Friday, July 09, 2010

HRD Minister reaches out to plan panel for model schools

Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Kapil Sibal is making last-ditch efforts to resolve differences between his ministry and the Planning Commission over a plan for public-private partnerships (PPP) in schooling that is struggling to take off three years after a prime ministerial announcement. HRD Minister Sibal has called a meeting on Friday of an expert panel for drafting a blueprint for PPP in schooling, to try and hammer out a consensus amid sharp differences.

The ministry has already drafted a note on the plan for the expenditure finance committee (EFC) but Gajendra Haldea, Advisor to Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Dr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, has raised objections, top sources have told Hindustan Times. "Unlike Kamal Nath, the HRD minister appears keen to avoid a confrontation with the Planning Commission and instead work towards consensus", a source said, referring to a comment on Monday by Roads and Transport Minister Nath that the plan panel was little more than an "armchair advisor".

The plan revolves around a proposal to start 2,500 model schools through the PPP mode, announced by the PM in 2007 Independence Day speech. These schools are planned as exemplars for other nearby schools to model themselves on. But the government is yet to finalise even a blueprint for the PPP model schools with just two years left of the 11th Five Year Plan the project was meant for.

"If we fail to arrive at a consensus soon, the HRD ministry will have to take a call - either to ramrod a proposal, or to postpone the project at least till the 12th Five Year Plan", a Planning Commission source said. A sub-group under Haldea had proposed a model for the PPP schools that is likely to cost over Rs. 150,000 crores (Rs. 1500 billion) over the next 18 years. This model was opposed by the ministry, which proposed an alternate model costing significantly less but also catering to fewer students.

Source: Hindustan Times, July 9, 2010

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