Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Dec 30:
The Odisha Soochna Adhikar Abhiyan (RTI mission) today alleged that the School & Mass Education department of Odisha has closed the State Institute of Educational Technology (SIET), which was set up to usher in an era of education via satellite communication, to camouflage its own shortcomings.
It may be noted that SIET was started to impart educational programmes via Doordarshan and All India Radio to the students in various languages. SIET, Odisha is one of only six such centres in India, which has got the state many accolades over the years.
Funded exclusively by the Central Government, the SIET was converted into an autonomous body in 1990 and subsequently the employees of SIET were considered as State Government employees. While the State Government made provisions of funds for the running of SIET, the Central Government in 2002 asked the Odisha government to take care of the salary of the employees as well.
After 2003, the state government suggested downsizing of SIET citing “factions and protests by the employees” and proactively encouraged it renedering the institution defunct. However, Odisha Assembly came to its rescue in March 2011 and directed the Odisha government to take necessary steps for revival of the defunct institution.
In March 2012, the State Government passed a resolution to absorb the deputed staff and gave an option to 48 of the 51 staff to revert back to the State Government. Almost a year after, in April this year, the Government issued another notice stating, “Pursuant to closure of SIET, 22 employees will be disengaged with effect from April 29, 2013”. The disgruntled employees had moved to the High Court following this order and the Odisha High Court in May 2013 have restrained the State Government from closing down SIET.
As per the RTI activists, the central government came up with an ICT at School scheme later, which had enough funding potential. As per the reply received to an RTI query, ICT at School needs to be implemented through SIET in the states wherever applicable.
However, the Odisha government closed the SIET and diverted Rs 44 crores of central aid and Rs 8 crores of state aid in order to loot the money and take it off audit route. A contract was awarded to a Odisha Knowledge Corporation Limited (OKCL), im which a little known Maharashtra based company MKCL holds 30% share, Odisha government 30%, private universities 10% and individuals the rest 30%.
The RTI activists and people of Odisha in general continue to wonder, whose interest the government was protecting by passing on the aid to OKCL. Also, questions like what action the state government took to manage the faction and protests by the employees and could the government not absorb 21 more employees when it was able to pay for the rest invite further investigation.