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The HRD ministry officials have been visiting schools for the last three weeks and are targeting remote districts. Photo: Mint
The HRD ministry officials have been visiting schools for the last three weeks and are targeting remote districts. Photo: Mint

Govt inspecting schools, railway stations for status report on central schemes

It is being described as a reality-check scheme involving the ministries of human resource development (HRD) and railways

Senior civil servants are being sent out to inspect schools and all 8,000 railway stations in the country and report back on the progress of centrally sponsored programmes, in tandem with the first anniversary of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.

It is being described as a reality-check scheme involving the ministries of human resource development (HRD) and railways.

But the two ministries believe the mid-summer scheme will also drive officers out of their comfort zone and give them a feel of the “real India".

While HRD ministry officers—at the level of deputy secretaries and directors—have nearly completed their work, the railways, which is despatching its board members, zonal railway heads, and diligence officials, is starting out next week.

All officials are expected to file independent reports, including SWOT analyses (strength, weakness, opportunity and threat).

The HRD ministry is focusing on schools, while the railway officials are heading for stations, not only because they are the basic touchpoints of the ministry’s services, but also because these busy gateways are useful for gathering the common man’s views on the Union government, said at least three government officials.

“Sending officials to schools across India has three benefits: monitoring, awakening states and getting a good feedback," said an HRD ministry official who requested anonymity.

The official said that three key central schemes—Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Mid Day Meal and Swachh Bharat—have their roots in schools, and top authorities feel that a grounds-up report by its own officials will be of great help.

The HRD ministry officials have been visiting schools for the last three weeks and are targeting remote districts, a second official said.

Other than compiling reports, all officials have been directed to fill a form detailing the facilities in each of the schools and collect the contact details of school headmasters for any follow-up.

“What we realized is that work has been done on the ground and there is incremental growth. But is it ideal? No. Delhi is really far from where we went (districts far from the state capitals) in terms of desire and the current outcome," said the second official.

Similarly, the railway minister Suresh Prabhu has called for a 15-day programme starting 26 May—the first anniversary of the NDA government—to underline the seriousness of implementing initiatives.

Senior railway officials will travel to 8,000 railway stations in the country to assess the ground situation and engage with customers.

“It is a massive drive for communicating with the passengers and customers to understand what improvements have been made on the ground and get feedback," said a railway official, requesting anonymity. “We are trying to have every railway station covered by at least one of these officials and will try to take stock of all the 8,000 railway stations," the official said.

The visiting teams have been given 50 check-points on the basis of which they will evaluate the ground situation, including services offered.

“The officials will be required to assess the station facilities, cleanliness, safety provisions, inaugurate completed projects, if pending, and organize health camps, among other things," said the official.

All railway zones have been asked to file reports of each of these visits to the ministry of railways, which will then evaluate them and take action.

“Successive governments have great ideas but lack implementation. So, you have to change the mindset and learn from the corporate sector. If you are a railway officer and don't travel in trains, how will you implement the schemes correctly? Going to the ground and getting first-hand information is the beginning of that change in mindset, and it shall lead to several benefits," said S.L. Rao, former director general of the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER).

The NDA has identified railways as a focus area. It more than doubled the plan size for the railway ministry at over 1 trillion for the fiscal year started 1 April and laid out a five-year investment plan of 8.5 trillion, in a bid to revitalize the national transporter.

Railway minister Prabhu has repeatedly spoken of the need for capacity augmentation, better services like faster, convenient ticketing, cleaner stations and toilets and technological upgrades.

prashant.n@livemint.com

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