Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Apr 8:
Contrary to its promise to provide free textbooks to all primary and upper primary (UP) schools in the state early in the academic session which started on April 1, the Odisha government has provided books to only 50 percent of the schools till date.
Pointing out that only five percent of schools in Puri, Khordha, Jagatsinghpur, Dhenkanal and Cuttack districts in the coastal region have received free textbooks so far, reliable sources said the possibility of the remaining schools receiving the textbooks before July-August is remote.
To ensure complete attendance of primary and upper primary students in the Odia medium schools, the state government has entrusted the Directorate of Text Book Production and Marketing, to supply free textbooks to these schools at the commencement of the academic session.
However, the Director, Text Book Production and Marketing, which has been supplying free textbooks to all primary and UP schools in the state since 2002-03, has proved grossly unequal to the task this year.
As per the rules, the Director, Text Book Production and Marketing, has to complete the printing of text books in three months ending March and distribute the books to the schools at the beginning of the academic session. But the agency has not been able to meet its obligation even a week into April.
Sources said that the situation has cropped up due to the gross apathy of the officials of the School and Mass Education Department and the non-cooperation of the employees of the Directorate of Text Book Production and Marketing.
It may be mentioned that the Directorate of Text Book Production and Marketing supplies about 2.80 crore text books to Odisha and five other states every year of which 50-60 lakh textbooks are printed at the Government Press. For the printing of the rest, the directorate has tied up with 120 private printing units and 220 binding firms.
Due to the delay in the decision by the State Level Procurement Committee (SLPC), the textbooks could not be printed in time.
The committee, which should have taken the decision for timely publication of textbooks by June-July this year, moved only in September due to the utter callousness of the concerned minister and secretary. Due to this delay, the specified quality of paper and covers for textbooks were not available in time which in turn delayed the binding process. As a result, the distribution of textbooks, scheduled in January-February, was delayed by a month.
Director, Text Book Production and Marketing, Hadibandhu Mirdha said despite the delay, efforts are on to supply the textbooks to all schools by the end of April.
Stating that the Directorate has no control over private printing units, he said the problem can be solved if the printing capacity of the directorate is increased.
A senior official said while the number of employees in the Directorate is on the decline, the volume of textbooks has gone up substantially.
“As against the total sanctioned strength of 662 regular employees, there are just 307 employees. Besides, there are 109 contractual workers who are not working sincerely as their job has not been regularised even after working here for 20-25 years. Under such circumstances, it is inly natural that no one is going out of the way to ensure timely publication of textbooks,” he added.