As part of TIMES NOW's week-long special series, 'Where's Your Money Going?', here is a report on how thousands of elementary schools are lying in a state of utter neglect - not because lack of funds, but because the crores of rupees collected from the tax payer are not being utilised.
While the word 'school' for most of us conjures up images of a swanky building, spacious playground and the best of facilities - 5 lakh primary school students in Tamil Nadu have sadly resigned themselves to a schools with leaking roofs, puddles of water in the classroom and stinking piles of garbage outside.
It is this stark contrast that draws severe critism from the public. Tamil actor Khushboo, who sends her two children to one of the best private schools in Chennai, told TIMES NOW that there was a stigma attached children who could not afford private school tuition and had to attend municipal school "because everyone knows the schools are not well-maintained."
The administration's excuse is that there aren't enough funds to renovate the schools, but the irony is that crores of rupees meant for the schools' upkeep are actually lying in municipal coffers.
In fact, 2 percent of Property Tax collected by the Tamil Nadu government has been allotted for use in the maintainence of primary schools.
But documents TIMES NOW obtained through the Right to Information Act, show that of the Rs 53 crores collected as 'Elementary Education Tax' across 14 corporations, just 28 crores were spent - that means, effectively almost half the money - 48 percent is lying unutilised.
That is not all - some of the funds collected for elementary schools are illegally being transferred to the general fund. Last year in Chennai alone, Rs 30 crores of the 60 crores collected were used for expenses other than the maintainence of schools - a blatant violation of the 1999 order that
prohibits any transfer to general funds from the Elementary Education Tax. The funds officially utilised for education then, amounted to 40 per cent.
Orders openly violated, tax payers' money wasted or syphoned off for other expsnses - despite this no one has raised a finger...till now that is.
Says former bureaucrat A K Venkata Subramanian, "For more than a decade or two, nobody is aware that money for elementary education i is available and it is to be spent only on schools."
When TIMES NOW tried to contact the administration, they refused to comment. But the truth is front of our eyes: Elementary schools would not be in a sorry state of neglect, had the administration simply done their job.
It is shameful that today they lie in a ramshackle state not for the lack of funds, but sheer government apathy.