"Our target is to not build skyscrapers and airports, but rather focus on the individuals residing in Chhattisgarh," said the state's Chief Minister, Bhupesh Baghel, while addressing the audience of The New Indian Express' ThinkEdu Conclave 2020 in Chennai. Stressing on the fact further, the Chief Minister also spoke about the programmes that his one-year-old government has adopted to boost the state's development.
However, all is definitely far from well in this eastern state, Baghel admits. "39 per cent of the population is still below the poverty line. A large percentage of our children are malnourished. Many of our women are anaemic. And these problems are bigger than Naxalism," says Baghel who, on the other hand, believes that every problem has a solution. "Poor and malnourished children of Chhattisgarh are provided hot nutritious meals. Also, in the Naxal-affected Bastar district, we have reopened 200 schools that were previously shut by the Naxalites. Education had suffered terribly in this area because of Naxal activities," he said. Schools in Jagargunda and Bhejji were reopened after 13 years, bringing back a lot of dropouts. The schools were also remodelled and interactive classroom practices are now being promoted there.
"We have 55,000 government schools where 65 lakh students are studying. We recently did away with para teachers and volunteer teachers and absorbed them into the government system. More than 1.5 lakh teachers have become permanent teachers now. 15,000 new teachers were recruited this year," he said. "The 2014 National Achievement Survey placed our state in the 34th position among all states and Union Territories. We have, however, improved our rank this year and become the 19th best in the country," he said, amidst thunderous applause.
Baghel also talked about the reformations his government has made in the education sector. "Our focus is on development through education. The government has also reformed classroom teaching styles. We have adopted a system that concentrates more on individual learning. There is scope for community involvement these days. We have also developed mobile apps for school students," he said.
Naxalism is definitely an issue that one cannot ignore while talking about Chhattisgrah. But what could be a workable solution? Baghel answered, "We cannot solve violence with violence. This is one strategy that governments have followed over the years. However, we can instead conduct discussions and conversations with all stakeholders. This is the way forward."