Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar may not show his emotions in public, but he would surely know the extent of damage to his image after the uncovering of Bihar School Examination Board’s toppers scam. The arts topper of the state, a Vaishali girl, in her one naive description of political science as “prodigal” science, perhaps served to give verdict on the murky affairs of secondary and senior secondary education in Bihar.
Nitish, who was often accused of derailing primary education from “slate to plate (midday meal scheme)”, would always grapple with questions over his government not stemming the rot in the education system. Education, at best, could become his political wheel with sundry scholarships and incentive schemes, but did not add much to ensuring quality education, even though he did succeed in cutting dropout rates substantially.
Now that there has been an uproar about the whole murky saga and questions on police framing four students, Patna Police claimed to have cracked the case with 20 arrests so far, including former BSEB chairman Lalkeshwar Prasad and his influential former JD (U) MLA wife Usha Sinha. Police say all the three toppers and VR College principal’s daughter had been well aware of the conspiracy to make them toppers, pushing the deserving ones. The issue of students careers getting jeopardised due to police action can be debated but that is not the only question. The real question is how CM Nitish Kumar, nursing PM ambitions on basis of his good governance image, could have cleaned up the system or still can cleanup the mess.
First, he has to start with ensuring firm compliance of affiliation of Inter (ten plus two) colleges. As per BSEB norm, a college must have two acres of land and adequate number of classrooms, playground and labs to get affiliation from the board. This has to be closely monitored by the state government even though BSEB is an autonomous body and is not answerable to education ministry of Bihar government. If affiliation grant can be tightened, it would address half the problems about mushrooming private colleges. Many of then being run by people of dubious credentials and also enjoying political clout. Plus, the anti-corruption cell of the board’s periodic reports must not be pushed under a carpet by the board. The controversial VR College had scathing review reports but the then board chief Lalkeshwar, now key accused, did not initiate action simply because he could have been exposed at his own game.
Second, there has to be a cap on enrollment in a college. VR College would enroll 1,000-odd students in a session while most genuine colleges would enroll 300-400 students each. This is where an enrollment cap has to be introduced to stop this money-minting business as the likes of Bachcha Rai would do. It is also a self-explained enigma on why government school students would seldom become toppers while Bacha Rai’s college was nothing short of toppers-spinner.
Third, Nitish Kumar could have kept Lalkeshwar out of BSEB. Political gratification in education system could have produced only this kind of result. No matter what action the CM initiates now, the rot has set in deep. He may well have to start it from the scratch and start BSEB cleanup to not just salvage the education setup but to the restore image of the state, sullied because of the handiwork of a handful of people like Bachcha and Laleshwar.