During the discussions on the Budget Session 2022-23 at the Sikkim Legislative Assembly, PS Golay used his son Mr Aditya Golay to raise a question about Educational Quality Improvement Programme (EQUIP) for which I was an employee. The project which ran from 2016-2018 had nothing to do with the current budget 2022-23 of the Sikkim Government, yet it was raised during the budget session to sling mud at Pawan Chamling using baseless allegations against me, his family member. The discussion session was carefully constructed to level personal attacks against Pawan Chamling, to blame the SDF government and divert public attention from the total failure of the SKM government since 2019.
I would like to enlighten Mr P.S. Golay that I alone did not run the EQUIP project. The EQUIP project was run by a 24 member Steering Committee chaired by the Minister HRDD, a 5 member Executive Board chaired by Director, SCERT and finally a Project Management Unit for which I was the Director. The project was initiated by the HRDD to create change agents within the school system, to promote a culture of collaboration and learning among educators and to strengthen primary school education through interventions to improve literacy and numeracy. The pilot project was implemented in 8 government Senior Secondary Schools with the scale up phase positioned to impact 120 schools.
- The Steering Committee’s Chairman was Mr RB Subba, Former Education Minister, the Member Secretary was Mr GP Upadhyaya, current Additional Chief Secretary. The Steering Committee also included Principal Secretary, HRDD, SPD-SSA, HRDD, SPD RMSA, HRDD, Director SCERT among other HRDD government functionaries along with Zilla Upadhyakshas of all four districts and principals of government and private schools.
The Steering Committee was formed via a notification No 03/HRDD/(HQ) dated 29/08/2016. The Steering Committee was the primary body to supervise, take major policy decisions and approvals for the execution of the project. Nothing of the project was done without the approval and guidance of the Steering Committee. The sanctioning power of Mr G.P. Upadhyaya, Member Secretary, Steering Committee was any funds above Rs 1.5 lakhs. The Steering Committee met on a quarterly basis to oversee the progress of the project.
- An Executive Board headed by Director, SCERT was formed on 27th September 2016 to facilitate quick decision making by the project. The sanctioning power of the Executive Board Chairman was upto Rs 1.5 lakhs. This board held meetings to oversee the project on a monthly basis.
- A Project Management Unit was appointed by the Steering Committee to implement the program outlined in the DPR. All programs were carried out with permission and guidance from the Steering Committee and according to DPR. I as PMU Director worked under the guidance and supervision of the Steering Committee.
- The funding for the project was raised from North Eastern Council (NEC). No funding was made available from the Government Budget for the EQUIP project. The total estimated cost of the project was Rs 96,32,700/- from which Rs 72,90,339/- was disbursed to the project by NEC over the course of three years.
- The funding for the project was not released on time by the NEC and no other source of funds was made available for the project to run by HRDD. In that case, I used my own salary from the project to pay for some programs since the project had to continue, keeping in mind the commitment and hard work of hundreds of teachers and principals already in the project as well as the learning of the students on the line. Around Rs 3.5 lakhs which I payed from my salary for the project is still remaining for reimbursement from HRDD which I have not brought up till now since it was spent for a good cause.
- The Chief Minister made an allegation that no data exists for the project. All utilization certificates have been submitted to the North Eastern Council on the basis of which further disbursal of installments were made. The utilisation certificates have been vetted and signed by Member Secretary, Steering Committee and Chairman, Executive Board. The project has also been documented in the Annual Report of the HRDD 2016, 2017 and 2018. All communications, minutes of every Steering Committee Meeting and Executive Board meeting, workshops have been documented in detail. Some of the work done by EQUIP can be found here on its Facebook page:
- I would also like to question that if there really were no data available for the project, the Chief Minister may consult with Mr G.P. Upadhyaya, who is still a government functionary, and enquire what he in his capacity as Member Secretary, Steering Committee, EQUIP, was doing between 2016-18 while a project ran under his leadership for three years without submitting data? On what basis did he approve and sign the papers submitted to the NEC for further instalments of the sanctioned funds?
I served under the EQUIP project with the aim to improve the learning of our students and to build a culture of collaboration among educators so that they solve the pressing problems facing their schools. I gave my heart and soul to the project and I am thankful for the experience I gained and the in-depth view of the workings of the education system with all its strengths and problems that I was able to witness. I came to meet many committed teachers, principals and government employees in HRDD who are deeply invested in the education of our students and that has been my highlight of EQUIP.
It is highly disgraceful that the Chief Minister would raise such an issue with no other purpose than personal attack at the Sikkim Legislative Assembly during the time allotted for the discussion of the Budget 2022-23. If anyone is answerable for the EQUIP project, it is everyone from the Former Minister HRDD, Mr R.B. Subba, current Additional Chief Secretary Mr G.P. Upadhyaya, all the Directors of HRDD involved, all members of Steering Committee, all members of the Executive Board along with the members of the PMU. The government must immediately conduct an inquiry into the EQUIP project including every single member involved.