Showing posts with label Constitution of India. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Constitution of India. Show all posts

Thursday, April 12, 2012

No private school is outside the ambit of Right to Education Act

Dear colleagues,

The Supreme Court on 12th April 2012 (Thursday) upheld the constitutional validity of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, which mandates 25 per cent free seats to the poor in government and private unaided schools uniformly across the country.

By a majority view, a three-judge bench of Chief Justice S H Kapadia and justices K S Radhakrishnan and Swantanter Kumar said the Act will apply uniformly to government and unaided private schools except unaided private minority schools. 

While upholding the Constitutional validity of RTE Act, Honorable Supreme Court of India has ruled that no educational institution - including the private schools (except the minority schools) are beyond the provisions of Right to Education Act. This particularly aids the marginalized segments including the disabled children to seek admission in the nearest school of their choice. The judgement will apply henceforth and not with retrospect.

40 percent teacher vacancies are still unfilled

However, I do not feel that this alone can ensure quality education to all children in India. Has the Government of India and those of various states given any thought to fill over 40 percent vacancies of teachers lying vacant. In Uttar Pradesh alone, the state government has  advertised vacancies of 72800 alone for primary level in 2011 which have not been filled up till date due to vested interest. Thousands of primary schools in UP are running on one Teacher and one Shikshamitra only whereas there is a requirement of minimum 5 teachers to man the school. Consider the quality of education when the sole trained teacher goes on leave!

Similarly, in Karnataka, about 30 per cent of the 76 lakh primary school children  go to unaided private schools, mostly in urban areas, according to District Information System for Education (DISE) data. A 25 per cent reservation in Class I for the disadvantaged/economically weaker sections in these schools would impact about 1 per cent of the school-going child population. 

Accordingly to recent government studies,  at primarily level alone,  in addition to the 5.23 lakh vacancies, another 5.1 lakh teachers are needed to meet the pupil-teacher ratio specified under the Right to Education Act. Of the teachers already on the job, 7.74 lakh are largely untrained or without the needed qualifications.

At secondary level, the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan requires that 1.79 lakh new teachers be appointed with special focus on teachers for English, mathematics and science.

The court order is welcome and the spirit behind the reservation of seats in private schools is  laudable, however the priority and focus of India’s education system should be on what needs to be done to improve the quality of education in government schools, where 80% of our children are enrolled. The huge challenge that the state faces in addressing the deficiencies of the education system can be explained through the existing teacher-pupil ratio in rural India. 

Quality of Education in Govt School is driving parents to Private Schools

Similar is the situation across the nation. Can the Government ensure quality of education with such ill trained manpower. Isn't this a purposeful ploy to degrade the state education to such low level that the gullible parents and children are forced to opt for private schools? 

In a recent visit to a remote small village in UP, I learnt that a private school has come up in the recent past in that small village in past few years. Though the children of the village have their names on the rolls of the State run government school while most of them went to the private school for education. Few children  who continue to go the state run school were the ones whose parents were so poor that they could not afford the school fee. I was surprised to see that even those who went to private school were not very good financially. One could imagine at what cost the parents were sending their children to private school in the hope of a good future of the child.  I had an opportunity to visit both schools and I saw the difference. The only teacher available in the Government school told me that they could either complete official paper work and mid day meal or control (not teach!) the children from different classes under one roof. The teacher shared that it was just not possible for a single teacher to manage 5 primary classes, paper work of the school, maintenance of registers, preparing mid day meal and also attend to miscellaneous duties of election etc for which they get deployed by the state government.  

Need of focusing on improving quality of Govt Schools

The RTE Act is a historic piece of legislation because it gives a legal right to free education to children between the ages of six and 14 and makes the government responsible for providing it. And the RTE implementation must focus on improving standards in government schools. Need is to correct the skewed  teacher-pupil ratio and whole education infrastructure to generate the confidence in people. The states have to come forward with a political will to ensure that the rights of compulsory and free education becomes a reality and poor are not forced to send their children to private schools at the cost of essential requirements of life such as food, health, house and clothing.

