Banishing Poverty & Illiteracy: Instant Solutions


Corruption, Hunger, Ignorance and Disease are the major problems that confront the Nation today. The foursome defies easy solution. Although poverty and illiteracy have come down percentage-wise the number of poor and illiterate people are going up primarily because of unchecked population growth. Low productivity, ignorance and superstitions are the other causes. It is time people in power realize the urgency to act now to solve the problems. Ready solutions do exist. 

Universal Education

Poverty and illiteracy are linked with each other. Mere literacy cannot remove the ignorance and superstition from the minds of the common people. Education up to the level of elementary school should be made Universal. Government initiatives have so far been insufficient and ineffective. To realize the goal, a new Gurukul scheme shifting the initiative to single-teacher schools in every street and hamlet needs to be implemented. The broad features are as follows:

  1. To achieve the goal of universal education all the children under 15 years of age will be enrolled compulsorily in a neighborhood government school. Classes at the primary level can be held outside the school compound entrusted to qualified persons such as educated women and retired teachers. This would ease the space problem in schools as also save much expenditure in infrastructure.

  2. A network of single teacher schools will be promoted by awarding incentives. There will be common syllabus based on the Gandhian concept of basic education. The government will hold a terminal examination with certificate of literacy, Primary School Leaving Certificate, issued to the successful students.

  3. Under the system, the government's responsibility will be limited to conducting public examinations twice a year and allocating funds towards incentives to teachers at the rate of at least Rs 2,000 each for every student who passes out the government examination. Every teacher will be assigned not more than 20 students at a time. They can conduct the classes at their homes or nearby community halls or even in the open. They may be permitted to charge a nominal fee to pay for assistance, equipments and other facilities.

  4. NGOs can be involved in this project to identify the eligible children and enroll them in schools and also recruit qualified teachers. Free food, books and notebooks can be distributed through the NGOs.

  5. Education from sixth standard onwards up to the Secondary school will be in regular classrooms. Free education, mid-day meal and books and notebooks will be provided by the State in Government schools. The syllabus will be common for both government and private schools. A public examination will be conducted at the end of the 10th standard and a certificate, Secondary School Leaving Certificate, will be issued for the successful candidates making them eligible for most of the government jobs or higher education.

  6. The medium of instruction will be mother tongue up to primary level, with English as additional subject. Hindi or one other Indian language will be optional. At secondary level the medium of instruction will be English for science subjects and the respective mother tongue for other subjects.

The new Gurukul scheme will cover all the children, including school dropouts and those engaged in child labor, making Universal Education possible in a very short time at relatively low cost. It will also open up thousands of job opportunities to the educated unemployed.

Linking of Rivers and National Waterways 

A 560,000-crore grandiose scheme to link the National Rivers has been finalized and is waiting for execution for years. Thirty segments have been identified but the project is yet to take off in any significant manner. Much confusion prevails over the question of how to go about it. Lack of coordinated approach is evident from the endless discussions and debates resulting in costly delays. Shortcut ways to execute the projects effectively and speedily must be found. The mega project should be brought under the National Waterways scheme as a multipurpose project.

Interlinking Godavari and Cauvery

To begin with, linking Godavari in Andhra Pradesh and Cauvery in Tamil Nadu, which is already under the National Waterways project, should be executed. A navigable canal had been in use as a waterway for over one hundred years before it fell into disuse in the Seventies. The 420 km long Buckingham canal extends from Peddaganjam in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh to Marakkanam near Pondicherry. It passes through the city of Chennai where it serves as a 31 km long storm water drain. It is mostly silted up now. 

The Ministry of Road Transport and Shipping has proposed to restore it as a navigable waterway and also extend it further up to Godavari. If it could be extended southwards up to the Cauvery delta region, a major part of interlinking of national rivers would have been completed. 

As a means of transportation, the waterway is a viable, revenue-yielding proposition that can be executed in a short time at relatively low cost. It will also generate huge employment opportunities, mostly to the unskilled rural labor force. The surplus water from Godavari and Krishna can be utilized to remove the salinity of the water in the canal since it links several backwater bodies along the seacoast. A moat-cum-dyke structure will separate these water bodies and the sea. 

Apart from raising groundwater levels in the coastal districts of Andhra and Tamil Nadu, the extensive Pulicat Lake near Chennai, through which the canal passes, will solve the drinking water problem of the city permanently. More importantly, the coastal canal will help reduce the impact of the invasion of the sea at the time of tsunamis and cyclones. It will also serve as a super drain whenever the city is inundated.

Linking of Rivers in Tamil Nadu 

Tamil Nadu Government has its own project for linking the rivers in the State. This again should be patterned after the navigable canal in the east coast. The rain shadow districts along the Western Ghats could benefit from this project if the link canal is constructed at the foot of the hills. Eventually, the canal could be extended northward to link the rivers flowing down from the mountains in Karnataka, Andhra and Maharashtra as part of the National Waterways network. 

Universal Education and Linking of rivers under the National Waterways offer instant solution to the problems of poverty, unemployment and low agricultural productivity. Funds have been allocated and viable schemes are drawn up. What is needed is collective political will of the rulers at the Centre and in the States.  


More by :  Swachid K. Rangan

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