Education, Sports and Panchayati Raj Minister Arvind Pandey begin his stint as cabinet minister in the Government of Trivendra Singh Rawat with a series of decisions and actions especially in the education department. Though some of his decisions didn’t find favour with many, in the last two and half years he was able to leave his mark with positive and far reaching decisions in the field of education, Panchayati Raj institutions and sports. In June this year, a personal tragedy shattered the Minister known to keep a tough demeanour when his young son died in a car accident but Pandey showed remarkable strength of character in overcoming the shock. In an interview with Gajendra Singh Negi of The Pioneer, the Minister talked about his objectives and achievements.
What are the things which you list as your achievements in last two and half years of being a cabinet Minister?
I am working with dedication to fulfill whatever responsibility is assigned to me. It is for the people to judge my performance. When I took over as a minister, the education department was plagued by strikes and all sort of wrong things were heard on transfers. Our government has brought in transparency in functioning, implemented transfer act and curbed the menace of strikes. To remove disparity between government and private schools we have ensured that all schools compulsorily implement the books of National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT). It has brought relief to the parents bogged down by the burden of high priced text books of private publishers. I am committed to improve educational environment and teaching standard in all government schools. Most recently, long standing aspiration of people of state got fulfilled when Uttarakhand got permanent recognition from Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
Even after the implementation of Transfer Act, transfer of teachers has remained a contentious issue. In recent transfers, teachers have complained that norms were not followed. How would you address this issue?
The complaints of teachers would be sorted out. On transfers of those teachers who want to remain in schools located in hard to access (Durgam) areas, the department is planning to make change in the act by taking them in the committee headed by chief secretary under rule 27 of the Act. I have made it clear on many occasions that the transfers would be done strictly according to the norms. I am under no pressure on transfer and want to assure everyone that transfers would be fair and transparent.
When one looks at the deployment of teachers it becomes evident that the teachers are disproportionately placed. In the schools located in the cities and peripheral areas more teachers are posted than those located in rural and distant areas. Is there any plan to remove this disparity?
I have sought block-wise data of all primary schools and asked the officers to mark the schools where more than required teachers are posted and those with less number of teachers. The posting of teachers would be made according to student strength and disparity would soon be removed.
You are a strong advocate of putting a rein on the fees of the private schools but nothing concrete is emerging. When will the much talked about Fee Act come into existence?
We have formed district level committees to grade the private schools in accordance with the facilities provided by them and infrastructure they have. It is obvious that we cannot have the same grading for schools located in Dehradun and Chamoli. After we receive report from districts, the Fee act would be brought. We want that the parents get relief from exorbitant fees charged by the private schools.
When would the centralised kitchen scheme, the Akshay Patra Yojana to provide mid day meal to students of government schools start?
Work on construction of these kitchens with the help of Hans Foundation at different places is currently in progress. From January these kitchens would start functioning. Apart from providing hot nutritious meals to students, the scheme would save the time and energy of teachers.
Recent amendment in the Panchayati Raj Act has debarred candidates having more than two children from contesting the elections. A minimum educational qualification norm was also added. What is the purpose behind these changes?
These changes were done with an objective of keeping the interest of the nation on forefront. With online payments and other features, the Panchayats are witnessing a big change in recent times. It is time now for what we call e- Panchayats. By imposing minimum educational qualification we want that educated people become Panchayat representatives. The two child norm would give a positive message of controlling population. It would also have long term positive effect.
Recently the BCCI has given permanent recognition to Uttarakhand. Your role in bringing together cricket association antagonistic to each other is considered instrumental in this development. How do you visualise future of cricket in the state now?
First of all I would like to offer my sincere thanks to the BCCI chief Vinod Rai for understanding the plea of Uttarakhand and granting recognition to Uttarakhand. When I met with the request and told him that recognition to Uttarakhand cricket would help the budding cricketers and stop their migration, he understood our position. Here I want to make it clear that I didn’t bat for any cricket association but my only objective was to serve the cricket of Uttarakhand. With BCCI’s recognition talented players of the state would get a platform.
You are known to be a fitness freak. How do you keep yourself fit?
I have a habit of brisk walking. Every day I walk at least 10 kilometres. I spend time in the gym too. I believe that only a healthy body can house a healthy mind.