Mechanisms & political will to regulate private schools

Another issue is how to implement the RTE in private schools. The state is not able to provide this right in their own school then how will they implement this in the private school is a huge question that is haunting the concerned citizens. The capitation fee/ donation is though banned under this Act, however, there are several ways the private schools can bypass this.  Hence, unless mechanisms are proposed and strictly implemented, I don't see the benefits of such a wonderful legislation would be reaped by the "aam admi" of this nation.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Can there be a positive discrimination on the basis of religion- "No" says AP High Court

Dear Friends,

This is the third time that the AP High Court has successfully upheld the Constitution of India, which our political class want to derail just to please their votebank. Such a move could have disastrous repercussions if such policy of pleasing the vote banks based on religion is allowed in a secular country like India. 

The imagination itself is so disastrous to the secular fabric of the country. Tomorrow, it will be turn of other minorities to claim their share of reservation based on the percentage of number of citizen following a certain religion. This might lead to a a total failure of the family planning programmes in India because if that be so, each religion would try to outgrow the other religion to get their larger share!!

And what would happen to the "Right to Equality" that is the hallmark of our Consititution? Positive discriminations was permitted on the socio-economic status of certain categories of citizens to provide a level playing field to them to realise substantial equality, however only for a certain number of years. But the political class has continued this formula to please their constituencies, in fact even to the extent of promoting enmity and struggles in the citizenry to be included in the backward classes to avail reservation status (recent Gurjar agitation is a point). In 2009 we saw another amendment to Constitution of India by Indian Parliament to further extend the reservation for SC/ST by 10 years and I think the very basis of such continued reservations indicate two things:
  1. That the benefit of reservations have not reached the real needy due to lack of proper implementation, thus the divide between the poor and the rich continues to grow.
  2. And that this has outlived its utility and is becoming a tool of social divide and unrest hence should be stopped herewith.
Then what do we adopt to realise the constitutional dream of social equality & to reduce the economic disparties amongst its citizens? India is a strange country which has 5 richest people of the world and still the percentage of population living below poverty line is mind-boggling! Such an uneven distribution of resources is a challenge to the move from a socialist economy to a mixed economy while maintaining the Socialist character.

I think the answer doesn't lie in reservation any more. The crutches of reservation will not allow the real empowerment of people. Also the policy has failed to achieve its desired goals despite being continued for more than 60 years now (while originally it was meant only for 10-20 years!), is the testimony to the strength in the argument being proposed. 

It is the equal opportunity to  right to food and nutrition,  free & high quality education, health infrastructure and avenues of employment across the nation without any discrimination on basis of region, religion, gender or any other diversity is going to empower citizenry. Enabling environment is the answer, empowerment is the answer!

Here is the coverage on the Full Bench High Court Decision on the subject.


Andhra High Court quashes quota for Muslims

The court ruled that reservation cannot be provided on the basis of religion
Published on 02/08/2010 - 12:29:33 PM

Hyderabad: The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Monday quashed a legislation providing four per cent reservation to Muslims in education and jobs, terming it unconstitutional. The state government has decided to challenge the verdict in the Supreme Court.

Delivering the much-awaited judgment, the seven-member constitutional bench headed by Chief Justice AR Dave ruled that reservation cannot be provided on the basis of religion, reports IANS.

It was a majority judgment. Five judges, including Dave, opposed the reservation while two differed with their opinion.

The court verdict has come as a big blow to the Congress government, which had brought the legislation in 2007 providing four per cent reservation to certain backward groups among Muslims.

Some individuals and organisations had challenged the Act, contending that the reservations were unconstitutional. This is the third time since 2004 that the High Court has quashed quota for Muslims.

Ramakrishna Reddy, Counsel of one of the petitioners, told reporters that the court upheld their argument that the survey conducted by the state backward classes commission to identify backward groups among Muslims was not scientific.

