The state government had decided to offer free education for girls in Punjab from Nursery to Ph.D. The announcement was made in 2017 when the Chief Minister also announced free textbook distribution to all students. Books were also to be made available online for free.
It was a promise made by the CM Amarinder Singh to provide free education for girls in Punjab if he wins. Another promise he made was of free Wi-Fi for all primary schools and government colleges.
According to the 2011 census, Punjab’s literacy rate is 75.84%. The male and female literacy rates in Punjab are 80.44% and 70.73% respectively. It shows that fewer women are getting literate as opposed to men. This disparity is nothing new but is almost the norm. The male literacy rate is mostly higher than the female throughout the country. To bridge this gap, the policy of free education for girls in Punjab was put forward.
But even after almost 2 years, the policy is still in the pipeline. What is even more shocking is that no notification has been given by the government on this issue. It shows the lax attitude of the Punjab government.
After the free education for girls in Punjab policy was announced, there arose several questions on its viability. The institutions were already in a deep financial crisis when this hasty announcement was made. The schools and universities were expecting funds from the government. But ironically, the state government itself was financially in a bad shape.
Notification for the policy was expected to be released. But the Principal Secretary of Higher Education, Mr. S. K. Sandhu denied any such notification. However, data on the number of girls enrolled in the government institutes were submitted in the CM’s office.
The data from universities like Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar and Punjab Agriculture University, Ludhiana was collected. It showed that many more girls are enrolled as compared to boys. This might be the hidden reason for the delay in the implication of the policy.
An anonymous official said that about 75% of the revenue comes from the admission fee. Out of which around 70% is paid by rural girls. These girls belong to the Economically Weaker Section category. So, it is impossible for the institutes to waive off the fees for girls without any aid from the state.
The policy of free education for girls in Punjab thus is not viable for the institutes. While the economically backward families are eagerly waiting for this scheme, it is yet to be seen how and when the government will start it.