The Prime Minister of India launched Saakshar Bharat, a centrally sponsored scheme of Department of School Education and Literacy (DSEL), Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Government of India (GOI), on the International Literacy Day, 8th September, 2009. It aims to further promote and strengthen Adult Education, specially of women, by extending educational options to those adults who having lost the opportunity of access to formal education and crossed the standard age for receiving such education, now feel a need for learning of any type, including, literacy, basic education (equivalency to formal education), vocational education (skill development), physical and emotional development, practical arts, applied science, sports, and recreation.
To impart functional literacy to non-literates in the age group of 15-35 years in a time bound manner, the National Literacy Mission (NLM) was launched in 1988 and it continued through Ninth and Tenth Five Year Plans. By the end of the Tenth Five Year Plan (March 2007), NLM had covered 597 districts under Total Literacy Campaign (TLC), 485 districts under Post Literacy Programme (PLP) and 328 districts under Continuing Education Programme (CEP). As a cumulative outcome of these efforts, 127.45 million persons became literate, of which, 60% learners were females, while 23% learners belonged to Scheduled Castes (SCs) and 12% to Scheduled Tribes (STs).
Despite significant accomplishments of the Mission, illiteracy continues to be an area of national concern. Though precise number of non- literates at this stage is not available and will be known only after 2011 census, 2001 census had revealed that there were still 259.52 million illiterate adults (in the age group of 15 +) in the country. While further accretion into the pool of adult illiterate persons is expected to recede significantly on account of enhanced investments in elementary education and a reverse demographic trend, addition to this pool cannot be ruled out altogether on account of relatively high school drop out ratio. Wide gender, social and regional disparities in literacy also continue to persist. Adult education is therefore indispensable as it supplements the efforts to enhance and sustain literacy levels through formal education.
It was, therefore, considered necessary to continue the NLM during the XI Plan period. While acknowledging, in principle, the need for continuing and strengthening further the efforts to promote Adult Education, the Planning Commission agreed to the continuance of NLM during the XIth Plan provided it was appraised de novo and modified suitably to meet the contemporary challenges. The programme was accordingly subjected to extensive in-house and external review and evaluation.
The Mission goes beyond ‘3’ R’s (i.e. Reading, Writing & Arithmetic) ; for it also seeks to create awareness of social disparities and a person’s deprivation on the means for its amelioration and general well being. The Central and State Governments, Panchayati Raj Institutions, NGOs and Civil Society need to work in unison to realize dream to create a “literate India”. Saakshar Bharat has been formulated with the objective of achieving 80% literacy level by 2012 at national level, by focusing on adult women literacy seeking – to reduce the gap between male and female literacy to not more than 10 percentage points . T
The mission has four broader objectives, namely
Imparting functional literacy and numeracy to non-literates;
Acquiring equivalency to formal educational system;
Imparting relevant skill development programme; and
Promote a leaning society by providing opportunities for continuing education.
The principal target of the mission is to impart functional literacy to 70 million non-literate adults in the age group of 15 years and beyond. The mission will cover 14 million SCs, 8 million STs, 12 million minorities & 36 million others. The overall coverage of women will be 60 million. 410 districts belonging to 26 States/UTs of the country have been identified to be covered under Saakshar Bharat.
Eligibility criteria for coverage under Saakshar Bharat. –
A district, including a new district carved out of an erstwhile district that had adult female literacy rate of 50 per cent or below, as per 2001 census, is eligible for coverage under the Saakshar Bharat programme. In addition, all left wing extremism-affected districts, irrespective of their literacy rate, are also eligible for coverage under the programme. There were 365 districts in the country that had adult female literacy rate of 50 per cent or below. Home Ministry has declared 35 districts as left wing extremism affected districts. However, 30 left wing extremism affected districts also had adult female literacy of 50 per cent or below. Therefore, 370 is the net number of districts that qualify for coverage under the programme. Since 2001, several eligible districts have been bifurcated or trifurcated. This has raised the total number of eligible districts to 410 out of which 35 are left wing extremism affected districts. Programme provides for coverage of only rural areas in the eligible districts