The bench observed that the survey on the socio-economic conditions of Muslims was conducted only in six districts and that the backward classes commission relied only on the report of the Krishnan Commission appointed by the government.

Immediately after the High Court verdict, the government decided to file an appeal in the Supreme Court. Chief Minister K Rosaiah directed the state Advocate General to file a Special Leave Petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court.

In 2004, then Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy had provided five per cent reservation to Muslims but the High Court had quashed the order.

On the court's advice, the government reconstituted the backward classes commission. Based on its recommendations, the government issued an ordinance in 2005 and subsequently the Assembly passed the legislation for five per cent reservation.

But the High Court set aside the legislation saying that its would exceed the 50 per cent total reservation limit set by the Supreme Court.

In an attempt to keep the reservations within the 50 per cent limit, the government issued an order in 2007 providing four per cent quota in government jobs and educational institutions for 15 socially and educationally backward classes among Muslims.

The government brought an ordinance, which was later replaced by a legislation passed by the Assembly.

The four per cent quota was also challenged in the High Court. The petitioners argued that the government identified backward classes without gathering scientific data.

The High Court, in its interim order, permitted admissions made under the quota. This was challenged in the Supreme Court. The apex court stayed the implementation of the order but left it to the High Court to dispose off the batch of writ petitions.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Right to Education Act and Children with Disabilities

Dear Friends,

Now the Ministry of HRD, Govt. of India has indicated that what best they can do to include Children with Disabilities in the RTE Act  2009 is by including them under the Definition of "Disadvantaged Children". And that is their bit.

Any thing further is not their cup of tea and Ministry of Social Justice should do something to amend the Persons with disabilities Act. There can not be any thing worse than this. The fact is that the children with disabilities are no one's babies when it comes to inclusion and equal rights.

Isn't it simple that Ministry of HRD being the nodal ministry for Education  should also deal with education of children with disability? I fail to understand as to how education of children with disabilities becomes a welfare issue? This needs to stop right now and the RTE bill needs to be amended conclusively to provide for all support, special educators, therapists,  reasonable accommodation and inclusive schools based on universal design. Nothing less than that is going to be acceptable to us!

There is good news that Delhi Government is changing the Recruitment Rules of the Teachers to include Recruitment Rules for Special Educators and related matters after the recent Delhi High Court judgement in Social Jurists PIL. However, the situation in other states is pathetic and grave.

The Education for All "सर्व शिक्षा अभियान" has actually failed to cater to the needs of children with disabilities in an inclusive set up. It is impossible to include children in the mainstream without proper preparation of teachers, infrastructure and support systems. Also only appointment of two Special Educators per school in the National Capital Territory Region will not serve the larger needs and the states have to take proactive measures to address the issue. Till today, there is no talk of developmental therapists, speech therapists, mobility trainers and other rehabilitation professional being included as a part of mainstream schools which are otherwise a necessary part of Special schools run by NGOs.

The First Country Report on action taken by Indian Government on UNCRPD is due in May 2010. The Union Government has sought reports from States as what actions they have taken in these areas and I received a frantic call from one leading State NGO from one of the states asking that the State Welfare department is asking about UNCRPD and what is that Government is required to do in light of this. I was taken aback but this is sadly the truth! Many departments in state governments are not even aware or have taken no pains to even open the convention document that Union Government might have sent to them.

In such situation, there is an urgent and calling need for the NGOs and the DPOs to act as monitors and get the systems working. On its own, nothing would happen and we need to show the road to the implementing agencies and the Governments. Its our cause and we can't wait for it to happen on its own, at the whims and fancies of State. The Persons with Disabilities Act is a live testimony to this which has not been fully implemented even after nearly one and a half decade of its being passed by the Parliament of India.

I see a new role for the NGOs - that of  "Facilitators of Change" and "Advocacy Organisations" and "Resource Centres" to guide the Government rather than merely restricting themselves to the role of a Service Provider.

