The Gujarat government has proposed to raise the income bar for both rural and urban residents by more than 100 per cent under the Right to Education (RTE) Act, which stipulates 25 per cent reservation for the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) in private schools. Sources in state education department reveal that this is one of the reasons for the delay in commencing the admissions under this rule as parents wait anxiously for the declaration of online applications for the same.
The existing annual family income limit of Rs 47,000 for rural areas has been proposed to be increased to Rs 1.2 lakh, a hike of more than 2.5 times. Similarly, if the proposal is approved, which is expected to happen within a couple of days, the limit for urban areas will be more than double — from the existing Rs 68,000 to Rs 1.5 lakh per annum. “We have proposed this increase with an aim to benefit a larger section of the society,” Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama said.
While this move is expected to be of little help to low-income groups, it is bound to benefit general category students more. In 2017, the state government had opened the 25 per cent seats reserved for EWS and disadvantaged groups to general category as well, putting the condition that schools could admit general category student “if seats remained vacant.”
This is the second such move to increase the family’s annual income limit for these admissions in the last five years. In June 2013, when the state government had notified the implementation of RTE Act’s 25 per cent reservation rule in self-financed schools, the income limit was fixed as Rs 36,000 and Rs 27,000 for urban and rural areas, respectively. In 2015, this was increased to Rs 68,000 and Rs 47,000.
The RTE admissions have courted several controversies as every year, there have been cases of non-beneficiaries posing as EWS and getting admissions, many in some of the reputed private schools in the state. Taking into account the gravity and extent of this “fraud”, Education Minister Chudasama had ordered an audit of all the beneficiaries admitted under this rule last year. All District Education Officers (DEOs) were given the responsibility to conduct the audit where many discrepancies were detected in the admissions in collusion of both beneficiaries as well as schools. Investigation in these cases is still on.
Incidentally, the number of poor families in Gujarat has increased by nearly 19,000 over the last two years, revealed Gujarat Rural Development Minister Bachubhai Khabad revealed in the state Assembly during Question Hour on Friday. According to the data shared by Khabad, in Gujarat, more than 31.46 lakh families live below poverty line (BPL) and that number has increased by 18,932 in the last two years. Banaskantha district has the highest number of BPL families – 2,36,492.
Several Congress MLAs from across the state had sought details about the number of BPL families in various districts of Gujarat. The compilation of details provided revealed these statistics which the Congress interpreted as “a fourth” of Gujarat’s population living below poverty line.