Having served his last day in office as RTE’s national coordinator on March 31, the day the deadline for implementing various RTE norms got over, Dhir Jhingran talks about what’s working, and what’s not, at the national commission for protection of child rights
April 03 2013|
An IAS of 1986-batch Assam cadre, Jhingran resigned from the post within just six months of appointment. Significantly, his last day in office, March 31, was the deadline for implementation of various norms under the act.
Also significant is the fact that Jhingran is the second national coordinator of the RTE division to leave work midway through his term. Exactly a year before, Kiran Bhatty, the consultant who established the division in 2010, put in her papers along with five members on March 31, 2012.
Though Bhatty refused to get into details, she said it was important to have specific roles and duties for a department to work efficiently (read an earlier interview with Bhatty here).
In an interview with Jasleen Kaur, Jhingran now explains the reason behind his premature resignation from the RTE division of NCPCR, and the problems with the enforcement of RTE act.
Excerpts from the interview:
What forced you to quit?
I don’t think there is enough commitment on part of NCPCR as an organisation to be an effective agency to monitor RTE. It’s not about the chairperson — she is very committed — but as an organisation, it is not committed to RTE.
I think the problem lies somewhere in the fact that NCPCR is strongly controlled by the women and child development (WCD) ministry. (In fact) it is seen as a WCD subordinate office, whereas the RTE division is funded by the HRD ministry. Besides, though NCPCR is mandated to be an autonomous body, that mandate is not backed up by funds or strong commitment of the organisation.
Some members are (also) very critical of the RTE and raise issues about earlier problems in the division. I somehow feel they (these members) do not want the RTE to be effective.
But the situation really worsened after the new member-secretary, Ashish Srivastav, joined. I feel he is not convinced that NCPCR should be working for RTE. We had a meeting with the MHRD and we came to know that he is also talking to the ministry whether there is a need for the NCPCR to monitor the implementation of the act.
What really went wrong?
We took several new initiatives in the six months I spent there. But the last two months were only about taking unnecessary permissions, clearances, funds and so forth from the commission.
There have been cases where it was very difficult to get permission even after several rounds of discussions and file movements. So it was not really a great environment to work. Having worked in the government for 26 years I am least interested in doing these clerical things.
What are the problems you faced while working in the division?
I am a trained official and I understand rules of the government. So when I am finding problems, it means there are huge issues involved. There is a problem of intent in not allowing things to work. I came here to work but it’s sad to be leaving so early.
One can fight on principles or policies but not on such basic issues. It’s a very harassing way of working. I would definitely blame the member-secretary, apart from the contradictions within the commission. I think the member-secretary has failed to provide the support that was required (of him). I understand there are problems between the WCD minister and the chairperson; (that) they somehow do not see eye to eye.
I have worked here very independently in the six months and the chairperson, in fact, insulated me from a lot of interference that may have come from the WCD ministry. She played a very positive role but how much can she alone do? It’s not worth (the effort) if the organisation is not committed to it. The NCPCR should see it as a great opportunity for its role in RTE but you need a strong organisation to take up things.
Do you think forming an independent body to monitor RTE could help?
NCPCR and state commissions are supposed to be autonomous bodies but the problem is, we are not serious about our institutions. What’s the logic of creating an alternative body when you have got these institutions which are statutory provided for. They are under the acts of parliament.
But we create institutions and do not invest in them and weaken them for purpose. In many states, the SCPCRs (state commission for protection of child rights) are given such a low status and salary that they cannot actually be effective in monitoring. So the answer is not the new institution but to recognise that such institutions should work autonomously in real sense.
One of the things that can be done is to provide funding that is not tied to any ministry. For example, if we are monitoring MHRD, I should not get funds from MHRD; I should get it from elsewhere — like the planning commission or somewhere. Right now, MHRD approves the work plan and we are supposed to monitor that, which is a little complex situation. The other thing, specifically for the RTE division, is that I feel it should be headed by someone from the government.
Most people working here are consultants; I was also employed as a consultant. But it cannot work (that way). It’s a structural arrangement that is bound to fail. Someone from the government should head it. We are all within NCPCR but to be at the mercy of a person in the administration, who one fine day decides that nothing should be approved, is ridiculous.
As an institution, NCPCR has never taken full responsibility of RTE. Some members keep opposing RTE. These are all dynamics about who is aligned with WCD ministry and who is against the chairperson, or for her. But that should not affect the functioning of the division which has to monitor RTE. I could not travel much in the last two months because it was all about signing files and notes, which was not my job.
Last year, when the RTE act completed two years, there was no one heading the division. And now, when it is completing the third year, there would be no one heading the division…
It’s a bad situation. It’s unfortunate that I have to leave so soon. But one good thing is that the member who is now put in charge of the RTE is very serious about the work. Hopefully she would take more responsibility of what the national coordinator was doing till they get someone. And the commission should give complete support for RTE, and not any individual.
Do you think the HRD ministry should play a more serious role in implementing and monitoring the RTE act?
The HRD ministry does monitoring of its own also. There are lots of reports that MHRD collects from the state government. But, yes, they have to be very specific about what has happened, what needs to be done and (should) regularly issue clear instructions to the states… so that the NCPCR can monitor those deadlines.