Special attention to SC/ST, minorities, out-of-school children

Central Delhi, comprising largely of Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal's parliamentary constituency Chandni Chowk, has been included in the list of 419 special focus districts (SFDs) for 2012-13 under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). Last year the number was 389.

The HRD Ministry describes these 419 districts as being “characterised by marginalisation and backwardness and yet to be on a par with other districts” on school education parameters.

Central Delhi, with a substantial Muslim population, has been included in the SFDs for a low retention rate in schools — below 60 per cent.

The government gives special attention to these educationally backward districts, which are identified on indicators of infrastructure deficit, a high concentration of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, minority population, out-of-school children and high gender gap. Funds for these districts are sanctioned on priority for different interventions including opening new schools, teacher recruitment and construction work.

Other categories include Muslim concentration districts, naxal-affected districts, border area districts and 121 minority districts, identified by the Prime Minister's Office.

In 2011-12, 67 per cent of the total outlay for school education was sanctioned for 389 SFDs on a priority basis. The States have been asked to prepare detailed and need-based plans for these districts so that the social and infrastructure gap can be bridged.

For 2012-13, the additional districts have been included broadly under the categories of out-of-school children, high gender gap and low retention rate. Seven districts have been added to the existing 27, where the number of out-of-school children is more than 20,000, mainly in Jharkhand and Rajasthan. Sixteen districts of Haryana, Mizoram and Punjab — with a gender gap of 10 per cent at the primary level and more than 20 per cent at the upper primary level — have been included in the SFDs list.

The highest inclusion has been in the category of districts where the retention rate is below 60 per cent. This number has gone up from 126 to 189, including districts from Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Delhi, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Rajasthan, Sikkim and Tripura.

Central Delhi, part of Sibal's constituency, included for low retention rate in schools

SFDs are characterised by marginalisation and backwardness