In an unprecedented move, PM Manmohan Singh will address the nation on the historic Right to Education Act on April 1, the day the law comes into effect.
It is for the first time in independent India that any PM will address the nation on a specific law.
Though it it is also for the first time that a new fundamental right -- Right to Education -- will come into play, the PM's address takes on significance because it comes against the backdrop of a strong perception that he was more focussed on foreign policy issues and rate of growth.
The PM's preoccupation with big ticket foreign policy issues -- civil nuclear energy cooperation with the US and quest for improvement of ties with neighbours -- has seen Congress chief Sonia Gandhi getting the exclusive political property rights over major social sector initiatives -- from the NREGA to food security bill to women's quota bill.
The confrontation with the opponents with the women's quota bill starkly brought out the disconnect between priorities with Sonia Gandhi staking her political capital to see the Bill through in the Rajya Sabha.
Importantly, the Prime Minister's decision to speak to a country-wide audience on RTE comes a day after the setting up of the National Advisory Council under Sonia Gandhi.
Right to education as a fundamental right was brought about through the 86th Amendment in 2002 by inserting Article 21A in the Constitution.
It is believed that the HRD minister Kapil Sibal had met the PM and requested him to address the nation on the historic law.
Meanwhile, HRD ministry has put in place all the necessary legal requirements needed under the RTE Act. The model rules have been sent to the state governments while central rules for Union Territories without assemblies -- Chandigarh, Andaman & Nicobar Island, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Lakshwadeep, and Daman & Diu -- will get finalised on Wednesday after being vetted by the law ministry. Many state governments have also begun the process of adapting/adopting model rules as state rules.
The HRD ministry has also notified NCERT as the academic authority for the curriculum and the National Council for Teacher Education as the academic authority that will lay down the minimum qualification for teachers. National Commission for Protection of Child Rights will soon set up a monitoring cell for the RTE Act. Each state has also been asked to set up a State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR). Till this is done the states have been asked to set up Right to Education Protection Authority. Karnataka, Sikkim, Delhi and Maharashtra have already set up their SCPCR.
HRD ministry has also zeroed on a host of issues as the next steps for better implementation of RTE. Among them is sharing of funds between the Centre and states. The ministry wants revision in the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan's funding pattern of 55:45 between the Centre and states so that it can be aligned with RTE. HRD wants the Centre's share for RTE to go up.
HRD has also decided to ensure that age appropriate admissions are given by schools as well as mapping of neighbourhood schools is done. Reservation of 25% to underprivileged children in the neighbourhood might not be possible this year as school admission in many states had nearly got over by the time notification of RTE and Article 21A was made.