Reality Check India

Is the Right to Education quota really for the poor ?

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on April 15, 2012

Say a vast, diverse, secular country was suddenly subject to a law that profoundly impacted the entire population,  made a groundbreaking entry into the domain of the private, cleaved the entire population along religious lines by granting special benefits and exemptions, reinforced caste and communal identities – among toddlers, placed a tight inspector raj on private life endeavors. All in a single amorphously worded bill called the RTE (Right To Education).

Q1 ) Would’nt you expect the media to atleast read such a bill before reporting ?  It isnt a leaked exclusive document,  it has been available on the internet for months now.

Q2) Would’nt you expect a wide spectrum of opinion in the media given the width and depth of this bill ?  Can all media report in total unison on such a wide ranging bill ?

Q3) Would’nt you expect them to atleast report the truth about this bill ?  Sure the media can report the truth in unison, but can all of them trumpet the counterfactual in unison?

I believe this nation has just been subjected to a propaganda exercise with little parallel in world history.

I am just going to lay the facts on the table. You may conclude that I exaggerate, that’s okay – I just ask you to read the post first.



We are this boy’s true friends, please read on

Exhibit A :  Synchronized reporting of a falsehood

You may skip to the next section, if you already get the point. I simply had to document evidence of this lock-step media synchrony even though it made the blog post longer.

The falsehood is that the 25% quota envisaged in the RTE bill is for the poor. By drowning the public in a deluge of misinformation, they have softened up the country for the initial shock.  How can anyone oppose steps to help the poor. The truth will be delivered in careful doses.

In this section, I have collected reports from most major print and TV Channels.  Note that none of them bothered to even broach the obvious question of “So exactly who are the poor beneficiaries”.

Here is a sampling. Sorry for the jarring colours, the idea is to show how deeply and uniformly the media portrayed the story.

Supreme Court stamp on Right to Education: Poor students to study free in many private schools (Economic Times)

A landmark judgement on Thursday opened the doors for hundreds of thousands of poor students to study free in many private schools across the country. The judgement upheld the constitutional validity of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, which provides for 25% quota for poor students in all schools except unaided minority schools.

SC upholds law to reserve 25% seats in private schools for poor (Times Of India)

Even if 25% seats in these schools are opened up to the poor, it will only be a drop in the ocean compared to enormous numbers of underprivileged children in the country.

Reserve 25% seats for poor, SC tells pvt schools  (Hindustan Times)

The court said its order would take effect immediately but with most schools having completed admissions for the current academic year, poor students will be able to benefit from the judgment from 2013.

SC: Even pvt schools have to admit poor (Indian Express)

The judgment, authored by Chief Justice Kapadia, dismissed complaints from unaided private schools that it was unconstitutional to compel them to reserve at least 25 per cent seats for poor children from their neighbourhood,

The schools are now open (The Hindu Editorial)

The unsuccessful challenge to the Act, which went into effect on April 1, 2010, came from unaided private school managements who are required to set apart 25 per cent seats for poor children.

SC Strikes a blow for inclusive RTE (Firstpost)

Friday’s Supreme Court judgment upholding the applicability of the Right to Education Act (RTE) even to unaided schools is a strong statement on inclusiveness and desegregation. Over time, this will do much to remove caste and other forms of bigotry and discrimination while strengthening the foundations for a strong modern democracy where no

Supreme Court upholds every child’s right to education (DNA)

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the constitutional validity of the Right to Education Act, 2009, which mandates 25% free seats to poor children up to the age of 14 in government and private aided and unaided schools (but not in unaided minority institutions) uniformly across the country.

SC upholds validity (Business Standard)

The Supreme Court today upheld the constitutional validity of the Right to Education Act that reserves 25 per cent free seats to poor students in government and private unaided schools, except minority institutions.

Writes of passage (Hindustan Times / Barkha Dutt)

But as we watched the quota policy get horrendously trapped in competitive politics, didn’t we say we would rather have an economic criterion for reservations than it being caste-driven? Well here, for the first time there is such a basis.

The law requires schools, both public and private, to give one quarter of their places to low-income children.Wall Street Journal (Indian)

Principals nervous over reservation for poor (Hindustan Times)

A game changer ..25 per cent seats for poor and neighbourhood children in private unaided schools (Deccan Herald)

Residential Schools, Convents not bound to reserve seats for the poor (Indian Express)

RTE widely acclaimed by academicians..which mandates 25 percent free seats to the poor in private (Newstrack)

NDTV RTE FAQ .. mandates 25 per cent free seats to the poor in ..Poor students from neighbourhood areas have to be admitted, based on a lottery system.  (NDTV)

Unaided schools must give 25% free seats..providing for reservation of 25 percent seats for poor children in all..(IBNLIVE / CNNIBN)

Integrating poor, privileged is a challenge .. the RTE clause to admit 25% students from impoverished background will transform the Indian (Indian Express)

Schools taught to leave no poor behind (Indian Express) This is the winner.

