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Illiteracy a Barrier to Development

Authored By- Gauhar Alam

Keywords #Illiteracy #impediment #Development #Government #Education #Right


Illiteracy is considered one of the greatest impediments in the development of a nation. A nation's development can only be ensured if the majority of the population residing in that country is literate. In today's time, there is a great need for literate and skilled people for the betterment of society. Illiteracy is considered as a curse because it brings evil practices and superstitious belief in society.

In this article, the author will try to explain the consequences of illiteracy along with some of the steps taken by the government to eradicate it.


Meaning of illiteracy

Illiteracy in general means the inability of a person to read or write. Illiteracy is considered the biggest hindrance in the development of a state because it brings several other problems with it like; overpopulation, Poverty, Unemployment, evil practices like Crimes, Child marriages dowry system, etc. UNESCO gives a wide definition of literacy as the ability to interpret, understand, create, communicate printed, and written materials.

At the time of independence, India had a very low literacy rate of only 12 percent, at that time there was a big need for social and educational transformation.

M.K. Gandhi once observed, “Mass Illiteracy is India’s sin and must be Liquidated’

According to the Census of 2011, the literacy rate of India was 74.04 Percent, albeit there has been a great reform there is still a need to take this figure further to at least 90 Percent.

Causes of Illiteracy

1. Poverty- Poverty is one of the greatest factors contributing to illiteracy in India. Parents are poor due to which they do not send their kids to school, instead, they make them work from a very tender age.

2. Lack of awareness- there is a lack of awareness in the people regarding education especially in rural areas, people do not want their girl child to study which leads to child marriages.

3. Bad infrastructure in Rural Areas- Although the governments have introduced many schemes and programs for eradicating poverty, there appears no significant improvement in literacy rate due to defects in the teaching system and poor infrastructure of schools. We often read in Newspapers that either child is studying under trees or are washing utensils.

Illiteracy directly affects one’s personal quality of life and the economy of a country. The literacy rate in women is the worst in India. Women in rural areas are not allowed to study and are married at a young age. The literacy rate among women was just 64 Percent as per the census report of 2011.

Education and Indian constitution

The framers of the Constitution of India were well aware of the evil consequence of illiteracy so they have incorporated many provisions in the constitution to create an educated society.

Article 41 and 45 casts a duty on the state in the form of Directives to provide education to its subjects. Article 21A of the constitution makes education for children between 6 to 14 years a fundamental right.

Illiteracy and Governments Schemes

The government of India introduced Various schemes from time to time to combat illiteracy. Some of the important schemes and programs initiated by the government are as under-

· Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan

Sarv-ShikshaAbhiyan was launched by the Government of India in the year 2002 for the Universalisation of elementary education in India. This program aimed to provide basic elementary education to all children.

· School Education “Shagun”

It is an initiative of the Government to improve the quality of the education system.

· Mid Day Meal Scheme

The midday meal scheme was started by the UPA Government to improve the literacy rate in India. In this Scheme, Children are provided food along with Education. This scheme has succeeded in bringing children to schools.

· BetiBachaobetipadhao Scheme

This scheme was launched by the government of India to create awareness in society regarding gender equality and to promote education for a girl in the country. This scheme was launched by the Prime Minister of India on 22 January 2015.


Education is a boon for society while illiteracy is a curse. Illiteracy not only hinders the personal growth or development of an individual but also hinders the growth of a nation. If the subjects of a state are literate and educated, its economy and international position get strengthen.

The governments of India, as well as various State governments, are working to improve the literacy rate in the country. Many schemes and policies launched by the government were successful whereas many ended in a fiasco. There is still a long way to go, as a system cannot be overhauled in a year or two.

The author is of opinion that the New Education Policy of 2020 would help to improve the framework and literacy rate in India.