Its when you get engaged in Providing Service, you have no time or energy left to act as Resource Centre or advocacy organisation and also you keep chasing the grant applications to the Government to run the schools and other services. And that is what precisely the Government want you to remain engaged in!

We have to understand that education of children with disability is a fundamental right of the children which the Government is bound to provide for in terms of  systems, infrastructure and finance. Thus there is no point in NGOs seeking grants which are often very subjective and do not cover even the 50% of the expenses if rightfully done. I had taken up few cases for NGOs where the workers of the NGOs went against their employers in the Labour Courts seeking minimum wages and what I learnt from NGOs was that the grant that comes for a helper is merely 2000 Rupees which is far less than the minimum wage of an unskilled worker in Delhi. The matters are pending in High Court where Grant making Ministries have been impleaded as necessary parties for proper adjudication of the case! And I am well aware what is going to be the outcome of such petition!

Therefore it is the right time for NGOs to redcue their role as Service Provider and gradually move towards their new and calling role as Resource Centres, Research bodies and be a part of Advocacy and Monitoring mechanism to ensure that the rights of persons with disability to live with dignity in society on an equal basis with others are realised to its full and rights enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities are progressively realised.

Another worrying issue that we should be concerned with too is the second amendment which HRD ministry is contemplating to bring in RTE Act to satisfy the powerful lobby of minority institutions who do not want to be governed by State Laws at the same time want to continue receiving grants/aids from the Government. These schools if exempted from constituting School Management Committees (which is a powerful tool to increase citizen's participation in the school management and check misuse of public funds) they could do what they like without any external check including refusal to take in children with disabilities. The move should be resisted by one and all to ensure participation of civil society and stakeholders in the process of education and maintain transparency in the delivery of quality education to all including children with disabilities.
Subhash Chandra Vashishth, Advocate-Disability Rigths,, 9811125521

To read the press coverage on RTE click here

RTE Act to cover kids with disabilities

NEW DELHI: Children with physical, learning and speech disabilities would now be put under the disadvantaged category in the Right to Education Act.

The Cabinet will soon take up HRD ministry's cabinet note seeking amendment in the RTE Act. Another amendment seeks to exempt schools run by minority organisations from setting up School Management Committees.

However, the amendment bill will be introduced only in the budget session of Parliament.

In the last session of Parliament, when the RTE Bill was passed, disabled rights groups had protested against non-inclusion of disabled children in the disadvantaged category. Disability will be further explained to include disabilities mentioned in the People with Disabilities Act and National Trust Act. But since PWD Act does not include cerebral palsy, autism and multiple disability, RTE amendment bill will specifically mention disabilities like dyslexia, aphasia and learning and speech disabilities.

Sources, however, said amending RTE to include disabilities is not enough. "Social justice ministry should move a comprehensive amendment bill to amend PWD Act. HRD ministry has done its bit," a source said.

The second amendment states that schools run by minority bodies will be exempted from setting up School Management Committees. The proposed amendment, sources said, will exclude schools managed by minority organisations from constituting School Management Committees. Right now, only unaided schools not receiving any kind of aid or grant from the government or local authorities are excluded from setting up school management committees (SMCs).

The amendment comes in the wake of demand from many states and minority-run institutions that they be exempted from setting up SMCs because it contravenes Article 30 of the Constitution that gives minorities right to establish and administer educational institutions. The amendment will be carried out in sub-clauses of clause (n) of Section 2 of the Act as well as in section 21 of the Act. It will specifically mention that minority-run institutions need not have SMCs. In the RTE Act, SMCs have a big role to play in the running of schools. Half the members of the committee will be women.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Recognise "sexual orientation" as a source of discrimination-asks NLS

The high court of Delhi may have decriminalised the sex between two consenting adults of same sexes and Supreme Court of the nation also may have indicated that it is in favour of the High Court's well reasoned order, the social taboos, moral brigade & attitudes in general continue to discriminate against those with different sexual orientations than the majority.

