Tuesday, May 20, 2008


361 unaided private schools in Delhi have been allotted land by public bodies like DDA and L&DO on throw away prices with a condition to admit to the extent of 25% children belonging to weaker sections and grant them freeship. The social obligation flowing from the allotment letter and backed by the law has throughout been violated with impunity by the schools and the authorities responsible for ensuring compliance thereof have remained mere mute spectators. The utter criminal negligence on the part of the authorities and unwarranted profits by the schools led to the denial of the benefit of admission and freeship to the extent of 1,50,000 students belonging to the underprivileged sections. One of the facets of this social obligation clause is to minimize the social gap between the rich and the poor that is essential for an egalitarian society. The demand for the implementation of this social obligation clause is in fact a fight for social justice.

The issue though had been, of and on, appearing in the newspapers but no concrete step was ever taken to put it in action. During the pendency of a Public Interest Litigation (1997-1998) relating to arbitrary fee hike by the unaided private schools, the Hon’ble Delhi High Court directed DDA to furnish details of the schools to whom they had allotted land on throw away prices. In compliance of such directions, the DDA furnished details of 265 societies/trusts to whom land was allotted for construction of the schools. Based on this material information, the Social Jurist filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on 17th may 2002 in the Hon’ble Delhi High Court highlighting the facts that there are more than 1500 unaided recognized private schools in Delhi and more than 1200 of these schools have been allotted land on throw away prices.

The Social Jurist submitted that one of the objects behind it was that such schools discharge their social obligations to provide free education to a certain percentage of children belonging to weaker sections through their schools. It was also submitted that in case of most of the schools, an express condition that they shall ensure admission to the children belonging to weaker section to the extent of 25% and will grant them freeship. However, in some cases though it has been said in the allotment letter “ that the society shall ensure percentage of freeship from the tuition fee as laid down under
rules are strictly complied with” but the rules have not so far being framed either by the Delhi Development Authority or the Delhi Government in this regard leaving such schools to exploit the situation against public interest. However, it was understood that the authorities have obtained an undertaking from all the schools at the time of allotment of land to the effect that they would ensure admission to the children of the weaker section to the extent of 25% and grant them freeship.

The Social Jurist submitted that, unfortunately, none of these schools has complied with the aforementioned conditions of allotment and the authorities were totally insensitive and apathetic towards the rights of the downtrodden, as they had not taken any action against erring schools. It was submitted that the actions/inactions of the government as well as of the land owning agencies were adversely effecting fundamental right to education of the children of the masses which were guaranteed to them under Articles 21, 38, 39 (c) & (f), 41, 45, 46, 51 (b) & (f) read with Delhi School Education Act, 1973, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989).

That even after filing of the above PIL and notices having been issued to the Government of Delhi and Delhi Development Authority, these authorities did not take any action to implement the aforementioned social clause against the erring schools. On the other hand, the Government as well as the land owning agencies adopted dilatory tactics to frustrate the very object and purpose of the PIL.

However, on Jan 20, 2004, the Hon’ble High Court decided the PIL holding, “Thus, it is very clear that 25% of the students belonging to poor sections are entitled to get admission and free ship in such schools. However, it would be for the Directorate of Education to investigate the matter and to point out to the DDA wherever a breach is committed. If there are no rules for admission framed in this regard, it would be for the Directorate of Education to see that the rules are framed so that the weaker sections of the society may not suffer. It is hoped that within a period of four months this exercise shall be carried out and, after the DDA is informed, it will be the duty of the DDA to take appropriate action against any school committing breach of the condition. A compliance report be filed by the Directorate of Education after four months. “

That on 27.04.2004, the Delhi Government issued a circular detailing the eligibility criteria, method and manner of admission of children from Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in the unaided private schools. On the same date, the Delhi Government also issued public advertisements in all the leading newspapers detailing the particulars of the schools that were obliged to follow the social obligation clause. This paved the way for enlightening the parents to approach the schools for admission of their wards under EWS category. It is needless to say that the Government took these steps only when the Social Jurist again approached the Hon’ble High Court complaining that the government has been given four months time to carry out exercise of investigating the matter and pointing out to the DDA wherever the breach was committed, but the process of such exercise had yet not started though a period of nearly three months had already elapsed. On the same day, one more important event took place. The Hon’ble Supreme Court in another case directed the Government to ensure the compliance of this social obligation clause against the concerned unaided private schools.

The schools reacted very insensitively. In order to oppose the entire move, the schools did not hesitate even arguing that the children of the weaker sections, if allowed to be integrated, they would spoil the school environment. They even went to the extent of provoking the parents of the fee paying students to oppose the move saying that such children, if allowed to sit with their children, would adversely affect the well-being of their children. Interestingly, the schools could not find even a single genuine parent standing in their support to oppose the move. The parents were wise enough to realize the advantages of such integration on one hand and the ulterior motives of the schools on the other hand.

During the academic years 2004-05 and 2005-06, few thousands admissions of the children under EWS category took place. Most of the schools did not adhere to the social obligation clause at all. The Hon’ble High Court at one point of time was so angry with the erring schools that it ordered show-cause notices to a hundred such schools as to why their schools should not be closed down. The regular monitoring by the Hon’ble High Court, persistent efforts of the parents and the support of Right to Education Task Force (RETF) are the leading factors in the present fight for social justice.

During these two academic years, the parents/children had both good and bad experiences. Some of the schools well behaved with the children whereas some others maltreated and discriminated them. The Hon’ble High Court in order to ensure dignified treatment to these children directed the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Delhi to hold meeting and to resolve all the issues. The Hon’ble Chief Minister constituted two committees, one headed by Prof. Krishna Kumar to suggest modalities of admission and other headed by Prof. Janaki Rajan to suggest measures for sensitizing the school management/staff. These two Committees submitted their reports to the Hon’ble Chief Minister and thereafter, the government has issued Delhi School Education (Free Seats for Students belonging to Economically Weaker Sections) Order, 2006 detailing the eligibility modality and manner of admission.

The parents from EWS category are very much excited to get their children admitted in the unaided schools and to avail the benefit of freeship. They are finding it very difficult but not impossible to get their children admitted in unaided schools. All the Sub-Divisional Magistrates offices, which are required to issue family income certificates for this purpose, are witnessing parents in large number applying for such certificates. Once, a Sub-Divisional Magistrate personally complained to me that this provision has tremendously increased his workload and he has to sign 2000 such certificates every month.

Prof. Nalini Juneja from NUEPA contributed in our efforts by providing details on the social issue from the research paper of NUEPA. Her writings were the guiding force for us to present the parents/children viewpoint everywhere including before the Hon’ble High Court and the Committees etc. The schools started separating classes for the children of EWS, frustrating the basic purpose of the inclusive education. The battle was to be fought out of the court also as the parents from EWS approaching the schools were denied the facilities on one pretext or the other. The Right to Education Task Force (RETF) was formed to help the parents and bringing their complaints to the notice of the authorities and the Hon’ble Court. It is needed to expand the scope of this movement in other cities also so that the basic purpose of social justice could be achieved.

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