RTE meets creamy layer in TN
An interesting judgment was delivered last week in the Madras High Court by Justice K Chandru in Priyanka Rajkumar vs Rajaji Vidyashram. While disposing of this particular case, the judgment brings into focus glaring anomalies with the quota system.
A professional couple earning about Rupees 30Lakhs per year approached Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s Rajaji Vidyashram located in Kilpauk Chennai. They were seeking admission for their 5 year old son in LKG class. They had applied under the “disadvantaged” group stating that they were members of a Mudaliar community which is currently classified as SEBC (OBC) in the state of Tamilnadu. They were claiming benefits against Sec 12 (1) (c) of the RTE Act. The school conducted a lottery in the presence of two members of the School Management Committee and AIADMK MLA Mr P Vetrivel. The couples child did not win the lottery, so they approached the court questioning the basis of selection. The court did not allow their petition and also made a crucial comment on Tamilnadu’s notification of RTE. You can read the entire judgment here. Times of India story here.
The fact that weaker section was defined by the State as the annual income of parents or guardians is less than Rs.2 lakhs, in the absence of the State prescribing any creamy layer under the list of social economical backward classes, the same income ceiling should also apply to SEBC categories. Of course, such an income limit cannot be prescribed for SC and ST as noted already by the judgment of the Supreme Court. It is left to the State to specify the creamy layer under which certain members belonging to SEBC categories will be excluded from getting the benefit provided for the said class.
Judgment: Pp 26
What about the poor ?
As I have blogged in the past, critical clauses in the RTE Act were papered over by the media and almost the entire pool of columnists. It was portrayed as a program only on economic grounds.
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.
NDTV Journo writing in HT “Writes of passage”
Now the facts tumble out of cases like this :
The number of vacancies for LKG was only 216 for the academic year 2012-2013. Out of 216 seats, 54 seats were assigned for admission under 25% category under Section 12(1)(c). There were 91 applications under the RCE Act category, of which 5 belonged to Scheduled caste, 2 from the economically weaker section and 84 applications were received under the backward class and most backward class category. They have allotted two seats for economically weaker section and 5 seats for SC and ST. In respect of 47 seats meant for BC and MBC, there were 84 applications and that lots were held
So out of 54 reserved seats a grand total of TWO were allotted on the basis of poverty. 52 seats were allotted purely on the basis of caste.
Fallout of case
One should keep in mind that the couple approached the court only because they failed to secure an admission under RTE. If they had won the lottery, we would never had heard about this case. So it can be surmised that there must be others of similar wealth who did win the lottery and are enjoying free tuition.
While analyzing this case it is important to keep a calm head. The reality is that Tamilnadu does not exclude the creamy layer from seeking benefits under its various reservation programs. So the couple can be said to have nursed a legitimate expectation with respect to RTE. The text of the central government act as well as Tamilnadu’s notification did not exclude the creamy layer.
The judge has now said that both the “disadvantaged group” (vertical quota) as well as “weaker section” (horizontal quota) now have the same income limit of 2L/yr. If you look a bit closer this isnt a very robust position. In the absence of a sub quota, it just means all communities earning below 2L /yr qualify. It just merges the two categories together with the exception of SC.
It is also a moral hazard to provide free tuition for wealthy SC and ST students. The cross subsidy will be borne by students of far lesser means from other communities. This give them an economic boost which isnt even the original basis for readdress. A simple quota without free tuition is a better option for SCs.
This case brings out the grand anomalies which fall out of poorly thought out or deliberately divisive laws like RTE. It is easy to outrage over the couple but since we are going back to the era of controls and socialist shortages they did what was in the best interests of their child. Once the child is in, will we not forget and forgive this little maneuver ? Arent children and grandchildren of doctors taking advantage of medical college admissions ? Does the fact they pushed over a more meritorious child get in their way once they start their practice ? Do you ask your doctor how much they paid as donation ? Winners of socialist policies, in this case literally sweepstakes wink at these trifles but will not even acknowledge the presence of heartbroken losers.
We cant have anything other than a low grade democracy pulling us deeper into third world squalor. Unless the whole of social justice is placed under a doctrine of strict scrutiny.