Same is the case with people with HIV status, those cured of leprosy. Social attitudes are often difficult to change. Continuous education and acceptance by the young brigade is the only solution. We see that people with different sexual orientation face discrimination at workplace too though their orientation may not be relevant to their work or productivity!

Therefore, now the National Law School has asked the Centre to recognise "sexual orientation" as a source of discrimination against which there should be statutory protection. Our constitution and central laws already provide that there could be no discrimination on the grounds of religion, sex, caste, language, disability, descent, place of birth, residence and race among others. The Persons with Disabilities Act already covers such a protection that there could be no discrimination on the grounds of disability in any matter - be it education, employement, housing or otherwise.

Besides Sexual orientation, the EOC is also looking at adding pregnancy, gender identity, occupation, skin colour, political opinion and age also the grounds of discrimination!

I hope such a move in form of an enactment will give strength to the equality among all citizens of this country including those with diversities, though a large section of our political class and soceity is still divided ! Can we let the life prevail?


SC Vashishth

Here is the news from Time of India, To read from source- Click here

NEW DELHI: The move towards legitimising "gay rights" seems to be getting stronger by the day.

After the Delhi High Court order decriminalising homosexuality, the National Law School has asked the Centre to recognise "sexual orientation" as a source of discrimination against which there should be statutory protection.

The law school wants the Centre to put "sexual orientation" in the list of `grounds of discrimination' requiring safeguard in the Equal Opportunities Commission. S Japhet, director of Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy in the Bangalore school, told TOI, "There have been studies to show that sexual orientation of gays leads to discrimination in employment."

The proposed EOC is an ambitious move to redress the discrimination against social groups in employment, education and housing. These three domains are most plagued by prejudices, be it based on religion, caste or race. It is to be seen if the Centre obliges the law school by moving on its request. An explicit step to bar discrimination on a person's "sexual orientation" will be a big step in legitimising gay rights. The EOC, in the nascent stage of evolution, is likely to be empowered to take a complaint from a group to question the private and public enterprises in question. It would mean that any move to keep gays out of a workplace or a housing colony or an educational institution would invite the intervention of the`discrimination watchdog'.

The N R Madhava Menon committee, which drew up the details of EOC, shortlisted grounds on which discrimination should be prohibited. It includes prejudices based on religion, sex, caste, language, disability, descent, place of birth, residence and race among others. While the committee has said that the list could be kept open to accommodate more grounds in future, the law school has asked minority affairs ministry to include "sexual orientation, pregnancy, gender identity, occupation, skin colour, political opinion and age" in the purview of EOC. Besides `sexual orientation', the law school has also asked the Centre to list a bar on certain "food preferences" as a form of discrimination. It said, "Discrimination based on food preference, when it has a disproportionate impact on a deprived group, should be expressly provided as an instance of indirect discrimination." Sources said the demand from the reknowned institution will test the Centre on branding these contentious issues as forms of discrimination given the divided political opinion. Its acceptance would be tantamount to forcing organisations against "gays" into accepting them.

Friday, July 17, 2009

You might be tried under Criminal Law if you call a disabled person on his disability!

