Literate population is Paramount for India’s Growth!!

Today India celebrates a whole year free of any new cases of polio, a crippling disease which had ruined life of many young children earlier. Two years ago, India recorded more polio cases than any other country in the world. The last new polio case in India was reported Jan 13, 2011, involving a two-year-old girl in West Bengal. In 2010, there were 42 cases, as compared to 741 in 2009, which accounted for nearly half of the world’s polio cases. In 1991, there were 6,028 cases and in 1985 the number stood at 150,000.

National Immunization Days – which occur twice a year – helped protect over 170 million children under five years old across the country with oral vaccines. To reach people on the move, mobile vaccination teams immunised children at railway stations, inside running trains, at bus stands and market places.

“Stopping polio in India required creativity, perseverance and professionalism. The lessons from India must now be adapted and implemented through emergency actions to finish polio everywhere,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said in a statement.

Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “We are excited and hopeful, at the same time vigilant and alert.

“For one whole year for the first time since I took over the brand Ambassador of Polio UNICEF campaign, we have zero cases in India. Feel proud and delighted that finally our efforts have been successful.” said Amitabh Bachchan

All the people from celebrities, common people to organizations like UNICEF, WHO and DFID deserve many thanks for their indefatigable efforts in eradicating polio from India.

One of the largest barricades has now been eradicated from its roots, but the major point of concern in India still remains the same that’s complacency which we often see in the system. Hence the health of people is above everything else but now when we have overcome it successfully it has become all the more important to retain this position eternally.

This is one point where I believe everyone would agree with our hawkish government, it’s not only about Polio but all other afflictions eating out our country.

While writing this blog I was pondering on the quality of life of people in the rural or semi-urban areas, can it really be improved up to sustainable level if yes then how. But as they say when the student is ready the master appears, I believe every Indian would have come across this anti-polio regime at least once in a life time, if it can be implemented successfully on 1.2 bn people then surely we can free people from other crippling diseases too. The dire needs of the people but of course are food, shelter and clothes but there are other necessities too which are equally important to survive. And education is one of those most coveted desires of the populace in India after aforementioned top 3 desires. Because the growth is not from the top it is at the bottom where maximum people utilize maximum production of the country. On the whole it is more about strengthening the bottom than making most from it. As righty said by late Dr.C.K Prahlad that, “If you build market for rich the poor might not participate but if you build market for poor the rich will surely participate.” Yes of course because a large chunk of population resides at the bottom of the pyramid.

Today we are a country of 1.22 billion people, the world’s 2nd most populated country which represents almost 17.31% of the world’s population, which means one out of six people on this planet lives in India. But the moot point here is illiteracy which makes India a country with largest number of illiterate people in the whole world. The literacy rate of India as per 2001 Population Census is 65.38%, with male literacy rate at 75.96% and female at 54.28% which is insufficient for future growth. It is a long-standing problem which belittle India from its competitors, today China is world’s most populated country but it also has large pool of literate people which makes it all the more superior than Indians. Every problem has a solution, if we can overcome perennial problems like Polio then educating people is not that big problem. Today more than 50% of India’s current population is below the age of 25 and over 65% below the age of 35. This young and vibrant populace is one of its most competitive advantages which can surely be a blessing in disguise, which is not that difficult, as a matter of fact it is quite easy.


There used to be times when people were oblivious of latest products and services and mostly had to depend on insufficient information for long but today the awareness is not a problem in India but availability is, today people are inundated with scores of information through commercials and promotions every now and then. And it is not that difficult to reach maximum people with definiteness of purpose, that is to educate them. For instance today India has 800 mn mobile connections, while the country has only 300 mn bank account holders. The situation is grimmer from the public point of view, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers only 5 percent of India’s 6 lakh villages have commercial bank branch and only 13 percent of farm households avail bank loans. The rural wireless subscribers increased by 71 percent last year and rural tele-density stands at around 280 mn subscribers (as of March 31, 2011). In this context mobile can be a blessing in disguise and in increasing the reach of education and other services to the masses residing in rural and semi-urban areas. Increase in number of mobile phone users clearly shows that there is a huge potential untapped in such areas which can be achieved with the proper planning and execution. Therefore in coming times a person has to be literate to make the maximum usage of contemporary products and services. Today virtually everything is available via internet, even if you do not carry credit card you have the option to pay in cash on delivery, things were never that simple as they are today.

Today in India maximum population is engaged in farming activities where education plays a very little role which it shoudn’t, hence it is mostly in the rural areas where the large chunk of population live. The biggest source of our poverty is almost 58% of our (virtually illiterate) population working on farms that produce 15 percent of our GDP. On the other hand our dismal agricultural productivity wherein 75 million Indians produce 110 mn. tones of milk while 100,000 Americans produc 70 mn. tones of milk. Many of our farmers are subsistence farmers where there is no scope of education for them, consequently, being devoid of proper education and means of production they have to accept the hand to mouth living. By contrast, conditions are relatively different in other developed and developing countries. In 1900, 41 percent of Americans worked on farms, today there are less than 2 %. China has moved 400 mn people into non-farm jobs since Mao died and have a large pool of skilled labor as compare to its traditional competitor India.

