SMC in Manipur - School Management Committee or State Managed Corruption ?

Apam Zingkhai and R Asung *

Manipur, the land of ironies and rarities is in no dearth of surprises and misadventures of governance. The most recent is the rapid spiralling change of the grassroot-village level education committees in the tribal hill areas of Manipur, under the Act of Right to Education (RTE) and programme of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). In 2011 alone, in the month of April, it was known as VEC (Village Education Committee) chaired by the Headman, in the month of May, it was known as SMDC (School Management and Development Committee) chaired by the Headmaster, and in the month of June, it was called the SMC (School Management Committee) chaired by the District Councillor.

The short-sightedness of the policy makers is self-explanatory; by the shortness of the duration of the Order/Notification/Rule and more importantly, the succinctness of the composition/nomenclature; testifies why the State of Manipur is known for its misadventures in governance.

The State of Manipur made a watershed, capturing even the national headlines by becoming one of the first State to notify the RTE Rules along with Sikkim, Orissa and Arunachal Pradesh. The State Government's decision is highly laudable and praiseworthy, that, it resolved to be 'an early bird', in its endeavour to guarantee Right to Education as a Fundamental Right under the Article 21A (86th Amendment) of the Indian Constitution, that reads as "The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine". However, if one takes even a slight cursory analysis on the State's Notification of RTE Rules in the midst of the actual scenario and messy condition of Manipur's education sector, it would neither be out of reason nor out of justification, that the State of Manipur is being merely 'an early bird just to catch more fat worms'.

Besides the scams, teachers' recruitment imbroglio, ugly drama on SSA textbooks and uniforms, the 'real-politik' on the composition and nomenclature and its frequent changes of the village level education committees in the hills, is more surprising and interesting. The trajectory of the three different types of nomenclature and composition of the committees in the last three months speaks the truth. The first Committee was known as VEC, till 15th April, 2011, with Headman/Chief as the ex-officio Chairman.

The second Committee that short lived for less than two months was known as the SMDC with Headmaster (or the senior most teachers in the absence of Headmaster) as the ex-officio Chairman. The third Committee which is the latest, current and the most intriguing, is known as the School Management Committee (SMC) as per vide order NO.30/19/09 –SE(S), Secretariat: Education Department (School Section), dated the 14th June, 2011, which says—

"1. The Member of District Council of the area in which the school is located shall be the Chairman/Chairperson of the School Management Committee (SMC).

2. The Headmaster (or senior most Teacher in absence of Headmaster) shall be the Member Secretary.

3. Other Members of the Committee shall be as per SSA Guidelines.

4. The Bank account of the Committee shall be operated jointly by the Headmaster and Executive Director of DRDA concerned."

Composition of the current SMC (Manipur) not Pragmatic

It will be worthy to have a look at the feasibility of this order. As per the District Information System for Education (DISE), 2008-09, the number of Govt schools excluding the aided private schools, is 192 in Chandel, 298 in Churachandpur, 404 in Senapati, 231 in Tamenglong, and 249 in Ukhrul, and we have 24 members each in the District Councils. Then, the average ratio of one Councillor to no. of schools/SMCs would be 1:8, 1:12, 1:10, 1:10, and 1:10 in Chandel, Churachandpur, Senapati, Tamenglong, and Ukhrul respectively. Again, the ratio of one District Council Member to no. of villages is 1:10, 1:15, 1:10, 1:8 and 1:9 respectively.

Then, the paradox is the magical wand required by a District Councillor to officiate as Chairman/Chairperson in so many SMCs to fulfil the responsibilities and duties already assigned by the RTE/SSA, ie to convene SMC meeting at least once a month, to monitor the working of the school, prepare and recommend School Development Plan, monitor the utilisation of the grants received, monitor the enrolment and continued attendance of all the children from the neighbourhood in the school, monitor the implementation of the Mid Day Meal, prepare an account of receipts and expenditure of the school to be made available even for audit, etc.

