An outfit for dalit rights is planning to move the Gujarat High Court against the Education Department’s resolution to set upper limits of Rs 2 lakh and Rs 1 lakh annual family income for students belonging to Scheduled Castes (SCs)/ Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs), respectively, to avail benefit of free education in private schools under the provisions of the Right to Education (RTE) Act.
The organisation, Dalit Hak Rakshak Manch (DHRM), which has already given a representation in this regard to Chief Minister Annadiben Patel to revoke the income limit for SC/ST/OBC has said that the Gujarat government’s “arbitrariness is quite visible” since the latter has promulgated an ordinance for giving 10 per cent reservation to economically weaker sections (EWS) among upper castes and kept the annual family cap at Rs 6 lakh.
General secretary of DHRM Rajesh Solanki said that the RTE Act had provisions to give free education to deprived sections of the society.
“Now, the Act itself has defined deprivation. And, it means that being a member of SC/ST community itself is enough yardstick of a person’s deprivation… Also, the Gujarat government had in February 2012 framed rules for the RTE Act. The rules also say that if a child belongs to SC/ST/OBC community then it shall be sufficient to avail benefits under the RTE Act,” Solanki added.
“There is no reference of income limit in either the Act or its rules. And yet, the Gujarat government’s education department had issued a resolution in May last year and set annual family income limits of Rs 2 lakh and Rs 1 lakh for SC/ST and OBC, respectively to avail benefits under the RTE Act,” he said.
According to Solanki, the annual family income cap set by the Gujarat government was arbitrary. “We are not saying that there should not be an income limit, but it has to be reasonable and scientific,” Solanki said.
DHRM has also started giving representations in this regard to various district education officers (DEOs) and planning to challenge the government resolution of May 2015 before court.
“By setting this arbitrary income limit in violation of RTE Act, Gujarat Government has only created a hurdle for the deprived classes of SC/ST/OBC. We are planning to challenge it before the Gujarat High Court, if the government does not revoke the arbitrary income limit set through the May 2015 resolution.”
When asked about the resolution and how did the government set annual income limit at Rs 1 lakh and Rs 2 lakh , Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama said, “As you said, the resolution is of May 2015. So, I will have to refer it.” The minister said that he would take appropriate action, if any representation in that regard was brought before him.