Dear Friends,
This seems to be a path breaking development and Shri D N Chowdry deserves accolades. In order to ensure dignity and respect as equal citizens of this country to the persons with disabilities, Maharashtra State Legal Commission has submitted a report recommending that insulting a person with disability for his disability should be considered as a Crime under Criminal Law and be punishable.
An overall welcome move
This is a welcome move as even today people with disabilities are discriminated against; called by their disability not by their name, especially in rural and underdeveloped areas and not given their due rights which the Indian Constitution guarantees them.
Such recommendations if enacted as an enforceable law can change the ground situations entirely. Any such law is actually a great level player for marginalised segments and gives them a ready tool to enforce their equality and rights on society if the society lags behind in accepting them as equal partners deserving equal dignity and respect. This is on the lines of The Scheduled Castes and The Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 that was enacted to instill a confidence and to stop and prevent atrocities against dalits. Proponent of Dalit Rights term this Act as an important milestone in their fight for equal rights in independent India.
Why not insert such provisions in the Persons with Disabilities Act?
I also feel, we Indians are so proud to enact a number of laws and then carrying them on our back without any implementation mechanism. The existing central law like The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation), 1995 are yet to be implemented in full letter and spirit. This law doesn't have prevention of atrocities as a separate section but is well covered under non-discrimination clauses, however, without invoking any criminal procedure for failure to implement or for discriminating. Thus if such a clause is added to this Act, the Act can actually become very strong.
Cautious lest the law is abused!
However, such a law in favour of disabled people should be taken up with a caution! We have seen in the recent past that the SC/ST Act has been largely misused against other members of society to settle personal scores and with vested interests and even used in political circles. Recently, the State Congress Chief of UP was got arrested using the provisions of SC/ST Act by Ms. Mayavati, the Chief Minister of UP!! Thus sufficient provisions need to be made so that the law is not misused.
Implement existing laws and UNCRPD
There is an urgent need to see that the existing laws and especially the UNCRPD (UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) that has acquired for force of domestic law after its acceptance and ratification by India, are implemented in true letter and spirit and a strict and time bound mechanism is ensured to see that the rule book prevails to achieve the mandate of these socially equalising enactments.
Warm regards
Subhash Chandra Vashishth
Insult on physical disability could be considered as punishable offence
Correspondent Thursday, July 16th, 2009 AT 10:07 PM
MUMBAI: Insulting a physically challenged person on his disability might soon be considered as an offence which would be punishable. A report submitted by the Maharashtra State Legal Commission to chief minister Ashok Chavan on Thursday emphasised that “insult on physical disability should be considered as an offence.”

The 21st report submitted by D N Chowdry, chairman of the Commission, recommended that insult on physical disability should be considered as an offence and there should be a provision of punishment.

The State government in April 2009 had asked the Commission to make recommendations regarding handicapped act and accordingly a 26-page report was submitted. Chowdry in the report recommends that calling a handicapped person on physical disability, speaking to them with disrespect, insulting on physical disability or abusing on disability as an offence and there should be a provision of punishment,.

Chowdry further said, “It was necessary to recommend that a handicapped person should be treated respectfully in the society. There is no such provision in the prevailing Central Act.”

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Leading International Disability Organisation portrays India without J&K!

Dear Friends,
I am shocked to see the attitude of a leading UK based deveopmental organisation called ADD having its branch office in India. I happened to visit its website and I couldn't believe what I saw. It shows an Indian Map minus its head i.e. J&K.

Is this justified by any means ? Should an organisation of such a stature stoop so low? Doesn't this hit us so harshly at our hearts? Can an Indian tolerate this?

May be whole sector need to react. Its on us. What do we want - our integrity and sovereignity or charity cum developmental work at its cost from an offshore organisation. I can not believe that is by mistake. It is purposeful and needs to be rejected and refused. We do not want such organisations to function in India if they do not agree to the stand taken by we the people of Republic of India and its elected Government.

Need your support! I wrote the following mail to its new Director Mr. Sebastian.

Dr. Sebastian
Director- ADD
4005, 19th Cross,
Banashankari II Stage Extn,
Bangalore 560 070, India

Dear Mr. Sebastian,

This refers to our telephonic discussion a while ago on the subject.

As I said I am deeply pained that an international developmental organisation of this stature especially working in India has such flaws on its website which no Indian would tolerate.

I strongly object to portrayal of Indian Map in its present form i.e. without J&K. This relates to the integrity and sovereignity of the nation.

I appreciate that you have joined recently and would take time to understand the official work related to the important post that you fill but this matter must be immediately dealt with before it blows up in ugly proportion!

My good wishes to you on joining this august organisation as its Director and hope we have a continuous dialogue on many common areas in disability sector.

Warm regards
Subhash Chandra Vashishth
Advocate-Disability Rights,
New Delhi, India
Mobile: +91 (11)