Section 12(1)(c) of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 of Government of India offers free education to children belonging to disadvantaged groups, based on weaker caste and health status of parents, and weaker sections, based on the poor economic criterion, from classes I to VIII. Admission of 31 children was ordered by the District Magistrate of Lucknow in the academic year 2015-16 to Indira Nagar branch of City Montessori School, which figures in the Guinness book of world record for being the biggest school in the world.
            The founder-manager of this school, Jagdish Gandhi, and his educationist daughter Geeta Gandhi Kingdon refused to admit the children. It was after a long drawn battle in High Court that CMS was forced to admit 13 of the 31 children who lived within a kilometer of the school, which was described as the definition of ‘neighborhood’, a criterion students needed to fulfill for seeking admission. The school knocked the doors of Supreme Court but it refused to entertain Jagdish Gandhi the way High Court had done him, indicating his influence on the judges in Lucknow. Jagdish Gandhi is known to oblige all influential people in the government set up by offering the concession in fees to their children. The higher up the official is placed the more the concession, following an inverted system of offering concession in fees to a need-based system.
            Then came the academic year 2016-17. The obstinacy of CMS sent a message that private schools could afford to take the admission orders lightly and make the parents run. CMS refused admission to 55 children, Navyug Radiance School, run by Bhartiya Janata Party leader and businessman Sudhir Halwasiya, to 25 children, City International School, run by Jagdish Gandhi’s another daughter Sunita Gandhi, to 12 children, two branches of St. Mary’s Intermediate College  to 11 children and Dr. Virendra Swaroop Public School to two children. Navyug Radiance and Virendra Swaroop schools expelled two children each after admitting them. In all 105 children were denied admission in 2016-17 and it is a shame that the administration and court didn’t intervene.
            In the academic year 2017-18 these schools continue to refuse to admit children under the RTE Act. Dr. Virendra Swaroop Public School has a number of branches in Kanpur. They are refusing admissions in Kanpur as well. In addition, Chintal Public School and Stepping Stone Public School are also refusing to admit children there.
            Thus the number of schools which feel emboldened to defy the order of DM so far as RTE admissions are concerned is going up every year. These influential private schools are making a mockery of the RTE Act and the administration and court are in no position to ensure compliance with the DM’s order by these schools. It goes to show how much power these private schools wield.
            Jagdish Gandhi, the main culprit in the above process, has perfected a method of obliging influential people, including from the media, by giving significant concession or waiving the fees altogether for their children. He knows the art of becoming close to politicians in power, irrespective of the political parties. He was close to the previous Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav in U.P. and has already invited the Central Minister for Human Resources Development Prakash Javdekar to an event in his school. 72 children from his school will be participating in the International Yoga Day event in Delhi with the Prime Minister.
            There is only one way in which the parents can be freed from the clutches of private schools. If the 2015 Allahabad High Court judgment of Justice Sudhir Agarwal that children of people receiving from government salaries must necessarily study in government schools is implemented then the quality of government schools will improve and common people will have an option of sending their children to government schools for education. According to the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 it is the right of every child in India to receive free education and this is possible only in government school system. It is not possible for private schools to cater to all the children even if admissions are secured under section 12(1)(c) for free for children from disadvantaged category and weaker sections because the number of private schools is inadequate and there is the lack of good private schools in rural areas.
            When Justice Sudhir Agarwal’s decision is implemented it will be a move in the direction of implementing common school system, which has been a recommendation of the Kothari Commission since 1968. However, no central government has cared to implement it so far. 
            It is only when the common school system is implemented that the child of poor will get an opportunity to get a good education without which it’ll be impossible for him/her to break the vicious cycle of labor. For India’s development, it is necessary that every child gets an equal opportunity for the good education which is now his/her fundamental right.
            The Uttar Pradesh government is ignoring the High Court judgment. It has so far not filed any reply to the judgment. A ten day fast was organized in June 2016 in Lucknow but the CM Akhilesh Yadav was in no mood to annoy his bureaucracy in the election year. Another indefinite fast is being contemplated from 19 June 2017 to get Justice Sudhir Agarwal’s judgment implemented.

Sandeep Pandey

Sandeep Pandey is an Indian social activist. Magsaysay Award recipient, Gandhian and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. He is also a co-founder of Asha for Education. He is a Former Professor, Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar.

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