4.4 lakh ‘ghost’ students in Jharkhand, Manipur, Andhra Pradesh

Moushumi Das Gupta and Neelam Pandey, reporting for Hindustan Times:

The 12-digit Aadhaar number has helped states strike off 4.4 lakh “ghost students” from schools across Jharkhand, Manipur and Andhra Pradesh, for whom the government had been earmarking funds under the mid-day meal scheme.

This is no small number. Those raising a large hue and cry over the Government’s decision to introduce Aadhaar verification of students availing the benefit need to understand the numbers, and the leak at stake.

For instance, Andhra Pradesh — which linked all its 29 lakh government school students to Aadhaar — had 2.1 lakh claimants who existed only on paper.

It might look small at 7.2% but remember that’s 2,10,000 fake students. And this is just one state.

In Jharkhand, the names of 2.2 lakh non-existent students have been deleted from school records. So far, 89% of the 48 lakh students enrolled in the state’s government schools have availed of Aadhaar numbers.

4.4 lakh fake students in just 3 states implies a large leak within the mid-day meal scheme, especially since the way the process works is that a state government receives a contribution from the Centre (Northeastern states receive 90% from the Centre, all other states get 40%) against the number of students receiving the subsidy. In 2015–16, 10.3 crore students availed the subsidy. Even at 7%, the number of ghost students could be 72,00,000!

The cost incurred by the Central Government is Rs. 4.13 per child per day for primary and Rs. 6.18 per child per day for upper primary. Even at the Rs. 4.13 cost level, we’re looking at estimated leakages amount to Rs. 1000 crores across the Country, and this does not include spending by the states.

Clearly there is a large leak within the mid-day meal scheme, add to already immense Rs. 49,000 crore estimated to be saved by controlling leakages in LPG subsidy, MNREGA, scholarship and pension schemes.

This doesn’t even begin on the teacher’s problem:

A pilot study conducted by Kerala’s department of general education in 2014, after Aadhaar numbers were integrated with the student database, found its schools to have an excess of 3,892 teachers.

In terms of total numbers:

At present, only 30% of the 11 crore students enrolled in class one to eight at government schools across India possess Aadhaar cards.

Remember that the Government has clarified that it will not deny benefits for lack of Aadhaar, but will continue to encourage larger enrollment to help weed out the problem.

Chirag Desai @Chirag