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India has the largest number of illiterates in the world

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November 21, 2007 00:06 IST

India has the largest number of illiterates in the world and the country ranks a poor 126th in the Human Development Index prepared by the UNDP, the Centre told the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

As per the Human Development Report 2006, India ranks 126th out of 177 countries covered in the report, Minister of State of Human Resources Development D Purendeswari told the upper house.

Adult literacy is only one of the several variables on the basis of which the Index is calculated, she said in a written reply. In 2001, the total number of illiterates came down to 304.11 million from 328.88 million in 1991.

"It will not be correct to say that the illiteracy rate has not been reduced despite major schemes such as the National Literacy Mission and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan," the minister said.

This decline was largely due to the initiatives under the Elementary Education and Adult Education, she said.

In the 11th plan, special focus would be given to SCs, STs, minorities and rural women under the National Literacy Mission. The thrust will also be on low literacy states, tribal areas, other disadvantaged groups and adolescents, she said.

Replying to a separate question on the functioning of bogus foreign universities, the minister said a legislative proposal for entry and operation of foreign institutions in the country was under consideration. Currently, only the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has framed regulations for entry and operation of foreign varsities in India.

There are several institutes conducting courses in technical education in collaboration with foreign universities without obtaining approval from AICTE, Purandeswari said.

AICTE has published a list of such unapproved institutions in its website. In addition, public notices have also been issued for general awareness in this regard, she said.

On 'Right to Education', the minister said the states and Union Territories have voiced strong reservations on the model bill that was circulated as framework.

A high-level group met on November 6 to examine the issues involved and to advise the government on how best to take the matter forward for enacting an appropriate law that would make education a fundamental right under the Constitution, she said.

She said government is implementing a number of schemes for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, women, minorities and other underprivileged sections of society.

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