Exhibit B :  The facts about Right to Education

We have seen what the media told you, now lets see what the facts are.

Who are the 25% in the as described by the RTE Bill ?

The Central  RTE Bill 2009 categorically states that there are two categories. Roughly they are income based and identity based. I dont want to rehash this blog post where I have analyzed the central rules. Did the media not read this bill ? (Update : See clarification on prev blog post )

How does Kendriya Vidyalaya apply RTE to the poor ?

The Kendriya Vidyalaya Sanghatan has put out their Admissions Guidelines including RTE modalities here (DOC file)

From Sec 5-A Step 2: Out of 41 Seats in Std 1, 10 seats are reserved as per the following rules.

6 Seats to SC + 3 Seats to ST + 1 Seat to economically disadvantaged (poor) + disabled from all categories including SC/ST + all other social classes.

Now Kendriya Vidyalaya is not a private institution but the fact of the matter is their  distribution is accepted as a total compliance with RTE requirements. ONE, repeat only ONE seat is determined by your being poor. Now what did the media tell you again ?  It is not as if the media didnt notice this – The Hindu even lauded KV as taking the “lead in RTE Compliance“. Yet  totally projects RTE as being for the poor it in its editorial page.

What are guidelines for Andhra Pradesh to help the poor ?

Andhra Pradesh was one of the early states to notify RTE rules (Notification PDF). Lets see how they plan to break up the 25% quota.

From Section 9, Clause 4 (page 9)

(4) The following order of preference shall be followed by the schools covered by sub. Clauses II, III, IV of Clause (n) of Section 2 of the Act in admitting the children referred to in clauses (b) and (c) of sub ection (1) of section 12 of the said Act.

Disadvantaged Groups : Orphans, HIV+, Disabled = 5%

SC = 10%

ST = 4%

Weaker Sections (others viz., BC, Minorities, OCs (whose annual income does not exceed Rs. 60,000/- per annum) = 6%

Not only that, Andhra Pradesh has a overflow model. For example : you cant find sufficient numbers in Orphans/HIV+ that number would be added to the next group SC. Only as a last resort would it overflow into the economic based group. To be honest, even that isnt purely economic based as it only includes poor from upper castes (not the stone breaker, garbage heap poor). Here is another clause for minority aided institutions.

Note 3, under Clause 9.4

3) In Minority institutions, all candidates belonging to minority concerned should be considered for filling first. After exhausting applications of Minorities the left over seats may be filled in the order of ST, SC and BC.

Also note that residence proof  requirements are Ration Card, Electricity Bill, House Tax, Land Patta – hardly the kind of documents traffic light children possess (which a senior editor cites in her essay).

Media eats and roots in Delhi, so maybe they werent aware ?

Here is a special notification (PDF) in the Delhi Govt Gazette specifically addressing the free seats for the Economically Weaker Section and Disadvantage (sic) group.

Section 2 (c)

Childen belonging to Weaker Section : Parents whose total income is less than one lakh and have been staying in Delhi for the past three years.

Children belonging to Disadvantaged Group : SC/ST/ Non Creamy Layer OBC/ Disabled / Special Needs

The operative clause is “Weaker” and “Disadvantaged” – which clearly means you cant just select Weaker (Poor) and ignore the Disadvantaged. Lets dig a bit further, maybe there are income certificates required even for the disadvantaged, we surely would’nt want to miss that.

Section 6 (Page 5, sub clause a and b)

Documents for Weaker Section : Income Certificate issued by revenue office not below rank of Tahsildar, or BPL ration card (Yellow) or EEY ration card (Pink)

Documents for Disadvantage : Certificate issued by revenue officer not below Tahsildar or any other competent authority. Presumably this is nothing but a caste certificate for the little toddler.

So in effect the Delhi rules are no different from the other states. Even if not expressly specified, lawsuits from NGOs await any attempt to deviate from it. (Update : see clarification on prev blog post)

Other states

State after state follow the same template. Identity considerations separate from economic group. Kerala for example carves the 25% into 15% identity 10% economic. Tamilnadu basically extends it to BC/MBC/ST/ST communities.

