The International day for eradication of extereme poverty is observed every year on the 17th of October by the United Nations. The twin themes for discussion at the commemoration every year are extreme poverty and inclusion besides contextual issues. It is no coincidence that we the people and civil society in this part of the world Kashmir have been struggling with both, extreme poverty and inclusive rehabilitation in the wake of the recent floods in the valley, as the commemoration was being held at UN this year. Extreme poverty and social inclusion are unfortunately typical characteristics of all developing societies. Both are both, rooted in and translate to a general lack of quality employable education and inefficient institutions.
The declared goal of Government of India in the UNICEF Programme of Cooperation, 2013-2017 is "to advance the rights of children, adolescents and women to survival growth, development, participation and protection by reducing inequities based on caste, ethnicity, gender, poverty, region or religion". This requires the central government to 'provide technical support to the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, especially the education department in finalizing, disseminating and implementing the state Right to Education (RTE)
Act', Development of a Vision Document for School Education, Capacity Building Teacher Education, Out of School Children, Early Childhood Education etc, and support mapping and 'identification of civil society organizations in the state with whom UNICEF can partner in Education, particularly in creating RTE compliant schools and a Protective Learning Environment'.This set of initiatives at the school education level, can however serve only as a starting point for fostering a general environemnt condusive to technical, professional and vocational training and development of the human capacity in catering to the twin goals of capacity building and poverty reduction. Tourism, for instance, is one sector in the state, where both the scope and need for skill impartation and capacity building is immense. Not surprisingly, with reference to the established indices of development, namely literacy, teacher student ratio, drop out rates and absorption patterns of teh educted, J&K fares poorly as is among one of the states considered educationally backward. Needless to say, literacy correlates positively with poverty eradication and better performance in terms of human development indicators. Wherever efforts have been made to attain better literacy rates, fro example among the SC/ST population or for the girl child, higher life expectancy, better work-force participation and higher standards of living have resulted.Notably, as the suceesful culmination of a long battle faught hard by various civil society groups, the 86th Amendment enacted in December 2002 made elementary education a fundamental right for all children in the age group of 6-14 years.
The amendment also makes elementary education free and compulsory in this age group (Article 21 A) of the Literacy rate in Jammu and Kashmir has seen upward trend and is 67.16 percent as per 2011 population census.with average female literacy rates nearly half of the male literacy rates at 49.12% and 76.75% respectively Of that, male literacy stands at 76.75 percent while female literacy is at 49.12 percent. In 2001, literacy rate in Jammu and Kashmir stood at 55.52 percent of which male and female were 66.60 percent and 42.22 percent literate respectively. (Source www census2011.co.in/state/jammu+and+kashmir)
No wonder, availability of schools at the primary level is sparse and vaocational training centres at the post-middel school level fewer still. The efficiency issues with existing institutions are immense and corrruption and misutilization of public funds is rampant.As emphasised in a recent seminar on Jammu and Kashmir Right to information act 2009 and Jammu and Kashmir Public Service Guarantee Act 2011, held at Pahalgam here last week, organised by Himalyan Welfare Organization and Kashmir News Service; ensuring institutional efficiency is crucial in meeting the twin developmental challenges of poverty and illiteracy. No constitutional ammendments to the structure of edcucation dissemination can result in welfare gains for the population at large, if delivery by these schemes is riddled with corruption and fund mismangement. RTI and PSGA cand prove to be very helpful in addressing these concers, if knowledge of the same is made commonly available. If the multi-dimensional challenge of poverty has to be addressed in the state fruitfully, efforts at improving literacy, quality education,and vocational training have to go hand in hand with efforts at creating a corruption-free society.