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Congress, NCP ministers lock horns over grants to over 4,000 schools

The proposal, sources said, even led to a heated debate between Finance Minister Ajit Pawar (NCP) and Congress’s Balasaheb Thorat and Varsha Gaikwad, who is also the state School Education minister.

Written by Sandeep A Ashar | Mumbai | Updated: August 31, 2020 10:07:21 am
There have been complaints regarding bogus enrolments in schools in the past. (Representational)

Differences have cropped in the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) over the much-debated issue of releasing grants to schools that were originally approved on a permanent non-grant basis. While the Congress-led School Education department tabled a proposal for providing grants worth to Rs 346 crore for 4,094 schools and 2,427 divisions in last week’s Cabinet meeting, sources confirmed the approval to the proposal was stalled following opposition by senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) ministers.

The proposal, sources said, even led to a heated debate between Finance Minister Ajit Pawar (NCP) and Congress’s Balasaheb Thorat and Varsha Gaikwad, who is also the state School Education minister.

While the managements of these schools and the teachers they employ have been aggressively pushing for the release of grants, a divided Cabinet saw the proposal being put on hold for now, even as a Cabinet committee, under NCP’s Jayant Patil, has been formed over the issue.

Ironically, NCP president Sharad Pawar had recently chaired a meeting that was attended by both the finance and education ministers, and representatives from these unaided schools to resolve this long-pending issue.

In the Cabinet, the School Education department had tabled the proposal that 3,600 primary and secondary schools should be newly deemed as being ‘eligible’ for the grant-in-aid. It had further proposed that schools, for which the first instalment of grants of 20 per cent was earlier released, be given another 20 per cent grants as per the agreements that were first made in 2012 when the Congress-NCP government was in power and then reiterated by the BJP-led government in 2018. The proposal, collectively worth Rs 346 crore, is for releasing grants to 4,094 schools and 2,427 divisions. The Education department has claimed 12.85 lakh students are enrolled with the schools. It has further said over 43,000 teachers will benefit from the move.

With the debt mounting on the state exchequer, sources said, the Ajit Pawar-led Finance department has indicated its unwillingness to release the amount without a biometric survey and a random inspection of 10 per cent schools.

There have been complaints regarding bogus enrolments in schools in the past. The schools in question were originally approved on the condition that they will not be entitled to any grant-in-aid. Later, in 2012, the state government had first moved to relax this condition.

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