So here we are. The facts clearly establish even for a layman like me that the RTE is mostly just the quota system extended to the private sector education (majority institutes only).  Sure it has a dash of helping the poor – but that is incidental. The rules simply do not bear out any structure driven by a desire to pluck the child from the garbage heap.

Whats the big deal ? Identity based deprivation exists

I expect this rebuttal. The idea is to alter the very definition of “poor” used by media or not to take the bollywoodized media too literally. But that is not the point of this post, the point is “Why did the media lie about the nature of the RTE ?” Why not just tell the truth and let the chips fall.

Readers of blog will know that I support identity (ie communal) benefits if and only if they are backed by data based scrutiny.  Let me put that in lib speak, while I sit in the plush seats of my big bike at the traffic light – I want to know if the beggar child’s community is getting space on the platform. If I cant find that data – then I cant support that system. If there is data and scrutiny, the entire country must jump in and support quotas because we then can iterate it and measure his improvement.  But that would destroy the adhocism of the system, which is the fuel for our political masters.

Could solitary blogger be right and the entire media establishment be lying ?

This bothered me a lot before writing this post. I may only have a 100 readers but I value them so much that the thought I could have missed something terrifies me. Was there an overarching income ceiling that covered all groups ?  What if state notifications were income based and had no mention of caste and religion based criteria ?  Conversely what if the central notification had income based criteria or cutoffs and it was the states who ignored them ?  What if I raised a false alarm among my readers by only looking at a couple of state level aberrations while the majority was income based ?

Update: I didnt do a perfect job after all. See clarification in previous blog post.

This meant that I had to read about all states, specifically Delhi because the media originates there, the impugned central notification, all available commentary online.  Had to check offline too with the limited contacts I have in this sector.

I did all of that which I have summarized in “Exhibit B – The facts” and they all checked out. But still what if there was something not in public domain that made RTE for the economically poor. While I was pondering over this – one thing clinched it for me.

It struck me that Kapil Sibal has never said that RTE is for the economically poor.  He and most NGO activists are very careful to use the words disadvantaged and weaker.

What is next ?

We must protect free speech and drive for public access to data. Not the RTI variety, but put-it-online variety.

Folks must realize that this level of propaganda can be challenged only due to a miraculous window in Indian history:

  1. Free Speech – this post (at least as long as it is allowed to stay online)
  2. Access to Data – the various gazette notifications and state laws online.

Now think about it, if either of these were taken away – we have no tools at all. I would have to march to HRD Ministry in Delhi to request xerox copies of the act, then to each state to get their notifications. In that scenario, the easier option is just to let the media to interpret for us. Because we had all the same material the media had – we were able to defeat this propaganda. We could do this by completely sidestepping the media and looking at the facts on the table. This is what I say when we need data in public domain over 400 posts.

I am guess there will be online petitions to take action against this blog, even shut this down. Even if there is no derogatory or defamatory content of any kind in it, they will find some. They will call this casteist and elitist even though I actually fight for reservations only on falsifiable criteria so it benefits society. Even though I have never failed to point out the plight of the really backward. I dare them. The beauty is once the clamour for truth is out – it wont go back in the bottle. Even the might of the state and the wealth, cleverness, and influence of the media empires are helpless.

After all :

Truth can stand on its own legs, falsehood needs state support.

Satyameva Jayate & Thanks for Reading

28 Responses

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  1. Rakesh Babu G R said, on April 15, 2012 at 7:37 am

    Good effort. There is a website where you can see all central govt notifications but you would need a user Id and password for it. I too noticed media say 25 percent is for the poor. They clearly have either not read the bill which is in public domain or are supressing the truth or have a radically different definition of poor, all of which are damaging to their reputation. I personally don’t mind if govt pays the fees for the 25 percent(poor and not the SC/ST) but they would not do that, they want the middle class to do that. But the middle class would rather go on a vacation on the day of election than vote these communists out. Ideally the 25 percent should be chosen on the basis of economic criterion or things like single girl child or less than 2 kids or something like that. Or maybe the best system would be to tweak the education rules such that the parents can send kids to low cost schools. I saw parents in my father’s village send their kids to schools in buses to schools in nearby towns.

  2. Manu said, on April 15, 2012 at 8:22 am

    want to understand a thing here: I read that SC order was only about Constitutional validity of the provisions in RTE. So why does it makes Govt. stand vondicated about its policies? Did SC really go into the provisions merits?

