New Delhi: The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, launched the Saakshar Bharat Mission for Female Literacy on International Literacy Day in New Delhi today.
PM said Government attaches the highest importance to human resource development. That is why some of the finest minds in our government have been chosen as Ministers for this very important and prestigious ministry. Both Kapil Sibal and Smt. D. Purandeswari constitute a team of which any country can be legitimately proud of as nation builders.
Government’s new programme to significantly reduce illiteracy in our country, particularly among women. I hope this new programme will be even more successful than its precursor, The National Literacy Mission.
The cause of education is indeed a worthy one. Education empowers. Education liberates. Education ennobles. Education helps nations to march forward, helps them to progress socially and economically. In our efforts to remove persistent hunger, poverty and disease, education is a very valuable instrument. And literacy is the first step in imparting education.
Government has started a number of progressive programmes and legislations for the empowerment and welfare of the common person, the aam aadmi. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, the Right to Information Act, the Rural Health Mission, the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan and the National Mid-day Meal Programme are all efforts in that direction. Literacy is central to the success of all these programmes and initiatives Female literacy is especially so. Female literacy is a force multiplier for all action for social development. This is self-evident and does not require any elaboration. In fact, many observers have seen infrastructure development in the economic sector and female literacy in the social sector as two very critical factors that impede India’s steady climb to a higher and sustainable level of growth and development. Female literacy is also absolutely necessary to empower the Indian woman in her every day struggle in dealing with multiple deprivations on the basis of class, caste and gender Dr Manmohan added.
He said we have made quick progress since independence in making India literate. From about 18% in the 1950s, the literacy rate increased to about 52% in 1991, and then to about 65% in 2001, the last year for which literacy figures are available. The decade 1991 to 2001 saw the highest decadal growth ever, due to the National Literacy Mission, which was started in 1988. But we still have a long way to go. And we must march ahead.
One-third of India’s population still continues to be illiterate. About half of our women cannot still read or write. The number of illiterates in India is probably the highest among all nations of the world. We cannot therefore be satisfied with the status quo.
Persistent illiteracy, particularly among women, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Minorities and other disadvantaged groups, is a challenge that we must face and meet head on. We must make our nation fully literate, if we want to empower the average citizen and make rapid progress.
I would like to repeat today what I have stated many times before. Our government is committed to providing good quality education to each and every child in our country. Resources will not be a constraint in the quest of achieving this goal. Today, as a result of our efforts in the last 5 years, elementary education is now within the reach of all children in our country. We have increased enrolment and significantly reduced drop-outs rate. This has helped us check further accretion to the population of illiterates. But we need to do much more to reduce and ultimately eliminate illiteracy among the adult population. We need to renew the efforts of the 1980s and the 1990s when we were able to make a significant dent in the problem of illiteracy.
The Saakshar Bharat Mission that is being launched today reaffirms our national commitment to literacy. The mission seeks to raise literacy levels, especially among women, in a phased manner.