Govt's refusal to bear RTE cost invites criticism

The Centre has been criticised for not committing itself to bear the expenses associated with enforcing the Right to Education Act (RTE) in Karnataka, and over measures to reduce subsidised LPG cylinders to consumers.

Addressing the media in the City on Thursday, Primary and Secondary Education Minister Vishweshwara Hegde Kageri said that the LPG subsidy reductions would affect the midday meal scheme in schools. He also attacked the Centre for its ‘failure’ to come out with a clear language policy for schools.

Karnataka’s language policy currently mandates schools to introduce Kannada as the medium of instruction for classes I to V. The Karnataka Unaided School Managements’ Association (KUSMA), which opposed the policy, moved the case to the Supreme Court. The last hearing on the matter was on September 18.

Kageri expressed confidence that the Supreme Court will rule in favour of the State’s language policy. However, he added that the Centre has failed to ‘intervene’ in the matter — which has not helped a clear language policy to emerge. “The Supreme
Court had served a notice to the Centre and asked for its intervention in the matter. Even my pleas to the Centre were in vain.

The Centre’s abstinence from the entire process has been very disheartening,” he said. “There is still time for the verdict to be announced — even now the Centre can become a part of the process. It is crucial.”

Kageri also said that the Centre had failed to commit itself to reimburse the amount spent by State governments while implementing the RTE Act. He said the Karnataka government would incur an additional expenditure of Rs 50 crore this year, if it were to reimburse schools providing free education to 25 per cent of students.

“This will be a huge financial burden on the State government,” he explained. “The Centre has to reimburse this amount. This is an ambitious programme, and the spirits of Karnataka governments should not be dampened. The RTE Act should be a success.”

Referring to the Centre’s decision to restrict the supply of subsidised LPG gas cylinders, the minister said the State government will bear a huge financial burden because of this.

“The Centre should give a commitment that it will not restrict gas cylinders, which will have huge implications. Also, where do we get the money from?” he asked and added that Rs 900 crore is spent annually to implement the mid-day meal scheme alone.

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