'UPA was not serious on implementing RTE; NDA should rectify situation'

'UPA was not serious on implementing RTE; NDA should rectify situation'

Alleging that the previous UPA regime was not serious about implementing the 'Right to Education', Tamil Nadu government today asked the NDA to "rectify the situation" and ensure that the act is beneficial for children of weaker and disadvantaged sections.

Due to the changes to Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan framework by the UPA government, the Tamil Nadu government's claim for reimbursement of Rs 25.13 crore for 2013-14 had not been admitted even as a 'measly amount' of Rs 14 lakh had been provided against the claim of Rs 71.57 crore for 2014-15, Chief Minister O Panneerselvam said.

Asking the NDA government to "rectify the situation", the chief minister, in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said that the HRD Ministry in March 2014 had written to all states, indicating that reimbursement of expenditure incurred for 25 per cent admissions in private unaided schools has been included under head of addressing equity issues in elementary education in the SSA framework.

It was also indicated that the reimbursement would be effective from April 1, 2014 and that it would be only for classes I to VIII and subject to a maximum ceiling of 20 per cent of the total Annual Work Plan and budget approved by the Government of India for a state or UT under SSA, he said.

"Based on these unilateral and arbitrary amendments to the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan framework, the claim of Rs 25.13 crore submitted by Tamil Nadu government for the year 2013-14 has not been admitted. Further, the claim submitted for 2014-15 for an amount of Rs 71.57 crore has been restricted to a measly amount of Rs 14 lakh," he said.

This restriction of the claim to Rs 14 lakh is because the new framework made expenditure incurred on children enrolled in Class I and upwards eligible for reimbursement, he said.

"This is a completely arbitrary restriction and violates the provisions of Section 12(1)(c) of the Act, which provides for admitting children belonging to weaker sections and disadvantaged groups in pre-school as well, where the school imparts preschool education."

"In Tamil Nadu, hardly any private schools admit children in Class I and children are invariably admitted in pre-KG. If a child is not admitted in the school at this stage, it would be very difficult for the child to secure admission in Class I," he said.

Amendments to the SSA framework were "not just in contravention of the provisions of the Act, but also in severely handicap children belonging to weaker sections and disadvantaged groups," he said, adding if the expenditure was not reimbursed, such children would not get admission in private, unaided schools at all.

Further, placing the entire burden of reimbursing fees to students admitted to pre-school on the state government was a "contravention" of Section 7(1) of the Act and Rule 7 of the RTE, the chief minister said.

"It appears as if the erstwhile UPA government which notified the changes to the SSA Framework in March 2014 was not serious about implementing the RTE Act in letter and spirit. You now have an opportunity to rectify the situation and ensure that children belonging to weaker sections and disadvantaged groups have access to unaided private schools," he told Modi.

If the HRD Ministry did not change its "obdurate stance", it could place in "jeopardy" the future of over 1.36 lakh students, admitted in academic years 2013-14 and 2014-15 and pursuing their education in unaided private schools, he said.

Panneerselvam said that as part of his government's statutory responsibility, it would continue admissions in RTE under the 25 per cent reservation in unaided private schools in the 2015-16 academic year also.

He requested Modi's personal intervention to ensure that provisions of the RTE Act are strictly adhered to by the HRD Ministry and that the expenditure incurred by schools in Tamil Nadu amounting to Rs 97.04 crore was reimbursed urgently.

He also sought Modi's direction to the Ministry to ensure suitable changes were made in the SSA Framework and bring it in line with provisions of RTE.

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