The number of villages to be covered by the District Councillor as Chairperson of SMC, which is detailed below, construes more absurdity. Moreover, it would be pertinent to mention that some constituencies of Churachandpur and Ukhrul Districts have more than 25 villages to be travelled to perform its functions and the accessibility difficulties in the non-motorable areas, seems almost impossible, for the Councillor to solely convene a meeting at least once in a month, even if we leave aside the rest of the duties/functions.

Clause 4 of the said Order mentions that "The Bank account of the Committee shall be operated jointly by the Headmaster and Executive Director of DRDA concerned". In a simple layman's language, it is an individual having more than 400 bank accounts. In banking parlance, it is a joint operator of more than 400 bank accounts, thereby, for each and every transaction, signature of the ED-DRDA, is to be taken and produced. In the context of RTE/SSA, it is one authorised person with more than 400 SMC accounts, where every receipt and expenditure is to be prepared, audited and submitted to the authority and more importantly, in case of civil works, it is one authorised person who has to physically verify, ascertain and after due satisfaction of the quality and progress of the construction, would signed for sanctioning of the amount which is again paid generally in three stages/instalments.

It is also one authorised person, who is responsible for all the SMC's bank accounts of the whole district in regard to various Grants given annually to each SMC. Then, as shown in the table, ED-DRDA of Chandel, Churachandpur, Senapati, Tamenglong and Ukhrul would be operating 183, 297, 404, 231 and 249 bank accounts, respectively. In reality, this seems totally impossible if efficiency, transparency and accountability of SMC are to be maintained not to forget that ED-DRDA is already an indispensable officer in the district minus the SMC.

Analytical table of School Management Committee (SMC) in Manipur

District Population (2001)
Chandel 181,327
Churachandpur 227,905
Senapati 283,621
Tamenglong 111,499
Ukhrul 140,178
* District Information System for Education (DISE), 2008-09
** The total number of District Council Members of Senapati District is 40 (24 members of Sadar Hills and 16 members of Senapati respectively.)

Contradiction between the current SMC of Manipur and the RTE Model under the right of children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009
Part V Section 13 of the Model Rule states—
"1) A School Management Committee shall be constituted in every school, other than an unaided school, within its jurisdiction, within six months of the appointed date, and reconstituted every two years.

(2) Seventy five per cent of the strength of the School Management Committee shall be from amongst parents or guardians of children.

(3) The remaining twenty five per cent of the strength of the SMC shall be from amongst the following persons:

a) one third members from amongst the elected members of the local authority, to be decided by the local authority;

b) one third members from amongst teachers from the school, to be decided by the teachers of the school;

c) remaining one third from amongst local educationists/children in the school, to be decided by the parents in the Committee

(4) To manage its affairs, the School Management Committee shall elect a Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson from among the parent members. The Head teacher of the school or where the school does not have a head teacher, the senior most teacher of the school, shall be the ex-officio Member-Convener of the School Management Committee".

Nowhere in the Model Rule or Guidelines of RTE/SSA, it is prescribed or suggested that the Member of District Council/Zilla Parishad could be the Chairman/Chairperson of SMC or village level education committee. Clause 3(a) of Section 13, calls for "one third members from amongst the elected members of the local authority to be decided by the local authority" may not necessarily mean the members of the District Council/Zilla Parishad, because the SMC under RTE/SSA, is an exemplified epitome of decentralization, at the village level, which is evident from emphasis that has been given to the local village citizens in it's composition of members. Moreover, the RTE/SSA, defines proper framework and mechanism at the national level, state level, district level, block level till the village level.

