Friday, October 30, 2009
Speech of Chief Minister Chamling, during the Seminar on ‘Right to Education’ at Chintan Bhawan, Gangtok
His Excellency Shri Hamid Ansari sahib, Hon’ble Vice President of India, respected Madam Ansari ji, His Excellency Governor of Sikkim, respected Shri BP Singhji, respected Madam Singhji, His Lordship Hon’ble Justice A.H. Saikia, Chief Justice High Court of Sikkim, His Lordship Hon’ble Justice A.P. Subba, His Lordship Hon’ble Justice S.P. Wangdi, Hon’ble Members of the Judiciary and the Sikkim State Legal Services Authority, Members of the Bar Association of Sikkim, Chief Secretary, Government of Sikkim, distinguished guests, officials, ladies and gentlemen
Today I feel highly privileged to participate in the inaugural function of the Seminar on ‘Right to Education’ with special reference to Sikkim for important reasons. Firstly, this function has provided us with this rare opportunity to welcome His Excellency the Vice President of the Country to Sikkim . His Excellency himself being the storehouse of knowledge and mature wisdom has blessed us with his benign presence for sharing his rich knowledge to further our cause. Secondly is the criticality of the theme chosen for this Seminar which has remained closest to our hearts engaging the best of our time, energy and means to achieve optimum results in the education sector in the context of quality, access and affordability.
Therefore, on behalf of the State Government, I would like to thank the Hon’ble High Court and His Lorship the Chief Justice in particular for holding this Seminar in the State in the august presence of legal luminaries, educationists, writers and social thinkers who are closely involved to make insightful inputs for the sacred task of educating our children and the people in the State.
From day one, we have taken education on topmost agenda of our priorities by making it free upto the college level with additional incentives to make it widely accessible and highly affordable for all sections of population. Some of our statistics vis-à-vis the past would make a unique revelation. For example, the literacy rate which was just 56 percent in 1994 today stands at 82 percent. Every village now has a school within walking distance. The annual budgetary support to education has reached an impressive 20 percent this year. The teacher-student ratio of 1:16 is one of the best available in the Country. The number of school going girl children is slightly higher than the boys with very positive outcome in terms of increased enrolment in schools and far more improvement seen in school retention.
At the elementary level upto Class V and in some cases upto Class VIII in far-flung villages, we have made provision for distribution of free school uniform, text books, exercise books, school bag, school shoes/socks and rain coat free of cost.
In addition, we have also introduced host of scholarship for our children including the Small Family Scheme and Prerna Yojana for our girl children with attractive incentive that aims to delay marriage among our daughters and instead help continue their academic pursuit.
We are also trying to re-orient our general policy to further enhance the quality of education. This we are aiming to achieve through multi-pronged strategies including regular teacher training programs, reorientation programs and grant of scholarship for overseas courses. The idea is to impart sound education to children with attention to bring down wastage to zero level.
And more recently, the Country has enacted The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2008. All children between the ages of 6 and 14 years shall have the right to free and compulsory elementary education in a neighbourhood school. This Act is a historic step and unique in many ways. This bold shift in policy now enjoins a legal binding upon the Government to make necessary arrangements for providing elementary education to each and every child of the country. The education has to be free for the child and to provide it has become compulsory for the government.
We have initiated some very innovative scholarship programs including Special Interest free loans to students pursuing higher studies and the Chief Minister’s Free Scholarship for overseas courses in 20 best Universities of the world.
Through our own limited resources and in our own humble way, we have taken initiatives to make quality education widely accessible and affordable in the State. In the process, we have been able to smooth out disparities to a large extent resulting from uneven household income and lack of other relative opportunities caused by historically demonstrated social condition across the State.
In any case, issue of reforms in sector like education is a continuous process which must be thought over and over again, discussed and debated always and everywhere. Sikkim recently was adjudged as the Best State in Primary Education among the smaller states category by the India Today Group. We received the recognition in all humility. But our development process would continue to be pursued with all vigour and vitality. We must and will live up to the expectation of the people and will leave no stone unturned to make more effort in this direction to provide elementary education to all and every child in the State as a matter of entitlements and right.
I thank His Excellency, the Vice President of India, for being with us today. I am thankful to His Excellency, the Governor of Sikkim for his presence today with us. I once again thank the Hon’ble High Court of Sikkim for this excellent meeting organized in the State.