Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a provision for 100 new Sainik Schools to be set up in partnership with NGOs, private schools and states, in the Union Budget for 2021-22 fiscal. Top retired military officials have welcomed the decision but cautioned that the structure of these institutions should not be tampered with.
Sainik Schools are primarily military schools that run under the purview of Sainik School Society, an organisation under the Ministry of Defence. At present, there are 33 Sainik Schools across India. These institutions started coming up in the early 1960s after a policy decision by the then Defence Minister VK Krishna Menon. From a financial point of view, these Sainik Schools are funded by the Centre as well as individual state governments for infrastructure, expenditures and scholarships under various categories.
Students are selected for Sainik Schools through an All India Sainik School Entrance Examination. They are inducted at the middle-school level. Until students complete their secondary education at these schools, they receive extensive training in sports, adventure activities, extracurricular subjects along with routine academics with an aim to prepare them for military training institutions. Students also enroll into formations of National Cadet Corps during the school years. Sainik Schools are considered as feeder institutions for the Armed Forces and have seen alumni becoming top military leaders. Until recently, Sainik Schools took admissions for only boys, but for the past couple of years, the process to admit girl students has started in some schools and is expected to happen in more Sainik Schools.
Under the umbrella body of Sainik School Society, each Sainik School has three officers from Army, Navy or Air Force serving as principal, vice-principal and administrative officer and also Junior Commissioned Officers from the Armed Forces as NCC instructors — all of whom are on deputation for a limited period. Rest of the staff is permanent.
100 New Sainik Schools in India:
In the 2021 Budget speech on Monday, Sitharaman said, “100 new Sainik Schools will be set up in partnership with NGOs or private schools or states.” While no further details about the provision were immediately available, senior officials have said the Sainik School Society will play a central role in the implementation of the decision.
The Committee on Demands for Grants of the Ministry of Defence prepared its first report in the year 2019-20 and raised several issues regarding the paucity of funds and the lack of centres. It also highlighted the past recommendations and concerns about the participation of girls and the reach of such schools in tribal areas.
The first report available on the website of the Lok Sabha Secretariat apprises that although the performance and standard of Sainik Schools had improved, the main constraint is the paucity of funds due to rising in the salary of teachers and staff and non-contribution of share by some state governments.
According to reports in the previous years, “The Committee noted that the current course strength of NDA (National Defence Academy) is 341, out of which 87 Sainik School students were selected for 2018-19. The Inspecting Officer, Sainik Schools Society, informed the Committee that on an average, there are 600 vacancies in NDA.”
The report brought to the fore the issue of expansion of the schools and recommended the “expansion of Sainik Schools in remote and far-flung areas such as Tribal belts, remote hills and geographical areas where no Sainik School has been hitherto established.”
The Committee was of the opinion that the country does not lack talent in its remote areas and all that inhabitants of these regions need is an opportunity “to prove their worth and serve the country by joining the Forces.”
With the consultation of the states and in partnership with NGOs, the areas will be identified to strengthen the Sainik School network.