Literate India - a recast literacy programme under the National Literacy Mission Authority - will be launched next month in 365 districts across the country with a special focus on educating women and improving Indias female literacy level.

Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal said the government has decided to tweak the NLMA to focus on women and the mission will be launched in these districts where female literacy levels are below 50 per cent.

We are structurally changing the mission and adopting entire new strategies. We have decided to implement the new scheme with the help of Panchayati Raj institutions. We aim to bring the countrys literacy level to 80 per cent by 2017, he told reporters after the 11th meeting of the NLMA council.

Mr. Sibal said the definition of literacy, which was so far just selfreliance in reading, writing and arithmetic, will be redefined and people will be taught to acquire skills to improve their economic status and general well-being.

The minister said there is a 21 per cent gap which is wide between the literacy levels of men and women and seven states alone account for 70 per cent of illiterate people in the country.

Mr. Sibal however, refused to name the states saying I dont want to make headlines. According to 2001 census the states are Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Karnataka and Maharastra.

While the national literacy level is 64 per cent, male literacy level is 75 per cent and the female literacy level is 54 per cent.

This is a wide gap. We will have to bridge this gap.

Also, the literacy level among SC/ST women and minorities are less than the average. There is the urbanrural divide. All these should be taken into account, Mr. Sibal said.

He said committees at district, block and panchayat levels will be set up to monitor the implementation of the programme.

Under the mission, the government aims to educate 70 million adults, out of which 60 million will be women. Mr. Sibal said under the XIth Five Year plan, the mission has been allocated Rs 6,000 crore, while the NLAM had spent Rs 2,800 crore since its inception in 1988.

Admitting that many of the objectives of the NLMA have not been achieved, Mr. Sibal said under the restructured mission panchayati raj institutions will be roped in to implement the mission.

He said there will be no age bar to participate in the programme and the Continuing Education Programme will be specially designed to sustain literate levels gained through activities that encourage the use and development of literacy practices.

We will be hiring trainers from the areas concerned.

There are lot of unemployed educated youth in the country and their services will be taken. We will also try to give them incentives at a later stage based on the outcome, Mr. Sibal said.

The HRD Minister said funds will be routed through the states and encourage larger interaction between the states and Centre on the issues related to the mission.

He also said the government can build on with the mission and even synergise it with other programmes such as NREGA.

About the existing mission, Mr. Sibal said there were some shortcomings such as it could not move forward and there was lack of proper cooperation between the states and the Centre.

Under the new mission, states will set up state level authorities. Funds will be routed through the states and we will have a mechanism to check its spending so that there is no misuse of funds and shortage also, he said.

The Minister said the new programme will have efficient delivery systems. Asked whether students can join it to educate the masses, he said: Why not? If they are in a position to do it we will accept them. It can be part of their social service.

Mr. Sibal also parried a question on Gujarat government banning Jaswant Singhs book on Jinnah, saying I am talking about educating people not books, he said.