The government is nowhere near achieving its original target of building 452 Eklavya Model Residential Schools by 2022, and has thus extended the deadline to 2025, according to a parliamentary panel has said and expressed dismay over the slow pace of work.
In its report tabled in Lok Sabha, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment remarked that there is a substantial gap between the number of schools proposed to be sanctioned and the actual sanction.
It also stated that out of 288 schools sanctioned in 1997-98, prior to revamping of the scheme in 2018-19, only 244 schools could be made functional.
"...the original target, which aimed that 452 new Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRSs) including 12 Eklavya Model Day Boarding School (EMDBS) would be set up in the remaining 462 sub-districts by the year 2022 is nowhere near completion and the target year stands revised as 2025 now," according to the report.
"The committee is surprised to note that out of 452 schools proposed to be sanctioned as per the phasing plan between 2018-2019 to 2021-2022, only 350 schools could be sanctioned and the remaining 102 schools are remaining to be sanctioned as the location for these schools is yet to be finalised," it added.
The construction work of only 202 schools has been completed till date and the construction work of 20 schools is yet to begin. The construction work of 66 schools is targeted to be completed by October 2024, it said.
The committee observed that a minimum of 15 acres of land is required for establishing Eklavya Model Residential School (EMRS) in a sub-district having 50 per cent ST population and at least 20,000 tribal persons and a minimum of five acres of land is required for establishing Eklavya Model Day Boarding School (EMDBS) in a sub-district having 90 per cent ST population.
The panel said it is perturbed to note that despite a provision of relaxation on the minimum requirement of land in the Northeast, hilly areas and Left Wing Extremism-affected zones in the guidelines, several discrepancies such as land not found technically suitable, land falling under forest area, etc. appear and since the process of resolving the issues takes time, there is a delay in acquisition of land.
It also flagged the criteria of minimum area of 15 acres of land in a sub-district having 50 per cent ST population and at least 20,000 tribal persons for construction of EMRS, calling it "impractical" as a single piece of 15 acres of land may not be easily available in hilly areas.
Further, the criteria of 50 per cent ST population and at least 20,000 tribal persons for sanctioning of EMRS and 90 per cent ST population for sanctioning of EMDBS makes identification of land more cumbersome.
The committee hence feel that the guidelines with regard to area/population need to be revisited as together these stipulation make acquisition of land for setting up of EMRS/EMDBS quite complex, it said.
The panel said it is of the opinion that these should be immediately reviewed and viable solutions worked out so that the delay in acquisition of land can be prevented.
It recommended that such review should be undertaken without compromising upon the infrastructural requirements of EMRS/EMDBS.
The committee desired that such tribal areas with widely scattered tribal population must not be deprived of the benefits of EMRSs/EMDBS which are a means towards their educational empowerment.
The panel said it was surprised to note that three states -- Bihar, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal -- have still not signed MoU and are reluctant to shift to CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) and are insisting on continuation of state board curriculum in these schools, whereas the norms stipulate that all EMRSs are to be affiliated with CBSE in order to grant better sum per child studying in these schools.
"The committee would like the Ministry of Tribal Affairs to vigorously pursue with the states and give them a time period to sign MoU with NESTS so that the norms established including affiliation of schools with CBSE Board are applicable to them for smooth running of schools...," it said.
The committee said it is astonished to note that the ministry has not been able to identify location for establishing two Centre of Excellence (CoE) for sports with specialized state-of-the-art facilities for one identified individual sport and one group sport for which preliminary sanction has been issued out of the fifteen such centres proposed to be set up in tribal majority districts in each state and union territory and Rs 127 lakh sanctioned too.
The panel said it is perturbed to find that the discussion with the Sports Authority of India is still underway for collaboration under Khelo India Programme' and detailed standard procedure has not been devised to establish such centres.
The committee said it is "unable to understand the objective of releasing an advance amount of Rs 127 lakh for two CoEs sanctioned and to include financial provision in the Cabinet Note for continuation of the EMRSs during 2021-22 to 2025-26 when the ministry has not been able to locate places for establishing two CoEs."
It wondered how much time would be required to establish all 15 CoEs.
The committee would, therefore, like the ministry to take necessary action immediately to complete the modalities, according to the report.