By Paritosh Chakma
On 3 December 2010, Mizoram’s Education Minister Mr Lalsawta launched a special campaign called "Rapid Action Total Literacy Campaign" (RATLC) with the aim of achieving cent percent literacy in the state. However, the motives of the government are highly questionable as the RALTC seeks to achieve total literacy before the completion of the 2011 Census in March 2011 - that is, within three or four months!
In October 2006, Mizoram’s then Education Minister R. Lalthangliana informed the State Assembly that the state achieved 90.27% literacy, up from 88.8% recorded in 2001 census.In terms of literacy, Mizoram may be the second highest (next to Kerala). But Mizoram has its unique problems with the minority communities so much so that it can be safely stated that it is because of the high incidence of illiteracy among the minority communities that Mizoram cannot achieve the No. 1 rank.
Just take the case of the Chakmas. With over 8% of the total population of Mizoram the Chakmas are the largest minority group. But only 45.3% Chakmas are literate, as per 2001 census figures which also confirmed that Chakmas are the “most illiterate” community in the state. This is against Mizos’ commendable 95.6% literacy rate. Although the literacy rate of the Brus (also known as Reangs) is not known (not recorded), it is popularly believed that the Brus are far behind to Chakmas in terms of development and education. This itself should be enough to indict the state government of Mizoram for not taking enough care of its minorities.
The official data made public at the launching of RATLC in Lunglei show that there are 12,129 illiterate people in Lawngtlai district followed by 4,200 in Lunglei district and 2,845 in Mamit district. All these three districts (Lawngtlai, Lunglei and Mamit) have substantial population of minorities like Chakma, Bru, Lai, etc. The largest minority group, the Chakma, lives only in these three districts. This clearly proves that the minorities in particular the Chakmas and the Brus have been highly neglected by the state government in terms of education. Now, consider the repatriation, in the immediate future, of over 30,000 Mizoram Brus from the Tripura relief camps who have been denied development and education for the last 13 years. Hence, an army of illiterate minorities will be a bigger challenge which the Mizoram government must be prepared to meet in near future.
The Mizoram government needs to really shift its focus on the minorities. But by seeking to make Mizoram 100% literate state in three or four months (notably before the completion of the Census 2011) through "Rapid Action Total Literacy Campaign", Mizoram government is sending a wrong signal to the whole world. This is nothing but taking a short cut method to improve its rating at the census and the goals are not genuine. But education is not “fast food” and such a flawed policy is sure to boomerang in the long run.