Maharashtra: As many 45,000 schools threaten shutdown to protest non-payment of dues

RTE Act provides for 25 per cent reservation of seats in un-aided schools for children from economically weaker sections. The children get free education and schools are compensated for the expenses.

| Mumbai | Published: March 31, 2018 3:52:21 am
45,000 schools threaten shutdown on April 7 to protest non-payment of dues by state (Express photo by Gurjant Pannu/File)

Private un-aided schools in the state that have been protesting against non-payment of dues under the Right to Education (RTE) Act have decided to take their struggle to the Union government. The Federation of Schools’ Association of Maharashtra, a state-wide group of associations of un-aided schools, has said around 45,000 schools across Maharashtra will stay closed on April 7 as their representatives hold a rally in Delhi.

The federation is protesting the non-payment of dues that the state owes the schools for admitting students under the RTE.

The Act provides for 25 per cent reservation of seats in un-aided schools for children from economically weaker sections. The children get free education and schools are compensated for the expenses.

But schools across the state said the government now owes them Rs 500-Rs 600 crore. “The state has failed to heed to our demands. So, we are taking this to the Centre and on April 7, we will take out a rally at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi,” said S C Kedia, the convener of the federation. He added that if it does not yield any result, they will organise a rally at Azad Maidan in Mumbai on April 15. Earlier several schools had refused to participate in this year’s RTE admission process.

Sharad Gosavi, the deputy director of education (primary), said the funds have already been distributed to the districts. “Nagpur district has received the highest amount of around Rs 27crore and Pune has been given Rs 23 crore. The education departments have been instructed to ensure the money is distributed within eight days,” he said.

On March 27, the state government sanctioned Rs 138 crore towards the reimbursements and asked officers to ensure that the amount is distributed within eight days. A Government Resolution (GR) issued in this regard said that the amount shall be released to Director Education (Primary), Pune, who will prepare a list of districts in descending order of the amount of dues, and then distribute the aid “in proportion” to the demand. The directorate has also been instructed to submit “utilisation certificate” for Rs 138.28 crore within eight days of release of funds.

Asked if the sanctioned amount covers the entire sum that was pending, Gosavi said “only a minor amount” is now pending, which is not in crores. “The state owed a total of around Rs 302 crore of which Rs 164 crore was given earlier and now, with this latest sanction, it is covered. For the current academic year, 2017-2018, bills have not been finalised yet,” said Gosavi. He also claimed that the sanctioned amount is the cumulative figure of dues since 2013 and not just for fresh admissions.

It remains to be seen if schools would accept the claims, as private school managements had been claiming that there is an error in calculation by the government and the dues owed are much higher.

“Till today, no school has received beyond 10 per cent of the dues. Let them give us the reimbursement. If according to them, it clears all our dues, we have no complaints. But if my school is owed an amount according to the government-approved rate and I get lesser than that and similarly, with other schools, then we have a case. Right? So, let the time tell,” said Rajendra Singh, the secretary, Independent English School Association, which has filed a court case in the matter.

(with inputs from Alifiya Khan in Pune)

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