  3. Kunal said, on April 15, 2012 at 10:06 am

    Satyamev Jayate

  4. Vijay said, on April 16, 2012 at 2:05 am

    Poor is not the only word used in the media, and as you said, the minister never said only econimically poor. The words weaker sections, disadvantaged sections also used (including in the media clippings you posted). It is true that the word poor is used more. It can be presumed that the word is used a generic term for poor social-educational-economic conditions. The RTE act need not start a new debate on whether SC/ST are really disadvantaged or not etc (that is settled else where, and states already use the criteria in various other places and can just reuse the criteria as per their discretion).

    It is taken as a given, that SC/ST are disadvantaged sections (there are individual successes from these groups, but there is a huge systematic issue with these sections). That this is the current condition of SC/ST is a premise accepted by all governments, courts, constitution and people at large. You want to challenge this premise, nothing wrong. Given there is lot of competition for reservations, a lot of people are working overtime to get resevrations fpr theor community, and to show how their group is more backward and others who are currently getting reservations etc. If there is un derserving section, that will be challenged and if there is a deserving section, it is demanded. This is an ongoing process. Your fundamental mistake in all your artciles is the assumption that it is totally ad hoc with no basis whatsoever.

    You will be interested to know that none of the disadvantaged are resisting any count/data collection etc. In fact they are the ones who are demanding caste census. It is the upper castes who are worried that it highlights the disparity even more and that upper caste priviilege gets highlighted even more than it is assumed today (and there may be pressure the the 50% quota ceiling to be removed). With the new economy, the upper castes have had a huge advantage. Why else do you think the hindutva folks are not demanding what you are asking.

    • Jayant said, on April 18, 2012 at 11:17 am

      “…a lot of people are working overtime to get resevrations fpr theor community, and to show how their group is more backward and others who are currently getting reservations etc. If there is un derserving section, that will be challenged and if there is a deserving section, it is demanded.”

      Have there been any instances when reservation/quota for any section was challenged, reviewed and revoked?

    • chandan prakash said, on May 6, 2012 at 7:15 pm

      are you trying to convey this by any means that there are not any ‘poor’ in the upper castes?? i do believe that there existes a hegemonic rule by the upper castes at some point of time but to discard this fact that there are no needy poor children in upper castes borders on being delusional…

  5. Ash said, on April 16, 2012 at 2:35 am

    Good research. You (Govt ) scratch my back and I (media) scratch yours is the general practice in place. Nothing new. The whole system is wrotten.

  6. Ash said, on April 16, 2012 at 2:36 am

    Good research. You (Govt ) scratch my back and I (media) scratch yours is the general practice in place. Nothing new. The whole system is rotten. Fat finnger in previous post.

  7. swamymaya said, on April 16, 2012 at 2:59 am

    The opposition in India does not even whimper about the RTE act and its fine print. Such is the state of affairs in opposition. Hence ruling UPA2 is getting away with it easily.

  8. MindShare said, on April 16, 2012 at 5:25 am

    Cast based reservation is the root cause of all evil. There should be only one type of reservation and that is economically weaker section. The entire 50% (in fact can be raised to 60%) given to this section. And the criteria for identification of economically weaker section is everyone below 2 lakh p.a. income as base for next 10 years with provision to link this to inflation rate.

  9. HKJ said, on April 16, 2012 at 6:19 am

    where did you get the incorrect reports and throwing mud on very respected media houses ?.. they are only suggestions – poor can mean other things. what is the problem …

  10. B Shantanu said, on April 16, 2012 at 11:41 am

    RC: Regardless of whether you have 100 readers or 1000, this post deserves a million…
    I would like to re-post this in full – with attribution of course, on my blog. Trust you have no objection?
    Thanks and pl keep up the good work…
    Jai Hind, Jai Bharat!

  11. Vikas Saraswat said, on April 16, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Should I be shocked by the ignorance of media or by the brazenness of govt?

  12. damodar goyal said, on April 17, 2012 at 11:05 am

    No media has tried to make analysis of the judgment. It has just held that imposition of 25% seats in non-minority private scchools is a reasonable restriction and not a reservation and therefore it is valid for them, but since it is reservation in non-minority schools , they are protected by article 15(5) and 30 (1). Every other citizen speaking in his mother tounge other than langauge of that state is a lingusic minority.Gujrati, Konkani, Karnataki, Punjabi, Sindhi, Tamil, Telgu in a way every langauge then Marathi Speking community will be linguistic minority in Maharastra. With exclusion of religion based minority, about 40% Schools will be out of ambit of the RTE Act.

