Cutting across party lines, corporators on Thursday criticised the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for failing to give grants to 71 private unaided schools.
Up to 474 teachers of these schools have been protesting at Azad Maidan for several days against low salaries but the BMC authorities have been reluctant to extend any assistance. The teachers, who draw only Rs 4,000-5,000 a month, met Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta on Wednesday, demanding that the BMC grant aid to their schools, which would pave the way for a hike in their salaries.
Despite assurances from political parties and meetings with civic authorities, the BMC has not been able to come out with a policy for unaided private schools yet.
On Thursday, corporators cutting across party lines created a ruckus in the general body meeting. “If the BMC can set aside money for a Rs 450-crore cycle track, why can’t it save the livelihood of these teachers? It will only cost us Rs 46 crore annually while the education budget for this year is several times that amount,” said Shiv Sena corporator Mangesh Satamkar.
The corporators want the civic body to bear 50 per cent of the expenses that goes into running these schools. In the sixties, the civic body had decided to provide grants to needy, private schools provided the state government bore 50 per cent of the expenses. However, the state government discontinued the practice and only started providing authorisation. In early 2000s, schools that had received authorisation but no grant moved court, which ruled that the BMC would provide 100 per cent of the expenses and take up the matter of the state government’s share with it separately.
Since then, the BMC has given Rs 2,500 crore in grants to various schools. But after the state government refused to bear its share, the BMC also declared it would not give grants. Leader of Opposition Ravi Raja demanded, “The BMC should come clean and announce the decision. The decision was taken in group leaders’ meeting. How can the administration refuse to implement it now?”