Despite government efforts to promote education among the Scheduled Tribes (STs), their literacy rates as compared to the national average have remained low, a Parliamentary Committee has said this week.
The literacy rate as per Census 2011 is 73 per cent but for STs is 59 per cent only.
The House panel also flagged the female literacy rate, saying it is also lower as compared to the national average.
"The overall literacy gap amongst the various groups and STs has come down from 19.77 per cent in 1961 to 14.03 per cent in 2011, a scrutiny of state-wise literacy data reveals that in most of the north eastern states like Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland, STs are at par with the general population.
"While in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, which have sizeable ST population in remote areas, the literacy gap is as high as 18 to 26 per cent," the committee has noted.
It has also exhorted the government to view the large disparity in literacy rates of STs in these states, which have lagged in almost all socio-economic parameters, and promote educational development for STs on a "mission mode".
The panel also stated that it was unhappy with the fact that the Ministry of Tribal Affairs till date does not have the complete data about the total number of Ashram schools in states and UTs, as according to them the requisite information is awaited from some of the states.
Keeping in view the "sub-standard food and bad quality" of personal care products being provided to the ST students in the Ashram schools, the committee has recommended that the ministry should ask all the state governments to take such complaints seriously and conduct appropriate inquiries in this regard and also ensure strict compliance of the standards laid down under the Right to Eduction Act (RTE).
"The Ministry has stated that the states are being requested to provide good food and quality personal care products to tribal children in Ashram schools and hostels will also be asked to deal with complaints seriously and conduct appropriate enquiries.
"The committee may be apprised of the remedial measures taken in the matter so far," said the report.
The committee therefore reiterated that the Ministry should pursue the matter vigorously with the state governments /UTs and obtain the information without further delay.
In order to bring greater transparency and efficiency, the committee recommended the Ministry to furnish a detailed statement on the number of proposals received, rejected, approved and those pending with reasons therefore state-wise during the last three years.
The committee said it was dismayed to note from the reply of the Ministry that the said detailed statement is not being prepared and urged the ministry to do the same at the earliest.
The committee also urged the Ministry to implement the recommendations or suggestions of Professor Thorat Committee report on educational requirements of STs for the better functioning of the Ashram schools.
The objective of the scheme (Establishment of Ashram schools in Tribal Sub-Plan Areas) is to provide residential schools for Scheduled Tribes including PTGs in an environment conducive to learning to increase the literacy rate among the tribal students and to bring them at par with other population of the country.