector. One group vehemently believes that revelations of corrupt practices make potential customers wary of trusting such companies with sincerity in a field, as vital as education. However, others are firm in their opinion that the arrest only highlights the lack of ethics of individuals but has not implications on the company.
However, for a layperson like you and I, there can only arise deep questions as to how such things can keep happening with those whom we consider as propagators of education! No doubt corruption has crept into the very roots that our society is modeled on!!
The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) had budgeted Rs 8 crore for procuring benches for schools in 2009. Two years on, students at most MCD schools continue to sit on the floor. An MCD school at Shahdara is one such school. Twenty years after it was built, kids are yet to sit on a bench.
In some cases, MCD has built porta cabins for students who earlier had to sit in tents. However, the cabins are so crammed that children feel suffocated. “We have 281 students in our school and only four porta cabins. Some students even have to sit outside the cabins,” said R P Pal, principal, Mustafabad MCD school. A group of such students recently sent 140 postcards to the chief justice of Delhi high court, highlighting their plight.
Justices Dipak Misra and Manmohan have converted these postcards into a public interest litigation and the case came up for hearing earlier this month. The court had summoned education committee director Prem Lata after photographs, depicting the dismal state of these schools, were submitted before it as evidence. Delhi HC counsel Ashok Aggarwal inspected three such schools along with MCD commissioner K S Mehra and both were shocked to find the sorry state of the schools. “Right now, almost 10 lakh children don’t go to schools and if tomorrow they turn up, there is no space for them. MCD officials keep themselves busy in making policies and plans for students that never take off. ,” said Aggarwal.
MCD is to provide 70,000 benches to its schools. But only 12,000 benches were bought in 2009. “These benches are inspected by the Shri Ram laboratory. It checks the durability of the wood used to make these benches and only after its green signal, we can purchase them. But the lab has put an objection,” said Mahindra Nagpal, the chairman of the education committee.
Only one question - what happened to the unspent money?
At a Brand New school: We visited a brand new school (on the Yamuna Expressway in NOIDA) with this being their first year of operation. This is one of those completely air-conditioned building schools. They liked our proposition, and asked us to put in a quote. The principal gave us an optimistic base number (of students) to calculate from, and we produced the quote in a day.
Their procurement officer (the chances of the person in this role to be not straight as an arrow is high) bargains and haggles with us. Also, to prove his point he does an open book and shows us the discounts that he currently gets from different publishers and NCERT. After our first quote, this gentleman asks us to use a simple mechanism to put in the quote, appreciates that we might not be able to do deep discounts and mentions that the base number that we were told needs to be halved. This came as a pleasant surprise, this openness and honesty. He also mentioned that he will now go ask for quotes from some of his usual vendors. That is not great for us, but is surely the right thing for him to do. Well done, Mr. Sharma!