A real estate broker, who resided in a bungalow in an upscale neighbourhood of Thaltej area in Ahmedabad and owned two cars, admitted his child to Udgam school last year, under the 25 per cent quota meant for underprivileged children under the Right to Education (RTE) Act.
On inquiry, it was revealed that he had submitted a fake rent agreement at the time of submitting the application. He had claimed that he did not own the bungalow.
“When we questioned him and said that we will file a police complaint against him, he withdrew the admission. We also complained to the district education officer,” said Executive Director of Udgam School for Children, Manan Choksi.
Last year, the state education department received several complaints of fake rent agreements or parents showing lower income to avail the 25 per cent reservation in private schools for socially and economically disadvantaged groups.
The state government has now made it mandatory that the rent agreement has to be registered under the Gujarat Stamp Act and also must be submitted at the police station concerned. Earlier, the notarised rent agreement was permissible for applying for the scheme.
“This is to ensure that the rent agreements are authentic and not prepared only for admissions. Since the registered rent agreement becomes a legal document, it will deter those trying to fake it for admission. As the education department cannot cross verify each and every document submitted by the applicants, registered rent agreements over the notarised ones will filter out such cases,” said Director of Primary Education, MI Joshi.
Over recent years, cases have come to light wherein applicants under the RTE provision owned houses in areas not affordable to economically disadvantaged groups. However, they had submitted documents as proof that would not raise any suspicion over their eligibility.
“They claim that they are not earning but are into professions such as real estate brokering or have joint family businesses, where no income reflects into their bank account. They are usually people who are ‘poor on paper’,” said Choksi.
The registered rent agreement has to be accompanied with the ration card, voter card, Aadhaar card or electricity bill, verifying the residential address submitted by the applicants.
The state government had directed district education officers and district primary education officers to cross verify all admissions under the Act and register police cases in incidences of faking documents. Private schools were also asked to undertake the verification process at their level.
However, police complaints were not filed as these applicants withdrew the admissions on their own or got them converted into regular seats, facing pressure of legal action.
Every year since 2012-’13, when the state government implemented the RTE Act, the admission process has been mired in controversies. So far, nearly 3.10 lakh admissions have been allotted to RTE applicants.
However, applicants are complaining that the government’s recent move has put forth an additional financial burden. “For getting the rent agreement registered, it costs somewhere between Rs 4,000 and Rs 5,000. If one can spend this much amount on getting it registered, then why would they apply under this scheme? This is an unnecessary cost burden on parents who can hardly afford it,” said Fajil Saiyyed from Vatva, an RTE applicant.
Private schools, too, are challenging this move. “The government, instead of acknowledging the fact that they do not have tools to verify the income of applicants, is putting all these checks and measures,” said Choksi.
Ahmedabad Municipal Councillor of Jamalpur ward, Shahnawaz Shaikh wrote to Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama on Monday, seeking an extension in the deadline amid incessant rain and the Covid-19 situation leading to difficulty in procuring documents.
The admission process has already been delayed as half of the academic session in most private schools is over. It was started on August 19 this year and only a 10-day window is given to the applicants to file with documents.
Joshi stated that nearly one lakh applications were received till Monday.
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