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  Another surprise from Bihar

OnJune 4, 2003, GoodNewsIndia had expressed its confidence in the gene pool of Bihar in an article entitled “In praise of Bihar”. Barely four months later, an item in the New Indian Express vindicates this stand. We learn, with a feeling of pride, that six districts in Bihar score top marks in literacy rates. Kishanganj, Araria, West Champaran, East Champaran and Supaul received letters of commendation from the National Literacy Mision for their efforts in improving women’s literacy and Muzafarpur was lauded for its overall efforts in promoting litteracy.

These amazing results were possible because committed district officials, bands of volunteers and innovative ideas synergised. The figures are stunning: 30,000 volunteeers in Muzafarpur alone took up the challenge of changing Bihar’s past abysmal records --only state to have marked an absolute growth in the number of illiterate betwen the 1991 and 2001 census! The result: 3 lakhs neo-literates in Muzafarpur alone, a 7% increase in one year.

The Muzafarpur story is the result of intelligent planning by some dedicated administrators: the District Magistrate A L Meena, the Literacy Committee Secretary Arun Kumar Kunwar and thousands of volunteers. Purchase of learning material was decentralised and made transparent, each volunteer alloted 10 learners and classes conducted according to the learner’s convenience. So while women studied in the afternoon after their household chores, men preeferred the 6 to 8 pm slot. And even reluctant learners were tackled cleverly: rations would only be given to those who could sign on the register! Innovative measures were adopted in other districts as well: in West Champaran dacoits were roped in to help by asking them if they wanted to lead ignorant people or literates. In Kishanganj which had the worst women literacy rate in the country, one lakh women have been made literate in the past year.

Next time you pass by Chako Chapra in Muzafarpur Distrcit, do not be surprised if you find women sitting under trees, children at their side, not gossiping but with a book in their hands. In spite of its much maligned administration and almost compulsively retailed jokes, Bihar still has surprises to deliver. But only for those who seek good news.

To read the exciting story in full, click this.

Report by Anuradha Bakhshi