    It is percieved as this Act is only to put 25% children in private schools, whereas this Act is for making responsible to provide education to children. What is progress made in Government Schools in last two years from the date of implementation of RTE. Enrollment in government schools has droped by 10%. Infrastructure and quality of education has not improved at all. Is this Act only for twisting the arm of private schools and intoduce licence-inspector raj in private schools?
    Sucess of this Act should be measured on a scale of number (percentage) of students deserting private schools and joing government schools.

  13. Dulcina F said, on April 17, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Very interesting facts thank you. I agree media should have carried such critiques of this act.

  14. vamsi said, on April 17, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    Satyamev jayate. JaiHind

  15. […] blogger Reality Check India demolishes that whole argument in his brilliant must read post here. The act specifies that 25% of seats during admission have to be reserved for […]

  16. Pradip Kumar Dash said, on April 21, 2012 at 10:14 am

    gr8 job
    u deserve a salute man……………

  17. saket said, on April 23, 2012 at 10:29 am

    I agree to an extent with your critique of the Act as well as the rules therein. But what is really silly is how you go at great lengths to essentially say that “Poor” and “Disadvantaged” groups are two completely different sets of people. That argument is logically and empirically invalid. I think there are enough studies and reports to show that the average child in the “garbage heap” is 10 times less likely to be an upper caste kid. If you have an issue with reservations, its one thing.(I agree with reservations but not in the way they have been implemented so far) But trashing the Act because it seeks to ensure that equitable inclusion within that 25% is silly. The objective of the Act is to ensure that private schools educate “underprivileged children” in every sense of the term (economic as well as social). Yes, it is not perfect and yes there will be difficulties and this will raise costs and be difficult to implement. But it is an essential step towards breaking that barrier which a majority of Indians experience right from the day they attend their first day at school: the walls keeping other classes, castes and creeds out of their unimpeachably “exclusive” schools.

    FYI: Even if there was one seat for the “poor” child. There are close to 1,25,000 schools in India which will have to comply with the RTE. That is 1,25,000 “poor” kids getting a chance at a better life. Another 10 lakh “disadvantaged ones.”

  18. rc said, on April 23, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    The point of the blog post is ‘the media never told you that’.

    >> FYI: Even if there was one seat for the “poor” child. There are close to 1,25,000 schools in India which will have to comply with the RTE. That is 1,25,000 “poor” kids getting a chance at a better life. Another 10 lakh “disadvantaged ones.”

    Can you draft a law that by design is 1% efficient ? If this is unenforceable or impossible to target, this is a bad law period. Not enough to justify inroads into private education.

    As far as reservations go, read my blog. My view isnt what you think it is.

    • saket said, on April 23, 2012 at 8:23 pm

      Or you could agree that this is a start. It is better than status quo and ensure that delegated legislation starts filling in the gaps and other issues that come up along the way of its implementation. IAs i said, i completely agree with the hasty way the legislation is drafted, but being an optimist i’m pretty sure the law will be amended to keep pace with the socioeconomic dynamics. As far as the implementation is concerned, pretty much every single sphere of our system is over regulated and underimplemented. But that isnt justification to say that there needs to be no law at all.

      Most schools which were exempted from paying stamp duty , allocated free or highly subsidized land were given these concessions because the concession stated that they would inter alia educate some of the poor at their own cost. An average school makes more than a 30-40% margin. How many schools have you heard of being wound up or declared insolvent due to lack of business.

      If you call educating 10 lakh disadvantaged kids and 1 lakh poor kids inefficient then we will have to agree to disagree. My point being that Yes, this will raise costs. Yes it will be difficult to implement. But it is an essential step towards breaking the first social wall elite Indians experience: the walls keeping other classes, castes and creeds out of the “exclusive” schools of our country.

  19. […] Go work and don’t forget to file your taxes” P.S.:  Some other good blogs on RTE. Share this:TwitterFacebookEmail Published: May 1, 2012 Filed Under: economics, Ideas, […]

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  24. […] Misinformation, secrecy and rapid movement are the three characteristics of a political special interest group. The cabal that has been behind Right to Education act has mastered all three items. RealityCheckIndia tears apart some of it in this brilliant article. […]

  25. sonam singh said, on November 6, 2016 at 5:26 pm

    Sir my uncle have eight children belong to schedule cast and Financially condition not so good…so they are not able to educate them…but I feel guilt whenever see his child…i want to request I if any NGO help these children regarding free education plz inform…

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