Irregularities alleged in ITDA schools
VISAKHAPATNAM: At GTW Ashram School for tribal children in Dumbriguda mandal in the Agency area of Visakhapatnam district, the total enrolment of students stands at 210. But a physical check reveals that only about 120-130 are present on any given day.
The same is the case in schools run by the District Education Office (DEO), where physical attendance in four of the six schools visited by The Hindu was less than 10 per cent. But food and other supplies such as cosmetics and uniforms provided by the government are requisitioned for the total strength.
These are just a few of the cases where the student roll is stuffed with fictitious entries and funds provided by government agencies leak through the loopholes.
In the picturesque Agency areas of Visakhapatnam district, over 120 schools are run by the Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA), and around 1,840 schools are run by the DEO. Put together, they cater to about 1.04 lakh students in the tribal areas -on paper.
While schools run by ITDA are residential, those run by DEO are day schools where mid-day meals are provided.
In ITDA schools, the government coughs up Rs. 27 per student. In the day schools, mid-day meals are provided at a cost of Rs. 4.60 per student.
Official sources say the irregularities are committed in two ways: first by creating fictitious entries in the rolls and secondly by inflating the attendance. If one ITDA school inflates its attendance by 100 students, the money leaked would stand at Rs. 2,700 per day, Rs. 81,000 per month, and Rs. 9.7 lakh per year.
The money always does not come in the form of cash. Many items such as rice, dal and oils are provided by the Girijan Cooperative Corporation and only purchases of vegetables and other items are made by cash at the school level.
In some of the schools, eggs, which are part of the mid-day meal, are not served. “The eggs come but are sold in the open market by some of the people in the management,” said a teacher in Paderu.
“Inflated attendance is used to justify inflated inventories, and the surplus is sold in the open market. The irregularities are committed mostly by headmasters and wardens in connivance with some officers in the ITDA and DEO. This is a well-oiled chain. It is worse in the DEOrun schools,” said a teacher from Chintapalli, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Last year, the total budget sanctioned for ITDA schools was about Rs. 54 crore. This year it is around Rs. 66 crore. In the case of DEO schools, the total diet charges till date have already exceeded Rs. 20 crore.
It is estimated that about 10-15 per cent of the funds are lost through inflated rolls or attendance.
According to ITDA Project Officer Hari Narayanan, attendance rigging has been happening for a long time. “We are trying our best to plug it. Aadhaar seeding for the student rolls is one solution we have tried and we have been able to plug the irregularities to a great extent,” he said. Post Aadhaar seeding, the enrolment rate has dropped. In 2013-14, the enrolment figure in ITDA schools was 42,607; in 2014-15 it dropped to 40,616. This year, it has fallen to 36,217, according to Mr. Hari Narayanan.