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S & ME resorts to lies to justify closure of SIET

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Reported by Chinmaya Dehury

Bhubaneswar, Dec 19:

SIET

In its unseemly hurry to close down the State Institute of Educational Technology (SIET), Bhubaneswar, one of only six such institutions in the country set up by the Central government to promote the use of technology in school education, the School and Mass Education department has resorted to obfuscation and downright lies.
Citing a Government of India letter dated July 18, 2012, the department had ordered the closure of this premier institution vide an order issued on April 27 this year. But it has now come to light that the letter that it had cited to justify the closure was not a ‘Government of India letter’ at all!

Information obtained by activist Pradipta Pradhan makes it clear that the July 18, 2012 was written by the Central Institute of Educational Technology (CIET), which coordinates among the SIETs set up across the country, and not the ‘Government of India’ as mentioned in the order of the School and Mass Education department.

“The Government of India, in its letter no 5029/ENCL dtd 18 July 2012, have intimated that the SIET is closed and has asked to hand over the equipment to CIET officials. Due to cessation of central assistance and unwillingness of SIET staffs engaged in the organisation to generate revenue to run SIET in a self sustaining mode, the government has decided to close the SIET from the date of issue of the order,” said the order of School and Mass Education secretary issued on 27 April 2013.

But the facts that have emerged since then suggest that even the CIET letter had said nothing about the closure of SIET, Bhubaneswar. In reply to a query by RTI activist Pradhan, the CIET has made it clear that it had neither sent nor received any information regarding the closure of the Bhubaneswar centre of SIET. It said that the letter (No 5029/ENCL) only pertained to return of equipment belonging to EDUSAT.

Even the Union Human Resources Department (HRD) has nailed the state government’s blatant lie. “So far, no letter has been written to SIET, Odisha for cessation of Central assistance. Under ICT School Scheme, funds on project mode are released to SIETs across the Country, which includes SIET-Odisha. However, SIET Odisha has not come with the annual plan seeking funding since 2007-08,” the department said in response to another RTI application.

The S & Me department is hell bent on closing down SIET, Bhubaneswar, for reasons only known to itself, despite a stay on the closure notice granted by the Odisha High Court. Acting on a writ petition filed by 11 SIET employees, a bench of Justices MM Das and BK Mishra issued the stay order on May 15 this year. “If the state is proposing to close down SIET, such order of closing down shall not be implemented without leave of this court,” the order said.

When OST sought to get a version from the School & Mass Education department on the issue, officials of the department declined to comment saying the matter was ‘sub judice’, the standard ploy of officialdom to stonewall uncomfortable queries.

Eminent educationist and former Director of SIET, Bhubaneswar Rajat Kar is of the opinion that the state government, instead of pressing for the closure of the institution, should do everything within its power to stop the closure.

“The Central government has approved the organization and provided funds under the planned scheme for a certain period. After that, the state government was supposed to bear the salary expenses of the employees from its non-planned schemes with the Central government providing technical and production support. It may place financial burden on the state government. But that should not be a reason to close the organisation,” Kar told OST. The government should engage a knowledgeable person to look after the organization for its better management, he said.

The institute was established in 1986 and ran as an autonomous body under the School and Mass Education department, receiving financial aid from the Centre. Besides creating teaching aids for adult literacy, SIET played a stellar role in programmes under EDUSAT – the HRD ministry’s satellite-based education broadcast programme – and use of information and communication technology (ICT) in school education till the early 1990s.