In the section of 'Monitoring Of Programme By Village/School Based Body' of the Framework, it vividly and categorically mentioned, that "there should be a Standing Committee or a sub-committee for education under the Gram Panchayat (GP), which would be the nodal body for all matters relating to elementary education." In the local context of the hill tribal areas of Manipur, the said Gram Panchayat (GP) refers to the Village Authority under the statute law of 'The Manipur (Village Authority in Hill Areas) Act, 1956.' Therefore, and rather than the Member of the Zilla Parishad/District Council, the Members of Gram Panchayat/Village Authority/Local Authority of the concerned village looks more viable in the context of pragmatic aspect and guidelines aspect are concerned.

Section 13(8), of the RTE Rule prescribes that the accounts of receipts, expenditure and any money received by SMCs, "….should be signed by the Chairperson/ Vice-Chairperson and Convenor of the School Management Committee and made available to the local authority…..". But clause (4), of the Order-(SMC), that assigns the ED-DRDA of the District, to jointly operate the SMC bank account, deviates from the RTE/SSA frameworks and it is totally irrational and illogical, that Mr. X withdraws the money but Mr. Y and Mr. Z are made accountable for those accounts and it's execution.

It would be relevant to make a comparative study of other States that have notified the RTE Rules, in the country. In States like Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh, and Orissa, Chairman/ Chairperson of the SMC are elected from amongst the parents/guardian. Whereas, in States like Andhra Pradesh, the Sarpanch of Gram Panchayat (Headman/Chief in case of Manipur Hill Areas) is the ex-officio Chairperson of all the SMCs. The Headmaster/Head Teacher/ Senior Most Teacher, is the ex-officio Member-Convenor of SMCs in the States of Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Mizoram, and Orissa. In the State of Madhya Pradesh, the Head Teacher is the ex-officio Member-Secretary of the SMC.

All the banks accounts of the existing SMCs in India, except Manipur, are operated jointly by the Chairperson and Convenor/Secretary of the Committee. This is why the State of Manipur is known for ironies, rarities and misadventures! In the comparative study of other states, the District Councillor and even the ED-DRDA (or its equivalent) could not be found in the entire SMCs formulated in the country.

Section 35(2), of the RTE, states that, "the appropriate government may issue guidelines and give such directions, as it deems fit, to the local authority or the School Management Committee regarding implementation of the provision of this Act." Under this Section, the State Government may have framed the current composition of SMC, as it "deems fit", but analysis truly depicts concentration of power and schematic-systematization of corruption plan, in the name of decentralization, community participation and enforcement of Right to Education. Dichotomy surfaces clearly and vastly, between the intended Act/Guidelines of the Union Government and the nature of SMCs formed by Manipur Government. Therefore this cannot be treated as it 'deems fit' but it is indeed, a 'misfit'.

The SMC under the RTE/SSA is built, on the essence of community participation at the village level; on the ethos of planning at the grassroot level; on the principle of implementation at the school level. Whereas, the SMC of Manipur gives a reverse picture which is indisputable for the fact that there are high chances that the Headmaster, District Councillor and ED-DRDA could all be non-villagers of the SMC. Then, the aims and objectives of SMC under RTE/SSA is a farce in Manipur!

The SMC in Manipur could have been formulated as per the Model Rule of RTE, which seems more suitable, pragmatic and adoptable to the local tribal villages rather than politicising the composition according to the prevailing political orientation. Moreover, the roles of the ED-DRDA and District Councillors could have been optimized, by utilizing them at the District Level Monitoring Committee which is envisaged in the SSA Framework (Clause 7.9), where both of them are already members of that Committee, too.

The obstinate move of the State Government in bringing down the ED-DRDA and the District Councillors even at the village level committee, instead of strengthening the efficiency of the District Level Monitoring Committee (where they are members, too) unearths an implicit intention of institutionalizing a covert ploy to loot the money granted, which in the end, would also loot the 'Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education'. Therefore, the SMC in Manipur should be aptly named, "State Managed Corruption" instead of "School Management Committee"!!!

* Apam Zingkhai and R Asung wrote this article for Sangai Express . This article was webcasted on July 08, 2011.

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