Reality Check India

Right to Education comes into effect today

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on April 1, 2010

How can anyone write a blog post against something with such a noble name as “Right to Education” ? But darlings,  if words were all it took – let me propose this “Right to First World Status”.

The whole debate is about the mechanics of the bill.

This act takes government interference into running of private schools to a totally new level.  I cannot beat what the redoubtable Sunil Jain says on the subject in “Beware School Nationalization“. I want to focus on this :  The bill and minority institutes.

Specifically the only part of the bill that can be implemented : The 25 % quota for “disadvantaged”, which in the Indian context means the staging unit of caste. So question is :  Do minority institutes have to implement the 25% (caste) quota ?

Here is where Sibal has played a master stroke. As the bill stands now :

1. Minority institutes are exempt from School Management Committees (via Amendment to RTE Bill)

2. Sibal has hinted that minority schools could fill 25% quota from weaker sections within their own community . This means they can pick and choose. Not mentioned anywhere in bill text.

Here is what Sibal says :

So far as the minority institution’s demand of exemption from setting aside 25 per cent of their school seats for disadvantaged sections goes, Sibal clarified that the provision would stay until the court struck it down. “The minority institutions can’t shy away from their social responsibility. Let the matter be decided by the court,” Sibal said when asked whether the provision would not open floodgates of litigation. [Source Tribune India link]

The BJP does not care as long as minorities are not given blanket exemption. This is a losing strategy because it is hypocritical. Anyway, this ensures that the BJP has absolutely nothing to say on the RTE Bill at the moment. This keeps noise level down and moves the burden of reconciling minority exemption to the Supreme Court.  The standing judgment P.A. Inamdar vs Mah of 11 Judges has held that the state cannot set quotas in minority run institutes.  It would take a larger bench to overturn it ! IMO, it would be legally impossible without constitutional amendment to force quota down the throats of Church run schools (which are doing a good job). It would also be political suicide for the Congress Party as the school system free of caste quotas is vital to minority interests.

Before you run off feeling sorry for the judiciary, remember they invited this on themselves by not adjudicating on “how is disadvantaged”. The buck does not stop at the court, it keeps coming back until it is spent or pocketed.

Happy April Fools Day !