New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday emphasised on stepping up efforts toward complete eradication of illiteracy from the country with enhanced focus on improving literacy rate among SC, ST, minorities and disadvantaged sections of the society.
"Our objective should be to bring the literacy rate not only on par with the world average but to the levels attained by the leading societies of the world," he said while addressing the 'International Literacy Day' function here.
Invoking Mahatma Gandhi, who had said that illiteracy is a sin and shame and must be eradicated, Mukherjee encouraged the corporate and private sectors, voluntary agencies and civil society organisations to make efforts to improve adult literacy.
The country's march toward "total literacy" will depend on meaningful and effective advocacy and support of society at large to bring illiterates into the mainstream of literacy, he said.
"Today, more than 67 years after our Independence, where are we? The literacy rate has increased by four times from 18 per cent in 1951 to about 74 per cent in 2011. Despite this, our literacy level is below the world average of 84 per cent," the President said.
While the country has set a target of 80 per cent literacy by the end of the 12th Plan, Mukherjee said during this period the Government would also seek to reduce the gender gap from 16 to 10 percentage points.
"Uneven" progress in adult literacy should also be addressed as while on one hand states like Kerala, Himachal Pradesh and Mizoram have done reasonably well, many other States are lagging behind, he said.
Mukherjee said gender disparity also needs attention as male and female literacy rates stand at 80.89 and 64.64 per cent respectively.
The President also lauded the efforts of National Literacy Mission in enhancing its focus on female literacy and also hailed the efforts of the learners and neo-literates under the Saakshar Bharat Programme who participated in an assessment and certification initiative.
"It is satisfying to see that since the introduction of this programme, about 2.86 crore learners have been certified as literate and awarded certificates by the National Institute of Open Schooling," he said.
Mukherjee also expressed satisfaction over corporate and private sector joining Government's efforts in the literacy initiative and sought involvement of all stakeholders in the literacy drive.
"I am happy to learn that this has had a good response. I would, therefore, take this opportunity to call upon State Governments, Panchayati Raj Institutions on one hand and on the other, appeal all the stakeholders in a resurgent India ? the corporate and private sectors, voluntary agencies and civil society organisations to work together, in unison and with greater vigour to realise this goal," he added.