1951, West Bengal ranked 2nd with 24% literacy rate, while first place was secured by Kerala with 47.18% score. With course of time Kerala maintained its 1st position but West Bengal gradually slipped to 18th position in 2001 (Census-2001) with 68.64% literacy rate barely above national average of 64.83%. Decadal census of 2011 gave West Bengal 20th place with literacy rate of 77.08% (India Literacy rate 74.04%). West Bengal ranked 22nd in male literacy rate with 82.67% and 19th in women literacy rank with 71.16%.
In terms of Primary Education, West Bengal stood close to national average with 12th and 11th rank. But West Bengal falls in the category of bottom five and below national average, in secondary and higher secondary education. Despite, unfavorable and discouraging census numbers West Bengal Government appears to be aggressive on shutting down RSS affiliated schools, which could have promoted learning to large numbers of dispossessed students.
According to a report in Times of India, West Bengal government on Wednesday put on notice 125 schools, run by three private trusts perceived to be close to RSS affiliates, for “fanning religious intolerance“ and “deviating from the state mandated syllabus“. All of these schools are run by one of three trusts viz. Sarda Shishu Tirtha, Saraswati Shishu mandir and Vivekananda Vidya Vikas Parishad, affiliated to the Lucknow-headquartered Vidya Bharati Akhil Bharatiya Shiksha Sansthan.
The Episode started in March 2017, when CPM lawmakers accused RSS managed schools of imparting religious lessons and not following government curriculum prescribed by authorities. Subsequently, West Bengal Education Minister upon receiving the compliant, issued show cause notice to 125 schools in the state. Further, on April 10th, 2017, District inspector (DI) issued notice to close down schools in North Dinajpur (Census figures of 2001 put North Dinajpur last in terms of literacy in the state with 48.63% literacy. The census of 2011 again ranked it last with 66.65% literacy rate). Notice was issued on the grounds of lack of infrastructure, Library and Playground for closure of these schools.
As per the DISE report of 2013, construction of new schools in the state showed just 0.84% increment from 2006 against all India increment rate of 13.57%. Only 24.37% schools in West Bengal have both Computer and internet. Library facility is available to only 81.15% schools and Librarians are available in just 16.64% schools. Percentage of school with playground facility is 62.55% in West Bengal viz a viz 76.49% in rest of India.
Source: DISE report of 2013
The West Bengal government was left red-faced when Calcutta high court imposed an interim stay on the notice issued to Sarada Sishu Tirtha School, a RSS-run school in Karandighi, North Dinajpur asking it to close down. The district inspector of schools (DI) in his April 10 notice had asked the School in to close down forthwith and also charged a penalty of Rs 1 lakh from Sarda Seva Trust which ran the school.
Additional solicitor general Kaushik Chanda said: “The Act (Right to Education) never empowered a state to close down educational institutions. Instead, it directs the states to provide assistance to those education establishments, which need it”. He also ruled out the additional unsubstantiated ‘religious’ accusations.
West Bengal Education Minister issued a similar circular again, attempting closure of 125 schools and warning the rest. The same minister seems conveniently clueless on the question of the many Madrasas function in the state. He gaily dodged by stating “Madrasas are not under my jurisdiction”.
Madrasas are not under my jurisdiction. Some have also been taken into examination for recognition. I do not know the exact position. School will run according to the syllabus. They should not follow any kind of religion: Partha Chatterjee, West Bengal Minister. pic.twitter.com/5TwGUyNUqa
— ANI (@ANI) February 21, 2018
RSS is on a rise in West Bengal. And considering their sheer numbers and organizational discipline, Mamata government cannot afford to let them grow. The knee-jerk reaction of banning RSS affiliated schools is nothing but an assertion of the fact that Mamata Banerjee has read the writing on the wall. “Wind is Changing Directions” in West Bengal.