Erecting schools and colleges under various acts is not the ultimate solution: what really matters with education is not making policies for educating the underprivileged but individual access to education. In other words Access to education can be more fruitful than merely access to school where there is no one to take the responsibility. And it is now well known fact how defunct education system is being run in the country of 1.2 bn people. Among those 1.3 million government-run schools very few are producing quality students which have been repeatedly exemplified by the surveys and researches. In the latest one India came 72 of 73 nations in the programme for international student assessment (PISA) competition, despite fielding from its known states, Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The depressing quality of Indian education is confirmed by annual status of education report (ASER). Investment in Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Right to Education act has produced no quality gains at all. Abhiyan spending is up from Rs.7,166 crore in 2005-06 to rs.21,000 crore last year. Still half the class V children cannot read class II texts, and 40% of class V children cannot solve a two-digit subtraction. This represents unexpected outcomes especially in government schools in the Hindi belt. In 13000 schools visited by surveyors, student absenteeism was 505 and teacher absenteeism 45%. That is what the survey has shown and figures like this have been headlines of most read news papers across the country.

1.3 million Government schools, like they are being run, are not suffice to educate whole of India, a country where majority of population lives in the rural or semi-urban areas. What country needs are neither skyscrapers nor acres of land to enhance its education system if that was the case then condition would not have been that abysmal. Today we have about 530 universities, nearly 26,000 colleges and 16-plus million students in the system. The gross enrolment rate is reportedly at around 17% in the age group of 18-24. We have over 3,500 engineering colleges, with over 1.5 million seats and over 3 million students in the engineering colleges and over 300,000 students in the business management colleges.


With rising populace we need more schools and colleges to cater the need of one of the most populated countries but the problem is that until the government works hand in glove with the private institutions the situation will keep debilitating. Often have we heard of Industry leaders accusing the quality of education in Indian institutions time and again. Out of many one statement is worth mentioning when our most reputed business person Mr.Narayan Murthy said, in October last year, that quality of engineering students in Indian is deteriorating gradually.

A recent study in Uttar Pradesh showed that if, somehow, all civil service teachers could be replaced with contract teachers (private sector), the state could save a billion dollars a year in revenue and double student learning. On the other hand our HRD minister Mr.Kapil Sibal says that revamping the education system which is definitely a lengthy process.

This deteriorating condition can be handled by making industry, academia and government work in partnership to make strong education system, principally the overseeing of government institutions like AICTE, UGC etc. and other government universities which reluctantly claim to be self-sufficient. In all such systems under-staffing and inferior quality of personnel is all pervasive.

On the contrary if we talk about quality issues we have several entrepreneurs who have been making a significant contribution to the education in India. People such as Shiv Nadar – founder and chairman of HCL, Indian industrialist and philanthropist who has since mid-1990s focused his efforts in developing the educational system of India through the Shiv Nadar Foundation for which he has established schools and colleges in India and now claims to have entire school on tablet in just 5 years. Azim prem ji, the chairman of Wipro Limited and Indian business tycoon & philanthropist , who is the 36th richest person in the world he has made significant contribution in the education sector through his non-profit Azim Premji Foundation founded in 2001. A specific focus is on working in rural areas where the majority of these schools exist. In December 2010, Premji pledged to donate $2 billion for improving school education in India. This donation is the largest of its kind by any Indian billionaire.

Apart from this there are many entrepreneurs who have made significant contribution in strengthening education institutions in India and abroad like Ratan Tata, who donated $50 mn to Harvard Business School which is the largest international donation ever. Mahindra group vice-chairman Anand Mahindra donated S10 mn to HBS. Earlier in 2010, Narayan Murthy made contribution of $5.2 mn to Harvard University. The very same year, Vineet Nayyar, from Tech Mahindra, donated Rs.30 crore to Essel Social Welfare Foundation, a delhi based charitable foundation. Similarly there are many contributions have been made to educational institutions all over the world to produce more quality students.

Indian entrepreneurs are quite significant in promoting education but the government of India. The question is about more autonomy which is lacking in the Indian education system, government by not limiting everything by itself can contribute to the education sector in India. But paradoxically in order to do more, the government of India has to do less. The major problem is that the government is incessantly promising to do all the things by itself – overpowering their complacent personnel – and unable to deliver the required results. If it’s incapable to implement all its promises then it’s prudent to give the reigns in the private sector for its smooth and better functioning.

But the irony of government spending in education is that they attempt to only access to schooling not to education. What is going inside the class is more important than simply erecting a building followed by rules and thereafter leaving everything on complacent people.

The skill shortage is caused by variation between the capability of educational institutions and Industry. India will have a GDP or close to S2 trillion by March 2012, our economy which is growing at 8-10 percent but the academia is still based on a growth rate of 3-5 percent. There is a huge scope of improvement and enhancement only if the private sector is empowered to do so, things can drastically change with the cooperation of Government, Industry leaders and Academicians.

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